Inside Outdoors
By Don Jordan

March 15, 2011

Photo courtesy Brian Schoenung


Jackson Creek Trout Stocking Program To End; The Question of "Fair Chase" Raised

Should Indiana Continue Supporting "Put-And-Take" Fish and Wildlife Programs?

Stocking of brown and/or rainbow trout in Jackson Creek at Yellowwood State Forest will end after this year, according to Southern District Fisheries Supervisor Brian Schoenung in Avoca.

Beginning in 2010, Jackson Creek's annual dose of trout will be going to Indianapolis instead.

The news was in an Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources press release that was emailed to me on Feb. 24. Headlined: "Trout To Be Stocked At Fort Harrison State Park." I read it on air during our Saturday morning radio show with Rich Reardin in the studio (3/12/11 Segment 1).

The story was about the DNR fisheries division putting hatchery trout into Delaware Lake at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis. Another new spot, a new pond at 500 Maple Ave. in Terre Haute would be stocked with hatchery-raised trout now destined for Little George Pit at Chinook State Fishing Area.

"Rainbow trout will be stocked at Fort Harrison State Park's Delaware Lake in Indianapolis in late March. The goal is to offer more urban residents an opportunity to fish, part of an effort by the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife.

"The 700 rainbow trout measuring 8 to 10 inches will be added to the 7-acre lake, which offers good shoreline fishing access and ADA fishing facilities," the DNR release informed.

Fine, I remember thinking as I read the news release on our weekly radio show. It was the next paragraph that caught us by surprise in the studio.

"With the new urban trout stocking initiative, some past trout stockings at Jackson Creek in Yellowwood State Forest (Brown County) and Little George Pit on Chinook State Fishing Area will be phased out after this year; however, both sites will be stocked with trout this year," I read.

When it comes to fishing south of Indianapolis, the annual trout stocking and harvesting at Jackson Creek is one of the most well-known and utilized programs in Indiana. The creek, which flows into Yellowwood Lake in western Brown County, has been part of the annual DNR put-and-take trout program for at least 40 years. Little George Pit has likewise been part of the stocking program for decades, although I have never gone there to try it myself.

The press release had been forwarded to me from Phil Bloom, DNR Information Director (and a former Bloomington and Ft. Wayne newspaper outdoor writer), but Schoenung was the source of the story. And, it was Schoenung's call to make on the fish stocking deal, although I have not heard where the Fort Harrison trout stocking idea came from in the first place. Word could have come down from "on high" from the Indiana Natural Resources Commission.

After we ended the radio show, I emailed fisheries supervisor Schoenung down at Avoca about Jackson Creek. He emailed back:

"The decision to move fish from Jackson Creek was based on the lack of habitat there. It was a hard decision because there is a strong following there. Unfortunately, we were crossing the line in what is considered fair chase with the stocking of brown trout there. The stream is basically dry by mid-summer and is really just isolated pools when we stock it," wrote Schoenung.

His message came with the photo you see with this story, showing a nearly dry Jackson Creek on April 24, 2009. That's Schoenung dumping brown trout into an isolated pool in the stream bed.

I had to agree with Schoenung that stocking trout in stranded pools at Jackson Creek does not offer much of a fishing opportunity. Fish in a barrel comes to mind. One thing he said did catch my attention. He said: "Unfortunately, we were crossing the line in what is considered fair chase with the stocking of brown trout there…"

Again, I can only agree, but then a put-and-take trout program cannot be all that ethical in the first place. There is no difference in philosophy and effect between the put-and-take trout program and the put-and-take pheasant program where pen-raised birds are loosed in the field for hunters who pay to shoot the birds. It is not fish in a barrel, but close.. The idea in any put-and-take program is to massacre all the pen or hatchery raised animals. None are expected to survive through to the next hunting or fishing season. Question is: Is this something we as humans need to do for fun?

And, when it comes to ethical hunting and treatment of animals, the Indiana DNR has not set good examples. It was Gov. Mitch Daniels' first DNR Director, Kyle Hupfer, who allowed a dozen or more "canned hunting" operations to remain in operation for at least 12 years (a limit that will no doubt be ignored). Recently, the chairman of the Indiana Natural Resource Commission advocated and got a live bait dog training business its permission to operate in Linton.

In that business, hunting dogs are loosed in penned areas where captive coyotes and/or foxes are released. Advocates like the Indiana Beagle Alliance prefer "coyote penning" or "dog running" to "live bait dog training."

My earliest journalism lessons included: If they change their name, they've got something to hide. I have discussed live bait dog training elsewhere.

Somehow, this business is now within the Indiana DNR's window of ethical hunting and the ideal of fair chase.

On the other hand, I have nothing against those Indy folks getting a shot at our trout, but I can't help but wonder if, perhaps, it is time to end the put-and-take trout program altogether. We don't need it, the fish never survive hot summer water temperatures, and it is at least questionable from an ethical point-of-view. I don't want to sound like a sour grape either. Heck, it is a lot of fun to catch one of those hatchery trout, so I can't begrudge others the opportunity. Keep in mind where those poor Indianapolis folks live, and remember that the happier they are up there, the fewer of them will move down here.

All things considered, we can probably do without the "inland trout program" and spend the money now spent raising these trout on some greater need, and we have plenty of those right now. The biologists probably agree, at least in private.

I have invited Brian Schoenung to talk with us on the radio show about trout stocking and other fisheries operations now underway. He has tentatively agreed, so listen in on Saturday March 26, 6 a.m. on AM1370 or FM 95.9, Bloomington. Current show is posted online each week.

If you are really anxious to catch a hatchery trout south of U.S. 40, the DNR is still putting thousands of them in Lake Minnehaha in the Minnehaha Fish & Wildlife Area near Sullivan, Ind., and into other spots. (Indiana trout stocking locations).

If you want a shot at the Ft. Harrison fish this year, it will cost you park admission ($5 a car resident; $7 nonresident).

And:

In addition to a fishing license, anglers fishing for trout are required to have an $11 trout/salmon stamp. The stamp can be purchased at IndianaOutdoor.IN.gov or anywhere licenses are sold. The inland trout program is funded through this stamp. Anglers also have the option to purchase a one-day fishing license for $9, which includes trout/salmon fishing privileges without the need to purchase the separate stamp. Fishing licenses can be purchased at the Fort Harrison State Park office, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information regarding the changes to the trout stocking program, contact Brian Schoenung, DNR southern region fisheries supervisor, at bschoenung@dnr.IN.gov or (812) 279-1215.

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©Copyright 2008. Donald Lee Jordan

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