Although the winter weather has been hazardous this year, fish stocking of lakes and waterways has not been effected very negatively, according to Cleghorn Springs Fish hatchery manager Brian Fetcher.
Winter weather that brought a mid-March blizzard might have threatened the annual stocking of rainbow trout below the Oahe Dam, but Fetcher said in a phone interview Tuesday that 1,200 10- to 12-inch trout were on their way to the stocking point.
"We're not behind on very many, we’re not really behind due to the weather much at all, it’s not really concerning at this point in time," he said. "We’re behind on a fairly large stocking to go to Fort Randall Dam, half will be stocked (Wednesday) and the other half is next week. We’re not behind by any means, we don’t anticipate much stocking going on until the end of April anyway."
Fletcher also estimated that the hatchery stocks 150,000 rainbow trout a year in bodies of water across the state, including Canyon Lake, which is close to the hatchery itself.
Even if the hatchery is behind by a few weeks, the year is still young and Fetcher said his team is equipped to handle being backed up until the ice thaws out for good.
"We’re behind a couple of weeks but in reality it’s a couple of locations that we’re behind on," he said. "That’s mostly driven by the ice at the location, cold temperatures aren't really the issue, in some places there's ice up to the boat ramps so we don’t have empty water to dump the fish in.
"We’re fully staffed so it’s just a matter of getting trucks on the road as soon as we can so it’s not a big inconvenience."
Fetcher also said that the hatchery has a sister hatchery in Spearfish, the McNenny Fish Hatchery, that can assist if Cleghorn gets too back logged.
He also said this will also be the last time Oahe Dam will be stocked for at least two years.
"At this point in time this will be the last time," he said. "It’s been discontinued to open up hatchery production space for the salmon stock production that is currently going on for lake oahe."
Fetcher said it is to make room for the salmon population that the hatchery and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks hopes to stock in the dam.
GF&P said in a release: "Rainbow trout will not be stocked in Oahe Marina in 2019 or 2020 in order to free hatchery production space and allow biologists to explore different cold-water stocking opportunities for Lake Oahe."