Article Do stocked Trout Ever Become Wild?


Active Member
"Wild" and "native" doesn't always mean the same thing. There's multiple species of wild animals in North America that aren't native but have flourished. All the article is saying is you can take a domesticated animal (hatchery raised trout in this case), release them into a new "wild" habitat, and they'll either eventually adapt (become "wild") to where the population maintains or increases in numbers, or they'll fail and all eventually die off. Same concept as there's wild salmon runs in South America now, but they're definitely not native.
Even our very own “wild” steelhead are no longer “native” in many watersheds. Hatcheries on the west coast have been around since the late 1800s.

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
I fished the N/F Stilly a few years ago when I was still living in Washington. Well it was longer than a few years ago. They released excess Steelhead smolts into the N/F from the hatchery at White Horse rearing ponds. They said to fish for them. They were all around 10 to 12 inches long. They were a blast for about two weeks. Then they all started to die off. I never heard about the why. It wasn't long until the ones never caught to die off. I guess that they were food for recently hatched wild fish.

Usually when they put fish into the streams. The fish are soon caught or they just go out to the salt with the other smolts that hatched out of the gravel. I don't think there ever are any holdovers in a stream that dumps into the salt.
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Active Member
It is difficult to get past the semantics in these discussions. Terminology needs to be defined at the outset and accepted from the authors perspective so the argument can proceed.
With everything that has happened to alter natural environments, its hard to find an unaltered one to define a baseline. The same is true for introduced species that have been hatchery enhanced.
Maybe we're looking for pure strain animals that haven't been affected by enhancing/altering their environment. Those are getting harder and harder to find.
For the most part - if it eats my fly and can provide a good fight - I'm happy!
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Skip Enge

Uck Uck Uck, bitches
"Wild" just means it lives in the wild (not in captivity or a man-made facility), although we often confuse it with the term with "Native," meaning born in the same wilderness where it was caught. This is why seafood distributors can legally label any steelhead caught in the wild, regardless of origin, as such. An unfortunate consequence of this practice is that the gillnet fisheries that harvest "wild" steelhead also harvest and market native steelhead under the same label. As this thread makes clear, this practice also leads to a lot of confusion and misinformation among people who don't understand the difference (largely because the terms get intermingled so much). I suppose the fact that our mantra is "release WILD steelhead" might have a lot to do with how we got here. We should be referring to them as NATIVE steelhead in regulations, to avoid the easily blurred lines.

As for the question the article addresses, I would argue that any fish born in a natural environment is native to that environment, regardless of whether their species was ever native to the wilderness. I still call hatchery trout I catch in the wild hatchery fish, despite the fact they are wild by definition. It's the origin we should refer to in these discussions; not the current place of residence (in my opinion).
Once natives are gone in a river system they are gone...


It's all good.
WFF Supporter
I'm not disagreeing with the overall message, but throwing some comments on genetics in doesn't make this a scientific article. It's mostly just the author's personal perspective based on anecdote and clearly biased observation.
My favorite is when, to demonstrate that planted fish will always behave differently from wild fish, he tells a story of the trout he and friends initially assumed was wild, "because it was in an unstocked river, surrounded by wild fish", but then after catching it multiple times over a few years, decided must be planted because of its behavior. Wow, that's some nice self-justifying, circular reasoning!:rolleyes:

Chic Worthing

Active Member
WFF Supporter
In the late 1800's and early 1900's The Feds decided to Plant Cutthroat trout all over the western US. They looked to Lake Chelan as the source of the brood stock. They constructed weirs at the majority of the streams feeding the lake and each fall, they would capture all the trout leaving the lake to span and strip the eggs and the sperm.

They created hatcheries where raised fish for many years to spread these fish far and wide. This went on for some time and then they started to notice that the number of fish became almost non existent. The light bulb never came on that they were the problem.

The US Fish and Wildlife in recent years decided to right the wrong that they had done for such s long time. They had data that showed where the fish had been planted With Just Chelan fish so they had some pure strain fish. They have been raising fish now that are destined for Chelan. I am not sure of the Hatchery location but I am looking for more info. In the last two years I have
seen a number of tanker hatchery trucks (usually travelling in 3's) come up the lake on the barge to Lucerne where they go ashore and drive up the road to Holden Village and plant the fish in Railroad Creek.

I am researching the details and will post it here later.

My question is, Are these Native Wild fish or Hatchery fish..... or both?

Doubt the fish care.
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Phish Guy

A wild Great Lakes steelhead! They don’t get nearly as big as out here but dang they are some tough fish, superior gets a lot colder then the pacific, although they don’t have nearly as many predators. Single fly, single hook, barbless, catch n release (at least in MN). A few years ago some DNR surveyor interviewed me about whether I’d be interested in keeping steelheads... still catch n release to this day!


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Shawn Seeger

(aka. wabowhunter)
WFF Supporter
A very good book read... On topic

"An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World"
Book by Anders Halverson

Here is what I have heard and learned to understand...

Hatchery - a fish (species) born and initial raised in a synthetic nursery.

Wild - a fish that is the offspring of a hatchery or wild fish that survives in an environment and produce another generation that survives and repeats

Native - a fish that was in a specific location (watershed) from first discovery by mankind and not reintroduced after completing removal.

Adam Saarinen

Active Member
A switch rod. If you dont want to spend alot a Cabelas LSI (super cheap but good) or Redington Dually. If you do I'd say RB Meiser, Sage, or Beulah.
What about Hardy? Scott? Or something else? I'm just being a smart ass because of the thread title. What's next, are great lakes rainbows really stealhead!?!

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