Here I am sitting on a train going umpteen miles an hour along the coast of Connecticut, on the way home in NJ, from my new second home in Boston. I haven't fished in weeks, the rains are supposed to come, yet I haven't seen a drop today. Just steel gray, low hung clouds and tropical winds turning over the fading leaves of early Autumn.
I have received via email, a basket of complaints from NJ fisherman upset that the fall stocking of trout in NJ has been postponed. Oh, the horror.
Our rivers are very low, too warm, and not suitable for an allotment of trout that are destined to be yanked out of the rivers to die unceremoniously on some guys metal stringer. By the time they get them home, the fish will be stiff as a broom handle and have faded to the palest of colors, eyes milky and fixed. Some, a small percentage, will make it to the broiler or frying pan. Others, the majority that are taken, will wind up freezer burned and crusty with ice, or just tossed in the waste. All for the sake of showing off what a fine angler one can be when casting to fresh out of the hatchery and hungry due to being fed on a routine basis trout.
Let me stop here for a moment to remind myself that I have been guilty of this in the years of my youth. It's the path of us all - youthful stupidty and ignorance that over time ages into experience, and hopefully the ability to appreciate the fact that we don't have to conquer or exterminate everything lower in the food chain than us.
Today I am repulsed by that behavior, yesterday I was a part of it. I think we can all say that about some element of our past lives, and it's healthy to remember those things that we now view differently - to see that we have changed for the better.
Enough of the awareness stuff. The reality is that the state will stock a week later than originally planned. And although many trout will leave the river involuntarily within days, the other reality is that many will stay and thrive. Fewer than are taken, but still, more than enough to keep the four-season fisherman in trout.
Many of the fish that escape the "meathunter" quickly adapt to their new environment. They find sheltered lies. They learn to feed on all the natural prey that inhabit the river system through trial and error. They don't have hands, so they sample the items that pass by them with their mouths and learn what satisfies, and what doesn't. They will even ingest pebbles, stones and other detrius in the water column with no harm. Despite their artificial beginning to life, the hatchery trout that are fortunate enough to either avoid capture, or get caught by a catch and release angler, manage in amazing ways to survive. Like everything else in nature, the strong survive. Some even thrive long enough to spawn many months later.
How many or what percentage is something I can't even begin to answer. But I do know that in the coming months enough trout will have survived the initial weeks of the fall stocking that they will be there to be caught by the persistent angler.
Oh, and they will be that much harder to catch..........
So sharpen those hooks!