The S.C. Department of Natural Resources stocked approximately 18,400 rainbow and brown trout into the lower Saluda River near Columbia on Dec. 16 using a helicopter and a specialized lift bucket. Of that total, 13,000 are brown trout and 5,400 are rainbow trout for a total more than 3,000 pounds.

This year, around 4,000 of the rainbows and 2,000 of the browns were tagged with what's known as a T-bar tag attached just below the dorsal fin of the trout. Each tag will be individually numbered, thus providing a means of gathering data on a particular fish. Anglers can assist SCDNR biologists by reporting their catches of tagged trout. Details on this procedure can be found on the SCDNR website (http://www.dnr.sc.gov/troutstudy/report.htmle) as well as kiosks located at several public access points along the river.

"This is being done as part of a study to collect information on the river's trout population such as survival rates and the number of fish that succumb to natural and angler mortality as well as information on the fishes' growth rates.," said Hal Beard, an SCDNR fisheries biologist based in Columbia.

SCDNR stocks approximately 30,000 trout each year in the Saluda from December through February in what it calls a "put, grow and take" fishery that relies on stocking to maintain populations and the cooperation of anglers for success. Young trout grow rapidly after stocking. If given time to grow, they can exceed 20 inches, considered trophy size for this type of fishery. Anglers can assist the trout in reaching this size by practicing catch-and-release fishing, especially during the winter and early spring.

The cold waters released from the bottom of Lake Murray provide suitable habitat for the trout in the Saluda River, creating a unique and very popular fishery in the midlands of South Carolina.

Mike Hutchins, an SCDNR Board member, who was on hand for the stocking, said, "Many people in South Carolina may not realize the quality of fishing here on the Lower Saluda River. It's second to none, except maybe to New Zealand. So the fishing here is just awesome."

The trout stocking was also a partnership between state agencies. Pilots from the State Law Enforcement Division pilots were able to obtain training hours by piloting the helicopters that distributed trout up and down the river. The trout came from the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery in

Approximately 400,000 trout are stocked into public waters in the state's Upstate each year by SCDNR.  They are released in more than 50 cold-water rivers and streams in Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties, in Lake Jocassee, and in the cool tailwaters below the Lake Hartwell and Lake Murray dams.