The prize of any trout fisherman’s stringer is the mystic golden trout. There is a lot more to the story of the golden trout than most people realize, especially here in West Virginia.
The bright yellow fish that seem to tantalize and tease us as we fish the streams that are generously stocked by the WVDNR were developed right here in the hatcheries that supply those very trout streams. The golden trout is actually a variation of the rainbow trout that make up the bulk of the stocked trout around the state.
The story of the streams of gold that trout fishermen chase and dream of started way back in 1949 at the Petersburg State Trout Hatchery. The hatchery received a gift of 10,000 rainbow trout fry (baby fish) from the White Sulphur Springs Federal Hatchery.
Of the 10,000 fry only approximately 300 fish survived. The best fish from these were retained for brood stock and raised for a couple more years until they could be spawned to start the first large scale trout egg production in the state.
This breeding and egg production continued with each year’s fry being raised and the best fish added to the brood stock. From this production program came one single embryo in 1954 that started the golden strain of trout that now swim freely in the put-and-take waters all over the state.
A single mottled yellow fish was found swimming with the fry in the spring in 1955. It was immediately noticed and selected as a keeper. The hatchery staff cared for and raised the special fish, dubbed “Little Camouflage”, to breeding age and kept it in the brood stock of trout.
That single fish produced eggs that spawned several more yellow tinted fish. These fish were selectively paired to finally produce the bright yellow beauties that we cherish as anglers today.
The first widespread stocking of golden trout occurred in 1963, thus the fish was named the Centennial Golden Trout to commemorate West Virginia’s first 100 years. Ever since that first stocking I am sure the Centennial Golden has captivated fishermen far and wide.
Currently, golden trout make up approximately 10 percent of the trout stocked in the waters across the state. This means that anglers all over the state have the opportunity to catch the elusive golden trout as they wade the streams of the state.
Even though the goldies are a color mutation of the rainbow trout and they are similar in size and shape, there are, also, plenty of differences other than the color. The fish may be easily seen in the clear waters of the streams, but they can often be finicky to catch.
This mean streak in those colorful fins goes far beyond being picky. Not only can they be selective on when and where they take the bait, they are especially frustrating because of their habit of often chasing or following the fisherman’s hook but refusing to bite.
Roll all these traits in with the fact that you can see them for a country mile in the water and the anxiety level begins to build as soon as you see the yellow beauty laying in your favorite fishing spot. I hope I am not the only angler who will throw everything in the tackle box at those gold menaces before moving on to the next fishing spot.
“He’s there, I can see him, surely I can find something he wants to bite.” Sometimes it works and I can add a bit of color to my stringer, but many times I only walk away defeated. Sometimes a wiley rainbow will help soften the blow by taking the bait, but it is a small consolation when the real prize is that nugget of gold still swimming away.
There are still plenty of chances to fish the streams of gold in the Mountain State as the stocking program is still in full swing until the end of the month. Even after that there may be a few hold over golds swimming around here and there.
So, if you are ready to go for the gold, you better go soon or the goldies will haunt you with their bright yellow shine from the bottom of the clear cold water.
Roger Wolfe is an outdoor columnist for Civitas Media. He can be reached for comments, questions, or story ideas at [email protected]