Trout to be Stocked by Helicopter in Lower Saluda River, South Carolina

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The S.C. Department of Natural Resources will stock thousands of rainbow and brown trout into the lower Saluda River near Columbia on Dec. 13 using a helicopter and a specialized lift bucket. The stocking is expected to commence around 9:30 a.m. just off Corley Mill Road (Frye Road) near I-20 at US 378 west of Columbia in Lexington County. The alternate date will be the following day, Wednesday Dec. 14.

Helicopter stocking allows the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to better distribute trout up and down the river system and prevents the concentration of fish in any particular area. Trout came from Walhalla State Fish Hatchery in Oconee County. The cold waters released from the bottom of Lake Murray provide suitable habitat for the trout in the Saluda River, creating a unique and very popular fishery in the midlands of South Carolina.

The DNR stocks approximately 30,000 trout each year in the Saluda from December through February in what it calls a "put, grow and take" fishery that relies on stocking to maintain populations and the cooperation of anglers for success. Young trout grow rapidly after stocking, if allowed to remain in the river. For young trout to reach their potential, however, they must not be removed from the river immediately after stocking. If given time to grow, they can exceed 20 inches, considered trophy size for this type of fishery. If trout are to reach this size, anglers must practice catch-and-release fishing, especially during the winter and early spring. DNR conservation officers will also be patrolling the river heavily to try and hold down over-the-limit catches.

South Carolina’s trout fishery generates about $9 million annually for the state’s economy in direct retail sales, with a total estimated economic output of more than $14 million, according to the "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation" published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The effects of trout fishing can be felt in many segments of Upstate and Midlands communities, from motels and restaurants to gas stations and sporting goods stores. Approximately 400,000 trout are stocked into public waters in the state’s upcountry each year by the South Carolina DNR. The trout are stocked in more than 50 cold-water rivers and streams in Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties, in Lake Jocassee, and in the cool tail-waters below the Lake Hartwell and Lake Murray dams.