Anglers await annual trout release

DNREC biological aide Sam Johnson releases a net full of trout into Tidbury Pond on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Continuing their journey toward someone’s skillet, over 800 rainbow trout were dumped into Kent and Sussex County ponds Thursday.

DNREC’s Mike Stangl described the mostly three-quarter pounders as “very popular table fare” attracting out-of-state anglers looking to pull them from the water.

Coming from Pennsylvania, a Zion Grove Fish Hatchery truck arrived with about 625 pounds to be evenly deposited into the Kent and Sussex county waterspots. The $5,000 program is funded through Trout Stamp sales and federal Sportfish Restoration Funds. Mr. Stangl said no taxpayer dollars are involved.

The 26-year tradition debuts from 7 a.m. to 30 minutes past dusk Saturday in Dover’s Tidbury Pond and Greenwood’s Newton Pond and continues until all the trout are pulled out. Fishing continues daily from a half hour before dawn to a half hour after dusk.

The freshwater fish will be stressed once temperatures consistently reach the upper 70-degree range, but they never live that long.

“We’ve never seen any evidence of fish kill,” Mr. Stangl said.

Anglers — some carrying lanterns to see — are expected to find spots on the bank as early as 4 a.m. While Newton Pond covers 20 acres, Tidbury is far smaller and may require an earlier arrival.

“Tidbury can get very crowded,” Mr. Stangl said.

Thanks to the growing amount of hooks and bait dropping into the water, the trout are on borrowed time.

Trout are put into a net before being released into Tidbury Pond on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“When it first started in 1993 a survey was conducted to how many folks took part,” Mr. Stangl said. “I don’t remember the numbers then but do know it’s grown in popularity since then.”

DNREC Fish and Wildlife Police will be ever present to assure no enthusiastic anglers land more than six trout per day, or levy penalties if they do.

“Officers will be there on opening day and the days after that as well,” said Mr. Stangl, a program manager for freshwater and anadromous species.

While the majority of the trout stretched 12 to 13 inches, some trophy size 14-inchers-plus weighing two pounds or more were also included.

“They’re a good fighting fish,” Mr. Stangl said.

Mr. Stangl cited the willingness of Kent County Levy Court to work with the program as why Tidbury became a regular site. After initially moving the Sussex location around, DNREC settled on a stand pit converted into Newton Pond.

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