Originally created 03/01/97

State heeds fishermen in stocking trout



Fishermen are teaming up with state wildlife authorities to revise, improve and expand a pilot program to stock trout in the Savannah River.

"All we needed was the opportunity to help," said Perry Houck of the CSRA Flyfishing Association, whose members will buy 2,000 additional trout to supplement 10,000 provided by the Department of Natural Resources.

Earlier this week, the group, a Trout Unlimited affiliate, criticized department's plan to stock the 10,000 rainbow trout above the Old Lock & Dam in Evans, which, according to water-quality tests, is deficient in dissolved oxygen.

The fishermen believed the fish stand a greater chance of survival below the Old Lock & Dam in the oxygen-rich rapids and shoals above Interstate 20. The Department of Natural Resources apparently agreed and changed its stocking plan, Mr. Houck said.

"They basically told us to decide where the fish go in," he said.

The new plan for next Friday's release calls for placing 5,000 fish just above the Augusta Pumping Station; 2,500 fish above the Old Lock & Dam but below Stevens Creek; and 2,500 between Thurmond Dam and Stevens Creek Dam.

Originally, all 10,000 were to be released above Stevens Creek Dam.

According to Russ England, the state's assistant chief of fisheries, the rainbow trout will be trucked in from the Burton Fish Hatchery in north Georgia and will range from 5 to 7 inches in length.

Mr. Houck's group is buying 2,000 adult-size brown trout to be released a few days after the state's stocking. The browns, which are hardier and more tolerant to temperature and oxygen deficiencies than rainbows, will range from 7 to 9 inches long and will cost about $1 apiece, he said.

The state has agreed to help transport the fish from a North Carolina hatchery to the Savannah River, Mr. Houck said. The group plans to raise funds to buy and release an additional 8,000 to 10,000 brown trout in the future.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, who last year requested studies that led to the planned stocking, said that the program has great economic potential.