WV Wildlife: Stephens Lake, a future trophy trout fishery!?

WVDNR fisheries biologist, Mark Scott, stocks a net full of rainbow trout into Stephens Lake. (WCHS/WVAH)

They may be small now.

But the hope is for thousands of rainbow trout to become trophy fish in the coming years.

That's what West Virginia DNR Fisheries Biologist, Mark Scott, thinks may be possible in Stephens Lake--a 300-acre body of water just west of Beckley in Raleigh County.

In fact, Scott even suggests that 3-foot trout could eventually become a reality!

"Through some of our research, we found that when this lake stratifies, the lower layer has plenty of oxygen and good water down to about 45 or 50 feet deep--good cold water with plenty of oxygen, so that's basically water that's not being used. So we thought, well--if we can develop a fishery. It's an empty niche so to speak", said Scott.

Recently, over 1,000 rainbow trout--mainly just big enough to escape walleye predation--were picked up at the National Fish Hatchery in White Sulphur Springs and stocked into Stephens Lake.

Scott has already been stocking some tagged rainbow trout into these waters, and his hypothesis--that they should grow pretty fast--seems to be right on the money. The water clarity appears to really help a lot in keeping the deeper water cold and oxygen-rich.

"The light's able to get through and the plants and algae photosynthesize down in that deeper layer. The rainbows grew really well. We had one in four months that gained a pound and a half. They're eating pretty well. One guy caught one a year later that was four pounds", said Scott.

Not only do the plants growing deeper down mean more oxygen for the trout, but also a place to hide and to find food.

It will take several years to see the 24 to 36-inch trout that Scott thinks is possible, but this will only make this lake--already known for its bass, musky and walleye fishing--even better!

"Trout are popular, and we're blessed with a lot of good trout streams, but as far as lakes--there's really not many out there where you can go and catch a trophy. This could potentially be that", said Scott.

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