The next few months and into next spring should be great sport out on the middle of the Cuyahoga River around Water Works Park in Cuyahoga Falls, where about 1,000 trout were set loose Friday to lure area anglers.
But the real catch is in the number of people who get out on the river to go fishing, said Mike Hanshaw, president of the Western Reserve chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Last week’s release of farm-raised rainbows was paid for through grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Trout Unlimited. Each fish cost about $5.50, Hanshaw said.
It’s an investment meant to get more people out onto the river and into the parks.
“We’re trying to get more people interested in fishing,” he said. “You get more interested in fishing, you care about the river; you care about the river, you support the parks.”
Volunteers and city workers spent hours with hand nets scooping the fish from an eight-compartment tanker truck into buckets. They then hauled the fish down to multiple riverbank release points.
“We’ve stocked Water Works Park here in Cuyahoga Falls,” Hanshaw said. “Where they go from there, I guess that’s up to the fish. There’s about three-quarters of a mile of walking trails and anywhere we can get in, we’ve got buckets to stock the river.”
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About 15 club volunteers and about a dozen from the city were at work. Recreation Program Manager Jason Pullin said it’s the first time he knows of that the city has participated in stocking the river with fish.
Club members hosted fly fishing clinics for around two dozen novices over two days at the city recreation department’s Quirk Cultural Center. Those who attended class were then invited to show up for hands-on practice Saturday.
Joining them were about two dozen volunteers and students from the Akron chapter of Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a non-profit devoted to serving disabled veterans.
“Getting them out fishing puts their minds in a good place,” said Mark Ferguson, who heads Healing Waters in Akron.
John Bishop, who along with Ferguson serves as an officer in both groups, said the turnout was greater than expected.
“There’s a bunch of them,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got a lot of trout out there.”
Daniel Raible, of Valley City in Medina County, said he went to the clinics and took his 10-year-old daughter, Lynette, to fish on the river after a summer of camping and fishing elsewhere.
“It’s my first-time fly fishing, but it’s fun,” he said, struggling to pull his fly out of a tree branch. “We’ve been doing some camping this year and she really enjoys it. We live on the Rocky River and most of the people there are fly fishing. In fact, she’s been begging me to take her out.”
Hanshaw said the Cuyahoga River — with its history of pollution — is special to the environmental movement.
“This river was kind of the shot heard around the world that started the whole environmental movement … To think that here we are 50 years later and we’re putting trout in the river: That says a lot.
“We’re trying to get more people interested in fishing, especially in urban areas, and then show them what resources we have in the community. In Summit County, we’re really blessed with a lot of great Metro Parks.
“In Cuyahoga Falls, it seemed like a really good place to get people out and into nature.”
‘Put and Take’ program a sign of improved water quality
The stocking effort has been determined to have little effect on the river’s ecosystem, according to Curt Wagner, a fisheries biologist with the state. He said the trout will not likely survive through next summer because they are a cold-water species.
“As spring turns into summer, the river will actually reach a lethal temperature for the trout,” he said. “They’re not put in with the expectation of year-after-year survival. They’re put in with a sort of short-term expectation … we call it ‘put and take’ − you put them in and you take them out.”
He said the department has determined the trout will not have a large effect on native fish populations, either by predation or by competing with them for the bugs and other invertebrates carnivorous fish eat for food.
“There’s enough to go around,” he said, referring to the creatures that fish eat. “The continued improvement of the river and the habitat makes this a viable option.”
He said the fish will naturally disperse, with some going downstream, as a greater number will likely head upstream through Munroe Falls and into Kent.
“Fish naturally like to swim upstream,” he said.
License required to fish in Ohio waters
Outside of free fishing weekend normally held in June, anglers 16 and older are required to have a fishing license to take fish, frogs or turtles. An annual license costs $25, and three-, five-, and 10-year licenses are available, as is a lifetime license for $599 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Division of Wildlife’s six state fish hatcheries stocked 46 million sport fish in more than 200 locations in 2020, including walleye, saugeye, yellow perch, rainbow trout, brown trout, muskellunge, channel catfish, blue catfish and hybrid striped bass.
For those who expect to eat their catch, farm-raised fish like the trout released last week in Cuyahoga Falls have an advantage over native fish, as they are free from industrial contaminants found in some native species.
Anglers and others interested in consumption advisories can find detailed information in state’s 2022 Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory.
For more information on Trout Unlimited, see westernreserve.tu.org. For more information on Healing Waters Fly Fishing, see projecthealingwaters.org.
Eric Marotta can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.