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#06-332 December 11, 2006

Trout stocked by helicopter in Chattooga, Chauga Rivers

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Freshwater Fisheries Section and the U.S. Forest Service recently stocked more than 33,000 brown and rainbow trout in the Chattooga and Chauga rivers using a U.S. Forest Service helicopter and specialized lift bucket. The stocking benefits South Carolina’s $18 million trout fishery.

Helicopter stocking allows the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to better distribute trout up and down remote, backcountry sections of these two rivers and prevents the concentration of fish in any particular area. This will allow the fish more time to acclimate, disperse and grow to a larger size before being harvested. The aircraft also allows the DNR to be more selective in the type of habitat where the fish are stocked.

The helicopter stocked more than 30,000 brown trout (ranging in size from 5 to 10 inches) and aboutHelicopter loading up with trout 3,000 rainbow trout (averaging about 10 inches) over the 20-plus miles of the Chauga and Chattooga rivers. These fish were produced at Walhalla State Fisher Hatchery in Oconee County. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources provided an additional 5,000 trout for the Chattooga stocking. The trout are transported by truck to a site near the river. The fish are kept in water and transferred to the lift bucket attached to the helicopter. The chopper then pulls away and carries the fish to the river.

Contact the DNR Upstate regional fisheries office in Clemson at (864) 654-6346, extension 12, or the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery at (864) 638-2886 for more information.

South Carolina’s trout fishery generates more than $9 million annually for the state’s economy in direct retail sales, with a total economic output of more than $18 million, according to a recent study on the economic benefits of freshwater fishing in South Carolina. The effects of trout fishing can be felt in many segments of Upstate and Midlands communities, from motels and restaurants to gas stations, local bait and tackle shops and sporting goods stores.

The South Carolina DNR stocks more than 400,000 trout into public waters in the state’s upcountry each year. The trout are stocked in about 50 cold-water rivers and streams in Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties, in Lake Jocassee, and in the cool tailwaters below the Lake Hartwell and Lake Murray dams.

The Sport Fish Restoration program and fishing license revenue helped fund the Chattooga and Chauga trout stocking. The Sport Fish Restoration program is a major funding source for South Carolina’s freshwater fisheries’ program, and it represents the return of excise taxes collected from the sale of fishing tackle. Funds are allocated to states based on their relative size and the number of licensed anglers. The U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited provided funding for the helicopter time.            
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