On the surface, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s process of stocking trout for the April 12 opener seems like a simple one.
Waterways Conservation Officers and regional fisheries managers put a request in to the agency’s Bureau of Hatcheries in Harrisburg requesting specific numbers and species of trout. The bureau reviews the requests and issues assignments to specific PFBC hatcheries based on their location to the waters to be stocked. The hatcheries come up with a stocking schedule and when March rolls around, truckloads of trout are shipped out.
But behind the scenes, the process of stocking trout is a bit more complicated.
There are deadlines to meet, specific species requirements for some waterways, limited hours that truck drivers can spend on the road and schedules to coordinate between truck drivers and WCOs. After all, certain streams that can only be stocked on specific dates and there can be weather issues.
That’s why the agency begins to work on its preseason trout stocking schedule in the fall, months before it is announced in February.
“It’s a complex scenario that involves a lot of coordination and logistics,” said Brian Wisner, chief of the PFBC’s Division of Fish Production. “When it starts, we have to get out as many fish as possible and maximize the loads per truck. Once March 1 hits, we’re running trucks out of the hatcheries six days a week until opening day.
“At the bigger hatcheries in the central part of the state, we’ll run three or four trucks a day.”
The numbers alone bear the magnitude of the task. This year, the PFBC will stock almost 3.2 million trout (not including the 1 million raised by cooperative nurseries) in 857 streams and lakes across the state, totalling more than 10,000 miles.
Considering that the agency’s trucks can only haul so many trout, and license restrictions limit the amount of hours drivers can spend on the road, the agency is always up against the clock when it stocks trout.
And then there’s the sheer determination from the agency to not let its anglers down.
“The preseason is the big rush because we don’t want to have a scheduled water not stocked,” Wisner said. “We haven’t missed one in years and we’ll even cut holes in the ice to get the trout in.”
The reason behind the round-the-clock work is simple.
“We’re trying to get fish out to a lot of places in the state, from town parks to mountain streams, so everyone has access to trout,” Wisner said. “We all enjoy working with the fish and anglers. It’s a passion that we get to make it our career.”
Compared to other states and the amount of services they provide to anglers, Wisner said Pennsylvania does the most.
“We’re one of the top states when it comes to trout stocking. The hatcheries are going seven days a week and it’s busiest in the spring with the preseason work, but we also have the in-season stockings, fingerling stockings, deliver fish to the co-ops, and then more in the fall,” he said. “There’s other states that come close, but we do more here than anywhere.”