Holiday season rainbows an increasingly pricey ‘gift’
Statewide trout fishing continues to grow in popularity, and in price
By KELLY BOSTIAN
For the CCOF
As temperatures rise to the above-freezing range on Christmas Day it will be easier for kids and adults to enjoy one of nature’s more popular, and increasingly expensive, gifts—stocked rainbow trout.
Now averaging $5 to nearly $7 a pound—depending on delivery distance, contracts and volume purchased—the price means a single fish might be worth $10 or more, but demand for the chance to catch trout at ponds and streams stocked by state, municipal, and non-profit entities continues to grow.
Fresh off a 3 ½-hour haul from Ava, Missouri, the white tanks of a Crystal Lake Fisheries hatchery truck glowed in the sunset Wednesday as volunteers made short work of emptying one of its four 300-gallon tanks of rainbow trout into the pond at The Gardens at Tulsa County’s LaFortune Park. The driver said his next stop would be later that night in Texas.
Sponsored by the local Trout Unlimited chapter, NatureWorks, and private donors, “Kids Fishing Days” opens Christmas morning through January 2, at the ¾-acre pond. The pond is stocked several times through February, with holiday weekends set aside for kids-only fishing.
“This is mostly about providing wintertime fishing for kids here close to town,” said Scott Hood, who first organized a “Trout Pond for Tulsa” in 2008. “They don’t have to ride an hour or two in the car to get somewhere that their parents aren’t going to want to just turn around and leave if the kids aren’t happy.”
Broken Arrow adds a pond
New this month, the City of Broken Arrow Parks and Recreation Department, is stocking roughly $8,000 worth of trout as a pilot program at its Events Park, located near the Creek Turnpike. Superintendent Jody Baker said the hope is the program can draw sponsors and grow into an annual offering.
“Trout are just a fun fish to catch, especially on light tackle, and kids just love it,” Baker said. “It’s a great way to introduce kids to fishing, and on the other side of things we have fly fishers who don’t have a trout stream right here close to home.”
Baker is a former director at Sapulpa, where Susan Bencke, community engagement manager for Sapulpa Parks and Recreation, said the city continues to put $10,500 into stocking its Pretty Water Lake. Costs are offset somewhat by a required city fishing permit, but Bencke said the money doesn’t go as far as it used to.
“How many fish are stocked varies by year,” she said. “We work with the trout farm to do our best with how much money we have and how we can fit into their delivery schedule to get the best rates.”
Jenks pond gets a $1,000 boost
A trout pond in Jenks received an extra $1,000 worth of trout before Christmas courtesy of The Ike Foundation, created by professional bass angler Mike Iaconelli of New Jersey.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation stocks rainbow trout in the 6-acre Veterans Park Pond during winter as part of its Close to Home fishing program, and happily added extra fish to the Jenks pond this season, said Wildlife Department Fisheries Biologist Chris Whisenhunt.
“With the cost of trout it didn’t make sense to divide that up,” he said. “We were happy to get (the donation). It will be a really nice boost for that pond over the holidays. It’s usually pretty heavily fished.”
The New Jersey bass pro said his foundation’s #StockALake campaign brought fish to urban areas across the country this season.
“Tulsa is a great example of an urban place where some kids will never experience fishing. The other great thing about Tulsa is that it ties into my fishing history,” Iaconelli said. “Fishing bass tournaments with BASS, some of my Fishing sponsors, and some of the Bassmaster classics that I fished in the past. The opportunity for The Ike Foundation to get kids into fishing in Tulsa feels like everything has come full circle. More kids casting, more kids fishing, more kids in the outdoors. That’s our number one goal at The Ike Foundation.”
Wildlife Department stocks statewide
In addition to its two year-round tailwater trout fisheries at the Lower Illinois River below Lake Tenkiller and the Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow, the Wildlife Department is stocking wintertime trout fisheries every two weeks, November through mid-March at Blue River near Tishomingo, Robbers Cave near Wilburton, Sunset Lake near Guymon, the CCC Lake near Perry, Medicine Creek at Medicine Park, and Lake Boecher in Roman Nose State Park.
Additionally, the department stocks Close to Home trout ponds beginning in December at Veterans Park in Jenks, Government Springs in Enid, and at Edwards and Route 66 parks in Oklahoma City, according to Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Keith Thomas.
The department’s Close to Home fishing program is popular and has a waiting list both for trout ponds and for year-round sunfish and catfish ponds, he said.
“Right now we just don’t have the manpower or hatchery capacity to meet all the demand,” he said.
Oklahoma City requires a fishing permit for its ponds and the city covered about half of the cost for trout and other stockings at its ponds this year. In the future more shared expenses with communities and public-private sponsorships may be needed to keep trout ponds going, he said.
Kelly Bostian is an independent journalist writing for The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to education and outreach on conservation issues facing Oklahomans. Learn more at oklahomaconservation.org.