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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

December 15, 2015Lower Saluda River trout stocked by helicopter

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocked approximately 18,000 rainbow and brown trout into the lower Saluda River near Columbia on Dec. 15 using a helicopter and a specialized lift bucket. Of that total, 13,000 are brown trout (five 1/2 inches) and 5,000 are rainbow trout (ten inches) for a total more than 3,000 pounds. This accounts for around 2/3 of the trout stocked in the Saluda with the rest stocked by truck.

See a brief video of the 2013 operation.

Many of these trout were tagged with what’s known as a T-bar tag attached just below the dorsal fin of the trout. Each tag will be individually numbered thus providing a means of gathering data on a particular fish. Anglers can assist DNR biologists by reporting their catches of tagged trout. Details on this procedure can be found on the DNR webpage at as well as kiosks located at several public access points along the river. This is being done as part of a study to collect information on the river’s trout population such as survival rates and the number of fish that succumb to natural and angler mortality as well as information on the fishes’ growth rates.

The trout stocking is also an example of partnership between state agencies. State Law Enforcement Division pilots are able to continue required training and helicopter stocking allows the 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 thousands of 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 given time to grow, they can exceed 20 inches, considered trophy size for this type of fishery. Anglers can assist the trout in reaching this size by practicing catch-and-release fishing, especially during the winter and early spring. DNR conservation officers will also be patrolling the river heavily to 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.

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