The fingerling stocking program is the smallest of the state’s three management programs. It is designed to take advantage of the natural potential of high-elevation lakes, deep reservoirs, coldwater tailwaters, and spring-fed streams to produce quality trout fishing opportunities where wild fisheries are not possible due to the lack of natural reproduction.
Because summer water temperatures are usually a limiting factor to trout survival in Virginia, under this program a stream or lake must provide suitable, year-round water temperatures for trout survival, have good habitat and be productive enough to provide adequate food for good growth.
Suitable trout waters are stocked once annually with fingerling or sub-catchable (smaller than the legal size limit) trout, and often length limits and angling gear restrictions are imposed to protect these small fish until they reach harvestable size. In areas receiving heavy fishing pressure, special gear restrictions are often necessary to avoid high hooking mortality rates that can occur when bait fishing is permitted. These fish will often be caught several times before they eventually reach harvestable size, and the program can only be successful if hooking mortality remains low. Depending on the length limit, these stocked fish will not reach a legal size for six months to two years. During this time, trout lose most of their hatchery characteristics, both in appearance and behavior, and create a fishery that approaches a wild one in terms of fishing experience.
Some of Virginia’s most exciting trout fishing opportunities can be found within our fingerling stocking program, and by stocking small fish once a year, a high quality fishery can be developed at a fraction of the cost of the more common put-and-take program. Many anglers have discovered this quality angling and participation in the program is growing. The Department recognizes this growing interest and is continuing to develop new waters in the state.