Without fish stocking programs, you would not be able to catch a muskellunge or a walleye in a lake within our borders. All the variety you’ve come to expect in Kentucky’s waters–whether it’s a striped bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, or hybrid striped bass–would be gone. Your chances of catching a channel catfish from most lakes would drop considerably.
Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks approximately 4 million fish each year. It’s why Kentucky offers some of the best fishing around for sheer diversity of fish.
The roots of Kentucky’s modern-day fish stocking programs date back nearly a century. In the old days, the Kentucky Game and Fish Commission acquired fish from the ponds of generous landowners for stockings.
However, the roads of the day didn’t allow fish to get everywhere they were needed quickly enough. Commissioners solved the problem in 1914 by paying $3,158 for a railroad car to carry fish throughout the state. Kentucky stocked nearly 8,500 fish that year–all rock bass and channel catfish. Three years later, due to increased demand and the need for a more reliable source of fish, the state built its first hatchery at the site of an old flour mill near Frankfort.
Today, the state operates two hatcheries, one in Franklin County, the other near Morehead. A federal fish hatchery near Jamestown supplies the state’s need for trout.
Kentucky now stocks nearly 6,000 muskies, 1.4 million walleye, 1 million striped bass, 460,000 hybrid striped bass, 180,000 channel catfish, 350,000 white bass, and 180,000 largemouth bass, among other species. In addition, more than a quarter-million trout are released into Kentucky waters.
Why stock so many fish? In many cases, new dams and lakes blocked the spawning runs of many different kinds of fish. They simply couldn’t reproduce in lakes. To give these traditional species a boost, hatcheries took on the role of Mother Nature.
In other cases, such as trout, the fish are not native and cannot reproduce naturally.
Problem fish received all the attention in the hatcheries. However, that thinking is changing. A new program started two years ago attempts to help the state’s most sought-after fish, the largemouth bass.
Researchers believe they can improve fishing with supplemental stockings of largemouth bass in lakes where the spawn wasn’t good. Most lakes are eligible for the program–with the exception of Kentucky, Barkley, and Cumberland lakes, which would require more fish than hatcheries can produce.
Fish stockings cannot solve every problem. But they sure can make angling a lot more fun.
Keep up with current news from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife on the Internet at fw.ky.gov. Click on “news releases” for the most up-to-date information.