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B.C. hatcheries refill lakes with catchable trout

Steve Arnold, manager at the Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery, stocks a learning pond with catchable rainbow trout in Abbotsford, B.C., on March 28, 2013.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Every spring the trucks head out from five hatcheries located around the province to recharge British Columbia's lakes and streams with new stocks of trout.

The Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery, in Abbotsford, is one of the busiest, putting more than 860,000 rainbows, steelhead and cutthroat into more than 150 water bodies. The fish shoot down a big flexible hose from a tanker truck, plunge directly into the lake, mill about in confusion for a moment and then head for deeper water. Anglers, some of whom check the release schedules posted on hatchery websites, arrive soon after armed with everything from inexpensive bait-casting outfits, to costly fly-fishing rods.

Some of the fish will be caught soon after they have been released, but others will survive for years, growing to trophy size.

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The released fish range in size from fry that are smaller than a finger, to adult "catchables," that are big enough to be taken home and eaten.

Steve Arnold, manager of Fraser Valley, says B.C.'s hatchery operators take a lot of pride in producing healthy, beautiful fish that are indistinguishable from wild trout.

"All of our fish eggs come from wild stock," he said, explaining how the hatchery gathers eggs each spring by live-trapping adult trout at a few special "brood lakes."

Basically wild trout are intercepted on their way to the spawning grounds and their eggs are collected for the hatcheries. The young fish are mostly released at 9 to 12 months of age.

"So they are essentially wild fish. We've got total genetic diversity," Mr. Arnold said.

The stocking program, run by the non-profit Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, produces more than eight million trout, steel-head, char and kokanee salmon each year, releasing them into about 800 bodies of water provincewide. The program is the backbone of B.C.'s sport fishery, with 300,000 freshwater anglers accounting for more than $500-million a year in direct spending.

Asked how he feels when he watches a family fishing together, catching his trout, Mr. Arnold laughs out loud.

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"It's amazing," he says. "That's what it's all about."

Mr. Arnold said whether you are just learning to fish, or are an experienced angler, spring is the time to check your gear and plan a trip.

"Get out there and try it," he says. "It's a lot of fun and is a great way to spend time with your family."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More


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