What happens to stocked brook trout?

There’s a stream high in the Alleghenies that I fish occasionally looking for big brook trout. It’s stocked by the state and I’ve covered it here before. Stream PA-1B is a freestone stream with incredible habitat, but unsuitable chemistry. It’s acidic, and has low alkalinity, and so it’s traditionally been stocked by the state with brook trout. There are also some local clubs that stock it with rainbows and brown trout.

Stream PA 1B

The stream is naturally acidic and infertile with a sandy bottom. Even with these unfavorable conditions, it still produces a small population of wild brook trout. Interestingly, the wild fish here seem to grow to a decent size, and while I would normally be ok with a stream like this being stocked, I often wonder what would happen if it was left alone.

A wild PA brook trout from PA 1B

I just fished stream PA-1B the other day (November 17th 2019) and caught several wild brook trout, along with a brown and a big stocked brook trout. I also moved an absolute giant of a fish, which I didn’t get a great look at. I’m pretty sure it was a stocked brown trout, but had to be in the 18″ to 20″ length.

A Pennsylvania Stocked Brook Trout from PA 1B

The fish above is clearly a stocked brook trout indicative of this stream. Of interest here is how skinny it is. It’s of decent length, but it’s clearly malnourished. This is what happens when fish are stocked that are larger than the stream would naturally support. They can’t find enough food to maintain their weight, and so they starve. This fish was likely stocked in March or April of this year, and survived this long. I suspect it will survive until next April when the onslaught of bait fishermen descend on this stream to fill their creels.

Stocked Brook Trout

For comparison, the fish above is likely what the other fish looked like when it was stocked. I caught this fish in the same stream earlier in the year not long after stocking. It was plump from hatchery pellets, but about the same length as the skinny fish above. If they aren’t caught, they wither away due to lack of nutrients. This is pretty typical of the small infertile streams in the state that are stocked.

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