On May 25, 2022

State seeks help evaluating new rainbow trout strain

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VTF&W) is stocking a new strain of rainbow trout this spring and is looking for help from anglers to evaluate its performance.

By Polly Mikula
Jason Mikula holds a large rainbow trout he caught Sunday, May 22 fly-fishing in Cavendish. The fish was released back into the Black River.

“Vermont stocks about 115,000 rainbow trout annually into inland rivers and lakes to provide recreational fishing opportunities for the public,” said state fisheries biologist Lee Simard. “We are evaluating the new Eagle Lake strain of rainbow trout against our traditionally stocked Erwin-Arlee strain to ensure we are providing the highest quality fishery possible with these stocked trout. The Eagle Lake strain is currently stocked in many states including Maine and Michigan and could be a great fit for Vermont as well.”

The two strains are the same species, but genetic differences can impact their behavior and performance. Both strains will be stocked side-by-side into 11 waterbodies across Vermont and will be compared based on their catchability, survivability and growth to see if the Eagle Lake Strain performs better after stocking.

Locally, they’ll be stocked in the Ottauquechee River in Bridgewater and Woodstock and in Knapp Pond 1 in Cavendish and Reading.

The two strains look very similar but can be identified by a clipped ventral fin, the paired fins found on the underside of the fish about halfway along its body. A missing left fin indicates the new Eagle Lake strain while a missing right fin indicates the Erwin-Arlee strain.

What characteristics we are looking for in a new rainbow trout strain?
Biologists will compare the different strains of trout for characteristics that may be more desirable and help enhance opportunities for all anglers to catch stocked trout. Here are some factors that will be analyzed:

  • Hatchery survival: Fish culture is a science, and it takes a lot of skill and expertise to raise fish in tanks, ponds, and raceways that can survive long enough to be put into Vermont waters.  We want to ensure Vermont’s five hatcheries can successfully raise the Eagle Lake strain and grow it to a size that can be stocked.
  • Catchability: We want anglers to catch stocked trout. This evaluation will allow us to determine if the Eagle Lake strain can be caught just as easily as the Erwin-Arlee strain we currently stock.
  • Survival after stocking: While the rivers we stock are typically too warm for trout to survive through the summer, many lakes and ponds are cold and deep enough for trout to survive.  The current Erwin-Arlee strain does not survive or “hold-over” well.  We will soon be able to determine if the Eagle Lake strain survives better than our current strain.
  • Growth: Everyone wants to catch a big trout!  If the new Eagle Lake strain can survive in lakes and ponds for multiple years, we will be able to look at growth and age to see how big this strain may get in Vermont waters.

Your input matters
“To help us evaluate the new Eagle Lake strain, we are asking anglers to report to us the rainbow trout they catch from the waterbodies included in this evaluation,” said Simard. “Take a picture of the trout that clearly shows the missing fin. Then submit that picture and catch report on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department website or by using the Vermont Outdoors app on your smartphone. The data submitted by anglers will directly influence our management of stocked rainbow trout in Vermont.”

The two strains will be stocked each spring through 2024. A final decision about which strain will continue to be stocked in Vermont will be made by 2025.

For more information and a list of the waterbodies included in the evaluation, visit: vtfishandwildlife.com/rainbow-trout-strain-evaluation.

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