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Spring Trout Stocking, 2017

As soon as the ice starts melting, my phone starts ringing–“When are the trout going to be stocked?”

Well, now I know:

Nebraska Game and Parks announces spring trout stocking schedule

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is stocking catchable-size rainbow trout in city ponds and lakes across the state in March to enhance spring fishing opportunities.

Fishing for stocked rainbow trout is an excellent way for families to introduce young and new anglers to fishing as simple equipment and baits can be used.

The trout lake (Lake No. 5) at Two Rivers State Recreation Area (SRA) near Waterloo will open for fishing March 11. It has been stocked with 100 14.5-inch and 2,490 12.25-inch rainbow trout. In addition, 500 tiger trout will be stocked March 7. All trout caught in the lake must be harvested and not released. Call the park at 402-359-5165 for more information. A park entry permit is required.

The remainder of the stocking schedule for rainbow trout, with quantities, is:

March 3 – Morrill Ponds, Morrill: north, 1,350; middle, 450; Zoo Pond, Scottsbluff, 900; Terry’s Pit, Terrytown, 1,500

Week of March 13 – Gracie Creek Pond, 1,000; Niobrara State Park (SP) Pond No. 2, 750; Elm Creek, 1,000

March 15 – CenturyLink Lake, Eugene T. Mahoney SP, 2,500; Independence Landing, Seward, 600; Auble Pond, Ord, 750

March 16 – Heartwell Park, Hastings, 450; Such’s Lake, Grand Island, 650; Fremont Lakes SRA No. 2, Fremont, 3,800

March 17 – City Park, Humboldt, 350; Fairgrounds Lake, Auburn, 800; Weeping Water Pond, 1,200; Stanton Lake, Falls City, 200; Pawnee City, 300; Fort Kearny SRA No. 6, 600; City Park, Holdrege, 1,000; Windmill SRA No. 2, Gibbon, 600; Ponca SP Pond, 900; Golf Course Pond, Curtis, 150; Lake Helen, Gothenburg, 2,000; Lexington City Lake, 750

March 18 – Lake Halleck, Papillion, 1,200; Steinhart Park, 1,200; Holmes Lake, Lincoln, 4,000; TaHaZouka Park, Norfolk, 1,500; Pawnee Park West, Columbus, 1,500; Barnett Park, McCook, 750; Oxford City Lake, 150

Week of March 20 – Ponca SP, 600; Fremont Lakes SRA No. 2, 1,200

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Now let me repeat some “stuff” I say almost every year in this blog post:

Two Rivers Trout Lake

As far as I know the Trout Lake at Two Rivers SRA is set to open this coming Saturday, March 11.  Please know that the fishery there is a little different than all the waters you see on the list above.  At Two Rivers, anglers are required to purchase a special trout tag at the park office before they go to the Trout Lake to fish.  Each trout tag costs $6.00 and allows the harvest of four trout.  Anglers may purchase up to three tags, and can possess up to twelve trout.  An adult angler is allowed up to two children less than the age of sixteen under their tag(s), but the group is limited to no more than four trout per tag.  Only one rod and reel is allowed per angler on the Trout Lake.

Yes, it will cost a little more money to fish for the trout at Two Rivers, but I promise you that the fishing there will be as easy as possible, as there will be over 10,000 trout there waiting for the opener.  Yes, there will be a few surprises at the Two Rivers Trout Lake, some larger fish and yes, there will be some tigers there too.

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No, not these. (Wikipedia photo)
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These!

How to Catch Them

Keep in mind that the catchable-size rainbows that are being stocked have lived their entire lives in a fish hatchery.  They are used to swimming around in a raceway or pond and having artificial feed dropped on top of them.  These fish are not rocket-surgeons or brain scientists.  I have seen them start biting as soon as they come off the hatchery truck, in fact I have seen them suck #12 Marlboro Butts off the surface as soon as they came off the hatchery truck.  But usually they will bite better after they have had a day or two to acclimate to their new environment.  Once they are stocked, they often cruise the shoreline or a drop-off like they would in a hatchery pond or raceway.  Corners or points will tend to concentrate cruising fish; you will often find fish in the vicinity of the stocking location too.  Trout have an excellent sense of smell and will sample a variety of baits as they try to figure out what is food and what is not.  Nightcrawlers will work as well as a variety of prepared baits.  For example, there are a variety of PowerBait products made just for trout, and they will catch fish, Berkley Trout Baits.  Some folks like to try corn and cheese, and those will catch fish too; so will a variety of commercially-prepared salmon eggs.  If you are still-fishing for the trout start fishing near the bottom, but I would recommend getting your bait up off of the bottom a few inches to make it easier for the trout to find.  You can use floating jig-heads to float your baits off the bottom or consider adding a small marshmallow to your hook to float the bait off the bottom and provide even more attraction.  Keep your eyes open as the trout may be cruising way off the bottom at times and you will be able to spot those fish.  Suspending baits below a float (i.e. “bobber”) would be another presentation to try especially if you see fish cruising higher in the water column.

The catchable-size rainbows are also curious especially as they are sampling new baits and learning what to eat.  Besides appealing to their senses of smell and taste, use some color to attract their attention.  A good way to cover some water and find fish would be to throw some small spinners, spoons, or crankbaits that give off some flash.  Even though the put-and-take rainbows have been raised on artificial feed, fly-anglers can get them to bite too.  Initially some wet flies or nymph patterns that just look “buggy” or have some bright attractive colors will get some curious fish to bite.  Later on, after the trout have acclimated to their new environment, they will begin to feed on aquatic insects and other prey items found in the waters in which they were stocked and fly anglers should try to imitate those natural food items.  Keep your eyes open on warm afternoons as those rainbows will take advantage of insect hatches that occur (likely some type of midge).

What To Do With Them

My favorite way to prepare trout would be smoking.  Know what the hardest part is about smoking a fish?  Getting them lit!

Sorry.

Seriously, when I want to smoke a trout or three, the only cleaning I do is field-dressing, yep, I leave the head on, remove the entrails.  Then I will brine the fish over night.  Don’t have no brine recipe, so I am not going to give it to you.  I mix a lot of brown sugar into some water, about as much as you can get to dissolve, then add some salt, some lemon juice and garlic.  I do all of that by taste, so do not ask me measurements–I do not know.  When it tastes right, I know, you will too.

After brining, rinse and put on the smoker.  I like cherry wood, but use your favorite.  Fish do not take long to smoke.  When they are done, peel the skin back, take a fork and flake out some meat.  Enjoy!

Another way to fix those put-and-take trout, again keeping it simple, field-dress, put some butter, lemon and rosemary inside the body cavity, wrap the fish in foil and put it on the grill!

Don’t you dare fill the freezer

Again let me finish by reminding you that we stock the catchable-size rainbow trout in urban and parks waters across the state NOT so folks can load their freezers with eating-size trout.  We stock those fish where they are easily accessible to a bunch of youngsters and beginning anglers.  The weather is nice, it is time to grab the kids and GO FISH!

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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