Dog River in Vermont Now "Catch and Release"

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Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche has taken action designed to conserve the wild trout population in the Dog River.

State Fisheries Biologist, Rich Kirn, says the Dog River has long been considered one of Vermont's best wild trout streams with a reputation for abundant wild rainbow trout and large brown trout. Biological surveys conducted in the 1990s measured high trout densities, excellent natural reproduction, good growth rates and good angler catch rates. Rainbow trout have not been stocked in the Dog River since 1961, and all stocking in the Dog River and its tributaries was discontinued in 1992.

Kirn says he has been conducting annual trout population surveys on the lower Dog River since 1991. Consistently high wild trout densities were found in the first nine years, but the trout population has been in decline since 2000.

"It is our duty as stewards of Vermont's fish and wildlife resources to safeguard our natural resources wherever possible," said Commissioner Wayne Laroche. "We know there has been a serious decline in numbers of naturally reproducing rainbow trout and brown trout in the Dog River. This temporary Test Water rule is designed to reduce trout fishing mortality so biologists can determine what is causing a decline in the trout population. It is hoped that if the cause can be determined, actions can be taken to restore the fishery and fishing opportunity on the DogRiver."

The rule does not ban trout fishing. It allows "catch-and-release" fishing only using artificial flies or lures from the Northfield Falls Dam downstream to the Junction Road Bridge at Berlinand Montpelier. All brook, brown and rainbow trout caught in this section of the river must be immediately released.

The restriction of fishing to the use of artificial flies and lures is based on extensive studies which have shown that trout caught with natural baits have a much higher mortality rate after being released than do fish caught on flies and artificial lures. It is, hoped that the reduction in mortality will be enough for biologists to diagnose the problem.

"We will be doing biological assessments of the Dog River trout population in order to measure changes in trout populations subsequent to enactment of this Test Water rule," said Laroche. "We also will be evaluating fish habitat conditions and other factors that may be limiting trout survival while considering potential fish habitat improvement projects."

The Test Water rule is in effect until December 31, 2015.

"Our goal is to manage the Dog River's wild trout population so that it is once again one of the most productive in the state," added Kirn.