WVa DNR's hatchery production above average
By JOHN MCCOY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia's state-owned fish hatcheries didn't grow as many walleye or hybrid striped bass last year, but production of other popular game fish compensated for the shortfall.
"Overall, I'd say we had an above-average year,'' said Chris O'Bara, the Division of Natural Resources biologist who oversees the state's Apple Grove and Palestine hatcheries. "We did very well with species such as muskellunge, black bass and catfish.''
O'Bara said he was particularly pleased with blue catfish production. The species, native to West Virginia but nearly eliminated by pollution, has been the focus of a DNR effort to restore populations in the Ohio and Kanawha rivers.
"This year, we stocked 138,000 blue cats,'' O'Bara said. "Most years, we average about 30,000. We made an effort to produce more fish this year, and it paid off.''
O'Bara said the fish, stocked as fingerlings, were placed in the Ohio River's seven navigation pools and the Kanawha's three.
Hatchery personnel also managed to grow more channel catfish than usual.
"We produced 64,000 fingerlings in the 3- to 4-inch range, and 21,000 'advanced' fingerlings 6 to 8 inches in size,'' O'Bara said. "The advanced fingerlings went into 35 bodies of water such as state park lakes and wildlife management area ponds. Most of the waters were less than 150 acres in size. The smaller fingerlings went into nine bodies of water, mostly very small ponds or very large lakes.''
The Apple Grove facility's sprawling network of ponds has allowed DNR officials to experiment with growing fish to larger size before stocking them. Stockings of muskellunge, in particular, have benefited from advanced-fingerling stockings.
"We're probably headed toward stocking only advanced fingerlings for muskies. Regular fingerlings get stocked in the spring, and they have a tough time surviving. Advanced fingerlings are stocked in the fall, and their survival is better,'' O'Bara explained.
This year, DNR hatcheries 3,800 advanced fingerlings and 1,800 regular-sized fingerlings. The advanced fingerlings went primarily to North Bend, Stonewall Jackson, Stonecoal, Woodrum and Upper Mud River lakes. Hatchery crews stocked the smaller fingerlings in streams such as the Coal River, the Mud River, and Sandy Creek.