- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Craig Springer, of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, says a recent study by USFWS economist Dr. James Caudill shows that when you toss a lure toward a rainbow trout that was reared at national fish hatchery, you’re fueling an economic engine that roars.

Springer says Dr. Caudill’s research was based on trout stocking information and the dollar’s value back in 2004. He used stocking information from 11 national fish hatcheries that produced the largest quantities of rainbow trout among 70 such national hatcheries across the country.

The 11 hatcheries used in the 2004 study raised 9.4 million rainbow trout, providing nearly four million angler-days on the water — and here comes the zinger: Retail sales on items associated with fishing for the trout, including food, gas, lodging, rods, reels, bait and tackle amounted to $172.7 million.

Now add that the trout anglers who spent more than $170 million also provided employment for 3,502 people and an income of $80 million. In turn, the these wage earners paid back $2.9 million in state income taxes and $10.6 million in federal income taxes.

The bottom line, Springer says, is that fishing for rainbow trout generated a total economic output of $325.1 million in one year. Taxpayers who fund the federal hatchery system paid $5.4 million to produce rainbow trout. Every dollar spent on rainbow trout production rises up through the economy fueling $32.20 in retail sales and $36.88 in net economic value.

Springer says that not all of these rainbows are created equal.

“Hatchery-bred rainbow trout express the imprint of scientists in the various strains that exist, and they are not as generic as you might believe,” Springer says. “One strain under development now at Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana shows promise in a resistance to Whirling Disease. And not all rainbow trout are meant for a quick put-and-take. Some persist to grow to trophy size, and some do so quickly.

“The Arlee and Shasta strains, named for waters from which they were developed, are the biggest of rainbows — they can reach 30 pounds in four years. Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, in partnership with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, puts rainbow trout in 46 waters across the state with a dozen of those lakes and rivers turning up two-foot-long trout, tipping the scales at five to 15 pounds.”

Rainbow trout, according to Springer, are by far the most popular cold-water sport fish in the country. Because of its popularity, the economic effects are felt from the mom-and-pop corner store clear to corporate board rooms.

This is not to be confused with warm-water species, such as the largemouth bass. Bass fishing is another economic boost that generates big bucks.

Meanwhile, the nearest federal brood stock hatcheries to the Washington area can be found in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., Dale Hollow and Erwin, Tenn., and Wolf Creek, Ky.

Robert Lunsford, the director of Freshwater Fisheries for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, for one, has only good things to say about the federal hatchery system. Although Maryland pretty much runs its own trout raising and stocking program, on occasion it gets help from the USFWS.

“Earlier this year,” Lunsford said, “we received 175,000 rainbow trout from the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery and we are grateful for that.”

It added to the state’s stocking plans, which was good for all of us.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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