As part of an ongoing effort to keep catchable populations of trout in the midlands, the SCDNR stocked about 18,000 rainbow and brown trout into the lower Saluda River just outside of Columbia on Dec. 15.

A helicopter equipped with a specialized lift bucket was used to complete the stocking. This allows the agency to place trout in different areas up and down the river system rather than dumping them all into one spot as would happen without a helicopter.

Stocking trout this way is a win-win-win situation for anglers, the DNR, and South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division pilots, who gain valuable training by operating the helicopters during this procedure. The pilots are required to complete a certain amount of flight time to stay qualified, so this gives them those hours while also benefitting anglers and the DNR.

Of the 18,000 trout stocked, 13,000 were brown trout, with the remaining 5000 being rainbows. The brown trout are released at about 5 1/2-inches in length, and the rainbows are around 10-inches long. 

Bigger trout are in the river though. The ones who make it past the anglers and stripers can grow much larger. Chip Bragg fishes the river often, and has caught a brown trout in the 5-pound range and a rainbow trout of about the same size.

“I catch most of the larger trout while striper fishing, throwing Super Flukes or using live herring,” Bragg said.

Anglers not looking for the trophy-sized fish can catch the stocked trout on a variety of flies, lures, and live bait. Ultralight rods and reels are perfect, and small lures like Mepps Aglia spinners will keep you plenty busy. Live worms fished on the bottom also do the trick.

Trout are not native to this river system, but the water being released from Lake Murray’s depths is cold enough to sustain trout throughout the year, so it’s a perfect place to stock these fish, which are normally thought of as mountain fish. This adds a great resource to midlands anglers, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to catch trout in South Carolina without traveling to the Upstate.

Saluda Shoals Park is one of the best access areas for anglers wanting to catch these fish. The park has a well-maintained boat ramp, as well as a separate canoe/kayak launch area.