wild vs stocked



Well-known member
Oct 4, 2006
I see a lot of comments on social media about wild vs stocked where there's always a few people who say something like; "who cares if it's wild or stocked? It's a great fish!".

For me, it does matter. Greatly. It has nothing to do with some elitist attitude toward my own personal skill. It’s not even about fishing to be honest. It's simply the pursuit of something wild and perfect. I'm not saying everyone shares my views, but I fish because I have an obsession with the fish. So I personally want to fish for and handle perfect specimens. Again, it's not about me or even angling. It's about the fish, and wild, untouched environments that haven’t been manipulated by man.

I don't fish so I can claim I caught 32.23 fish per hour. I don't care if I spend 8 hours on the water and catch one perfect wild fish. I also don't care about size. 26 inch stocked fish mean absolutely nothing to me. I’ve been bitten by the big fish bug before and gone to places I know have huge stocked trout and caught them, and it’s a huge letdown. A hollow “victory”.

My animosity toward stocked fish is twofold. One, when I go searching for wild trout, that's all I want to catch. Catching a stocked rainbow while out chasing wild browns or brookies is a major letdown. Two, the impact of stocking over wild trout is scientifically proven to be detrimental to wild trout, so I see stocked fish in a wild trout stream as a threat to the future fishery.

I've seen a lot of posts of these "patriot strain brook trout" from Laurel Hill trout farm lately with comments like; "amazing!", "Beautiful" and my personal favorite; "one of God's most beautiful creations".

That last one is great cause for concern for me personally. When we legitimize manmade fish, we devalue the wild, natural fish. It's the same for the prized yellow trout that are all the rage these days. Why can't people respect and admire naturally occurring species? Browns are valued over brook trout by a lot of anglers because of their size. We’ve created this culture through artificially propagating fish and culturally ranking size over natural occurrence.

Taking things a step further, I've grown to greatly respect fallfish. We have some really big ones around that will chase and eat a big articulated streamer, hammer dry flies and fight (for a while) better than any stocked trout of the same size. They're a native fish, extremely beautiful (imo) and probably the very last consideration in terms of stocking trout.

We manage water based on angler-want over natural biology. We've artificially generated hype over species based on a set of ideologies that are rooted in greed and selfishness.

I just had to vent a bit. I'm sure there are people here who disagree with me, but I just wanted to explain that preference of wild (especially wild native) over stocked trout isn’t about some attitude of angling prowess. Anyone who has fished for wild native brook trout knows that they’re probably the easiest trout to fish for. Frankly, heavily pressured stocked trout are probably the most difficult to fish for. So it’s not about bragging that you’re such a great angler, it’s about appreciating wild, self sustaining fish over manmade inferior substitutes.
I don't disagree with anything in your post. I love catching wild fish which is what I have done in Alaska on my two trips there. I have also caught them in Colorado and Wyoming.

There are introduced(originally stocked) trout there too that have become wild just like now wild browns and rainbows east of the Mississippi.

I caught two wild trout while taking a class on euro nymphing on Spring Creek in Centre County one was a 6" rainbow and the other was a 12' brown. I hooked six other trout that I failed to land. I had a great time with this four person class and learned a lot about fishing that I didn't know.

I do most of my fishing at a R&G club in the Poconos. The fish are stocked but the water gets too warm in the summer to support and native or wild trout. I catch plenty of very small smallmouth bass, chubs, fall fish, one perch, and I see plenty of carp.

The stocked trout are mostly released to live another day and a lot of them holdover through the winter and acclimate to their new environment. They become a different fish, especially the rainbows. They fight harder and jump. The brook are easier to catch and the browns rise more to dry flies. That is what I have observed while fishing there.

I love the place. I can catch fish and enjoy just being in roadless woods observing wildlife. There is no stocking over native or wild fish because they just aren't there.

My two favorite canoe trips are the upper Greenbrier River and South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, which are both in West Virginia.

The are both both stocked waters with no native or wild reproducing trout getting stocked over. I love being in those roadless wilderness environments and catching fish.

I have never fished the Lake Erie or Lake Ontario tributaries but I do know that a lot of people love it.

Again, I am not arguing or disagreeing with your post at all. I just enjoy the fishing that I do.
I think it depends where you live and are able to fish most often. If you live near streams that harbor wild trout, then they will likely be your preferred targets. If, however, you live where there are few wild but a number of stocked trout streams, it is likely that you'll fish these streams.

Peripatetic fishermen may travel long distances to find the kind of trout they prefer to target; but many of us, due to a variety of circumstances, must do most of our fishing near home. Even a day trip to a special stream may be only a one-time-per-season adventure.

I wouldn't get too hung up on stocked vs. wild, especially if the stocked trout in your locals hold up throughout the season.

As I said, it might just depend on where you call home.
Two of my favorite streams are mostly stocked fish. The reason I like them so much is because they have excellent hatches and I love fishing on top. In the one, which is a tailwater the fish eat well and get big and strong in a few weeks. They also hold over there. I used to fish Penns Creek when it was stocked more and I am sure a lot of the bigger fish were stocked. Same with Big Fishing Creek. I think a lot of the bigger fish there were escapees or stocked. I value wild fish but in general they are just not as abundant or get as big as people think on many streams. I also like bigger fish. I get my fill of catching cookie cutter trout as long as my hand out of Spring Creek in a hurry. I have some favorite streams that have nice big wild fish but as they are getting more and more pressure I see the numbers and average size of those fish getting smaller. Wild fish that are caught again and again and look like pin cushions are not too thrilling and they don't live too long being handled a lot either. Catching a wild fish which is bleeding and has missing mandibles is actually kind of sad. I see a lot like that on Delaware. The state has started promoting wild trout fishing and this is partly why they are getting so much pressure. What is the future of trout in PA? Probably will be more about protecting wild trout somehow which will include continuing stocking to keep at least some pressure off wild fish.
if it wasn't for catching stocked trout, blue gills and smallmouth bass as a kid i doubt i would have this fly fishing addiction. I like RRTs take....so to that i say..


My favorite stream for fishing for stocked trout is Pine Creek, because the stream is scenic, has good hatches, and it's a long and large stream, which gives people room to spread out and avoid crowding.

I'm totally OK with that type of stocked trout program.

Stocking over native brook trout is:

1) Wrong. Should not be done.

2) Very common in PA.

I'm not saying that as an attack on anyone, just stating the facts, and so people know about this huge "Opportunity For Improvement."
larkmark wrote:
I used to fish Penns Creek when it was stocked more and I am sure a lot of the bigger fish were stocked. Same with Big Fishing Creek. I think a lot of the bigger fish there were escapees or stocked. I value wild fish but in general they are just not as abundant or get as big as people think on many streams.

Sorry, I don't buy this for a second. The number of escapees, and their longevity in the wild is highly overestimated by some, IMO.
Fishing for stocked trout is how I learned about trout fishing in the beginning (early 70's). I couldn't get enough stream time. As the years went by I started fishing for wild trout. The places I had to go to catch them were always beautiful, as well as fairly remote.

To me, nothing compares to being in the middle of nowhere catching wild trout, with their brilliantly vivid colors and spot patterns.
My take:

I compare stocked trout to eating fast food/pizza and drinking mass produced beer. I like it, I'll do it often, it serves itself well.

Wild trout are eating at my favorite Italian restaurant with good wine and my wife, special, much more enjoyable, but not always possible.

I can't always get to do the latter so the former fills the gaps.