I think most of West Virginia's anglers know about the state's trout stocking program that has been quite successful for several years. It could also be interesting to know there is a lesser-known warmwater stocking program of significance for state anglers.
West Virginia's warmwater stocking program has been providing additional fishing opportunities for anglers for almost 60 years. During this time, the warmwater hatchery at Palestine in Wirt County has provided millions of channel catfish, large and smallmouth bass, tiger musky, saugeye, walleye and a few others for lake and stream stockings.
In 2001, another warmwater hatchery was opened at Apple Grove in Mason County. This new hatchery is located along state Route 2, about 12 miles south of Pt. Pleasant. This modern facility is now operating at full capacity and has basically doubled the stocking ability of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for warmwater fish.
The Apple Grove Hatchery takes in about 43 acres. There are several half-acre ponds, acre ponds, acre and a half ponds, two-acre ponds and one large five-acre pond. This large pond provides all of the water for the entire hatchery. Another technical advancement at the Apple Grove Hatchery is the polyurethane-lined tubs that preserve the water quality. The lake drains much easier, which is less stressful on the young fish.
Assistant hatchery manager Ryan Bosserman, says, "We usually stock between 300 and 400 thousand walleye. Our hybrid striped bass, we stock 100,000 to 200,000, and channel catfish around 100,000."
The average size of the fish is about 3 inches; but with modern improvements, the DNR is also producing and releasing larger fish.
Another fish biologist employed at this new hatchery says, "Long term, who knows what we can do with the facility we have here, but the sky would be the limit."
The funding for this new hatchery was a joint effort between the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the WVDNR.
The Apple Grove Hatchery is open to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours are conducted on weekdays during these hours. The newest hatchery has to represent a big improvement in warmwater fish production in our state.
Last month, the DNR stocked 27 lakes with warmwater fish throughout the state. Some of the lakes of interest to local anglers include Cedar Creek State Park Lake in Gilmer County, Coopers Rock Lake in Monongalia County, Dixon Lake in Monongalia County, French Creek Pond in Upshur County, Handley Pond in Pocahontas County, Mason Lake in Monongalia County, and Watoga State Park Lake in Pocahontas County. According to Bret Preston, Assistant Chief for Warmwater Fisheries Management, "The success of this program has been a cooperative effort by the DNR Wildlife Resources and State Park Sections."
Some tagged channel catfish were stocked in the French Creek Pond and a few others. Anglers who catch a tagged fish are requested to return the tag or tag number, along with information on the date of catch, if fish was kept or released, and the name and address of the angler to WVDNR, 2311 Ohio Ave, Parkersburg, W.Va. 26102. Anglers can also call in this information at 304-420-4550 or provide the information via email to email@example.com.
Over the years, stocking fish has been a program to restore species that were eliminated because of habitat destruction and/or pollution. The WVDNR is now stocking paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon in the Ohio and Great Kanawha rivers to restore these fish to their historic range.