April 19th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Float Stocking for Better Fishing
Twin Tiers-Five Rivers Chapter of FFF
By John Lively

Traditionally, most New York State trout streams have been stocked by parking the hatchery truck as close as possible to the stream, and putting the fish in the stream using buckets or nets. Some fishermen would begin fishing immediately after stocking, others would learn of the 'hot spot,' and the stocked fish would be rapidly removed. In fact, a recent study by the DEC found that 75% of stocked larger (2-year-old) trout were removed from the streams within two weeks of being stocked, and 90% were harvested by June.

Float stocking consists of floating the hatchery fish down the stream, and releasing them periodically all along the stream's entire length. Float stocking provides more fishing opportunities over a longer period of time, and over a greater area of stream than does traditional truck and bucket stocking. Float stocking by the state is not possible, however, due to the additional time and expense it involves.

Southern Tier trout streams have been float stocked by volunteers (including FFF club members Bill Lavris and Ed Ryan, among others) starting in 1996. The first equipment used consisted of wooden rafts with wire mesh bottoms, which were guided downstream by volunteers wading in the stream alongside. The initial wooden rafts were constructed by students in the Conservation Dept. of the Chemung/Schuyler B.O.C.E.S. under the direction of Donald McNaughton and Diane Foster. This system worked, but the uncertain streambottom led to occasional spills of people, rafts, and fish. In 1999, volunteers began using rubber rafts to ferry the wooden float boxes downstream, instead of walking in the stream next to them. Initially, large 4-person rafts were used, and in time, the wooden float rafts were replaced with plastic 55 gallon barrels with a flotation collar. These were an improvement, but still rather clumsy and unwieldy to navigate through the stream courses.

In early 2004, a group of fishermen from the Hornell, N.Y. area, led by Don Graham, John Arnault, Bob White, Bud Kintz and Roy Patterson, further improved the float stocking process by purchasing several smaller, more manueverable rubber rafts. These were specially reinforced to withstand the rough use involved in float stocking. Fish flotation barrels were given an additional flotation collar at this time also. The new rafts carry two to three volunteers, with the attached fish barrels carrying about 300 fish each.

In late March '04, volunteers from the Twin Tiers FFF, the Conhocton Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and students from the Wayland-Cohocton Central School successfully float stocked the Cohocton River with approximately 4000 trout, from the Village of Cohocton to Kanona, using the new equipment.

Cayuta Creek was then float stocked using the same rafts and barrels by members of the FFF and Catherine's Creek TU. Other TU chapters in the Southern Tier are now asking to use the equipment on their streams. The Twin Tiers FFF club assisted this effort with fund raising, planning, and publicity, and the Hornell 'float stockers' are now affiliated with the Twin Tiers FFF chapter.

This is a great example of how a few people volunteering their time, organizing around a common interest, and supported by established organizations like the Federation of Fly Fishers, can have a real impact on the quality of our local fishing.

For more information on the float stocking equipment and operation, contact:

Hornell NY area: Don Graham, 607-324-6445
Elmira NY area: Bill Lavris, 607-732-4615, lavrisb@earthlink.net
~ John Lively

Publisher's Note: Our sincere thanks to the Twin Tiers-Five Rivers Chapter for sharing this with our readers. We hope it will inspire more groups to use this very effective way of stocking!

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