Anglers reap rewards of winter trout stockings
BARBOURSVILLE - The people lined up along Barboursville Park Lake's earthen dam looked like extras in an epic television ad for insulated coveralls.
Dozens of anglers, most of them dressed in camouflage versions of that piece of apparel, stood at the water's edge, tending their fishing rods and chatting with one another. Every once in a while, someone would grab a rod, set the hook and haul in a flopping trout.
Welcome to wintertime fishing for stocked trout in West Virginia.
Every January, trout-stocking trucks roll out from state-run hatcheries, delivering tens of thousands of trout to 28 streams and 27 lakes. Many of the lakes are in areas where summertime water temperatures are too warm for trout.
Barboursville Park Lake is one of those waters. It received its stocking on Jan. 8. A hatchery technician delivered several hundred rainbow and golden-rainbow trout, including 19 trophy-sized specimens, from the Division of Natural Resources' Reeds Creek hatchery.
Even though DNR officials don't publicize stockings ahead of time, more than a dozen anglers were waiting for the truck to arrive. Mike Jarvis, a retiree from Culloden, said a small but regular cadre of fishermen usually hangs out at the lake, shoots the breeze and waits for the truck to arrive.
"We don't have anything better to do, so why not?" he asked.
There's method to their madness. They know DNR officials try to stock lakes in the state's western counties by mid-January at the latest. They check the agency's website every evening to see which other waters were stocked that day. By process of elimination, they can usually tell within a few days when the truck is likely to run.
Others simply check the website and wait until their favorite pond shows up on the list and head there the following day.
That's what Darrell Crum did. He and a friend, Edward Lucas, drove from Branchland in Lincoln County to Barboursville the day after they learned it had been stocked.
"Compared to some of the other places we fish, this lake is fairly close by," Crum said. "Sometimes we drive over to Man to fish on Buffalo Creek, sometimes we go on over into Mingo County to fish the R.D. Bailey Dam [tailwaters], and sometimes we go over to Lick Creek Pond in Wayne County."
Most anglers don't drive that far. Chase Cooper of Barboursville came out with a couple of buddies to try his hand at trout fishing.
"This is my first time trout fishing," he said. "I've fished a little for bass and catfish before, but I'm not a huge fisherman."
He looked down at the water's edge, where four trout lay collected on his stringer.
"I'm having some beginner's luck," he deadpanned.
One angler who needed no luck was Mike McClellan of Hurricane, who punctuated his morning of fishing by hooking and landing a 6-pound, 13-ounce rainbow.
"This is a big one, but I've caught larger," he said. "A few years ago I got one that weighed 10 pounds, 8 ounces. It had been three years since I'd caught a big one, though, so my ticker was really going while I was fighting this one."
Several of the anglers had their tackle stowed in wheeled carts. Jarvis said the carts allow them to tow their gear to their favorite fishing spots quite easily.
"This way we're always 'geared up' and ready to go," he said. "We fish here, and at Krodel [near Point Pleasant], and at Chief Cornstalk [near Southside]. For a lot of us, it's a great way to get out of the house, get some fresh air and a little bit of exercise."
Reach John McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1231.