Two weeks ago 260 Firehole rainbows were deposited in the pond, said Brad Welch, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department hatchery supervisor from Tillett Springs Rearing Station.
Wednesday’s stock average about 8.7 inches. Their progenitors are from the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park, Welch said.
At around 8:30 a.m. at Pond 5, Welch and a colleague worked in the cold, with the wind hurling sheets of cold spray, rendering the pond a choppy, murky green.
Jay Foland, Tillett hatchery fish culturist, employed a net to scoop the lively trout from the oxygenated tank mounted on a flat bed truck. Then he and Welch transferred the rainbows in a large bucket to the shoreline for release into the pond. Some of the
liberated rainbows lingered at the bank for a moment as though getting their bearings before darting into deeper water.
Later that morning 1,000 Firehole rainbows were deposited at Deaver Reservoir northeast of Powell. They too were approximately 8.7 inches long.
Welch calls them “catchables.”
Annually Deaver Reservoir is stocked with 1,000 Firehole rainbows and it will be stocked with 500 brood culls, measuring 11 to 16 inches this winter, Welch said. Pond 5 will undergo the same stocking.
Pond 5 also has received channel catfish, largemouth bass and green sunfish/bluegill hybrids.
“The largemouth bass and channel catfish can reproduce in the pond,” Welch said.
Deaver Reservoir also has stocked walleye, largemouth bass and channel catfish.
“All of these fish have the ability to reproduce in Deaver,” Welch said. “Most of these fish were not put in as catchable fish but rather stocked as smaller fish and allowed to grow up in the reservoir.”
Deaver also receives some Yellowstone cutthroat trout brood culls when they are available from the Ten Sleep hatchery, Welch added.
Foland said he aims to fish the Deaver Reservoir the next day.
Both Pond 5 and Deaver are popular angler destinations. They are relatively close to several towns and provide relatively easy access for young anglers, Welch said.
Game and Fish trades excess trout eggs with other states for warm water fish like walleye, bass, channel catfish and perch. Although the Game and Fish has to fetch the out-of-state fish, it still saves the state several million dollars annually, Welch said.
Game and Fish takes great pains to ensure imported fish are free of aquatic invasive species hitchhikers like zebra or quagga mussels, Al Gettings, assistant fish culture supervisor for Game and Fish hatcheries, said Thursday.
About 90 percent of the waters stocked by Game and Fish personnel are lakes or reservoirs. The remaining 10 percent are streams and rivers like the North Platte and lower stretches of the Shoshone.
Game and Fish operates 10 hatcheries around the state. About 4.8 million fish — mostly trout — were stocked by the department in 2013, Gettings said.
Stocking is conducted primarily for recreational fishing and also for restoration or maintenance of the native cutthroat trout population.
“We’ve got some good fisheries in the state,” Gettings said.
It wasn’t raining at Deaver Reservoir, but a bit breezy. Two teal swooped over the lake a few yards from shore as though on landing approach and then veer off. Further out a loon bobbed in the swells as though attached to a sea anchor. It was a fine morning to visit Deaver Reservoir to watch waterfowl, cast a line or both.
After hatching and rearing the trout it is gratifying to see them swim away, the G&F staffers said.
“Now it’s up to fishermen,” Foland said. “That’s what it’s for.”