An Assessment of the Trout Fishery in the Toccoa River Below Blue Ridge Dam

Hatchery-tagged rainbow trout (Oncorynchus mykiss, n = 3,867) were stocked from March to November 2009 in the Toccoa River tailwater, Georgia. Data from electrofishing and angler recaptures were used to assess mortality, growth, condition, and dispersal of stocked rainbow trout. Total annual mortality (A) as calculated using catch-curve regression was high (A = 96.7%). Annual angler catch rate was moderate (34.1%), but release rate was high (62.8%). As a result, angler harvest was only 12.7%. Growth of stocked trout was slow in terms of both length (5.0 mm/mo) and weight (4.6 g/mo), and stocked trout remained close to their stocking site. Body condition declined significantly between stocking and recapture. Slow growth and poor condition of stocked trout suggest that the Toccoa tail water's trout community is at or above carrying capacity. The apparent high density of stocked trout likely contributes to low survival over the first year post-stocking. In addition to hatchery tagged rainbow trout, 100 large (>356 mm TL) resident rainbow trout and brown trout (Salmo trutta) were tagged onsite in the Toccoa River in 2009. Growth of resident trout was higher than stocked rainbow trout (9.0 mm and 56 g/mo), and resident trout had much higher body condition. Although low sample sizes prevented estimation of total mortality, electrofishing catch rates suggest total mortality of resident trout was low. Differences in hatchery and resident trout performance are attributed to competitive advantage and landowner feeding.

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