February/March is that time of year. That time of year when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) begins stocking our lakes and streams with thousands of 12 inch rainbow trout. I know this because all of a sudden the fishermen are out in droves. Trying to catch the 800 trout that were dumped into Lake Elkhorn last month. More will be stocked this month.
In Howard County, MDNR stocks Lake Elkhorn with 2000 trout, Centennial Lake with 2500, and they also stock the Patapsco River with 11,600, Little Patuxent River with 5800, and the Middle Patuxent with 1500.
The fish are disoriented when first dumped into new waters, especially water bodies covered with ice. The first fishermen to get busy often use power bait which is designed to look just like the food the trout have been raised on in the fisheries. Later fishermen use plastic worms and spinners and anything that will catch fish.
These trout are stocked solely for the recreational fisherman. The trout rarely make it through the summer. The waters here are now too warm for trout to breed. If they escape the fisherman they become sluggish during the warm summer months and are consumed by large bass, muskellunge in some lakes, and of course osprey, eagles and a host of other predators.
Most of the fish used for stocking rivers and streams in central Maryland were raised in the Albert Powell Fish Hatchery in Hagerstown Maryland. The MDNR trout stocking program is funded entirely by the sale of non-tidal fishing licenses, trout stamps and Federal Sportfish Restoration Program funds generated by a special excise tax on boating and angling equipment. I always get a license even if I don’t get to go fishing. I like supporting the MDNR.
MDNR is asking anglers, boaters, and birders to continue to be vigilant about not spreading whirling, other disease, and invasive organisms. Please remember to clean your gear, boots, and boats every time you move between streams or outings to prevent moving around unwanted invaders. You can wash with dish soap or a 5% salt solution or use one of the convenient wader wash stations if present at your location. For information on how you can help, go to Additional Disinfection Methods for Fishing Gear.
Take-a-way: Enjoy sports fishing, boating, birding, and hiking but be careful not to spread disease from one lake or river to another.