Stocking the Eagle Lake Strain
Attention trout anglers! This past spring VT Fish & Wildlife stocked a different genetic strain of rainbow trout, known as Eagle Lake, in 11 lakes and rivers across Vermont. Now we’re asking for your photos, measurements, and observations of any trout you catch in those waters to help us learn how the Eagle Lake trout perform.
Fish & Wildlife’s Fish Culture Program periodically compares the trout strains we raise and stock to other strains to determine which perform best both in the hatchery and after they are released into Vermont waters. In order to learn about how our stocked trout perform in the wild, we need information from anglers who can tell us what they see when they catch these fish.
In 2023 and 2024, we will again stock nearly 10,000 Eagle Lake rainbows alongside our traditional Erwin-Arlee rainbow trout strain in 12 waterbodies and will be soliciting angler feedback on this comparative stocking evaluation. Data collected during this assessment will provide important information we will use to ensure the highest-quality recreational stocked trout fishery possible.
If you fish one of the Eagle Lake waters, look for a missing or “clipped” ventral fin on either the left or right side of any rainbow trout you catch. These ventral fins are located about halfway along the underside of the fish near the vent. The side on which the fin is clipped will tell you which strain you caught. A missing fin on the left side indicates the Eagle Lake strain, while a missing fin on the right side indicates the Erwin-Arlee strain.
Once you’ve found the clipped fin, take a picture! Then submit this picture and report your catch on our website or the Vermont Outdoors app. Your submission will help us better understand how each strain performs and will directly influence our management of stocked rainbow trout in Vermont.
At this point, some anglers may be wondering: what exactly is a genetic strain? Populations of fish from different lakes and rivers develop unique adaptations to their environments, and rainbow trout are no different. If you’ve ever caught a small wild rainbow trout in a stream in the Green Mountain National Forest, you’ve probably noticed that it looks different, behaves different, and fights different than a big steelhead from Lake Champlain. When members of the same species grow and learn to fit their environment over generations, the genetics that allow those responses in individual fish get passed on, selected for, and amplified in nature. Over the long haul, this results in a population that’s distinct enough to be considered its own genetic strain.
The Eagle Lake strain traces their history back to a cold, high elevation lake and its feeder streams in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. They are raised in hatcheries around the country and stocked widely. It’s important to note that these are not Genetically Modified trout (GMO’s), but rather rainbow trout that are evolutionarily adapted to certain types of environments. Our biologists think the adaptations from their home lake might make them a great fit for Vermont anglers — we look forward to hearing what you think!
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