|Photo courtesy of South Carolina DNR|
These lower than normal water temperatures make the Saluda River suitable for trout to survive. Consequently, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has introduced two non-native species, Rainbow and Brown trout into the river to provide sporting opportunities for fisherman. DNR releases nearly 28,000 trout into the river each December, many of those fish are stocked by helicopter to ensure that the fish do not become over populated in a specific area. Currently, DNR is conducting a trout study in the Lower Saluda to develop a better understanding of how long these trout are surviving in the river. Of the fish released during December 2012, 5,000 were weighed, measured, and tagged before release. When an angler catches one of these trout, they are asked to call DNR and report the measurements of their catch. This information allows biologist to determine how well the fish are growing and how long they are surviving. A drop box for the red tags has been placed near the Saluda Shoals Park boat ramp where fisherman can deposit the tags after reporting their catch.
Trout are some of the most sought after sport fish and have been introduced in many areas outside of their natural ranges. The Rainbow trout is native to the West Coast and northern parts of North America, while the Brown trout is native to Europe. In their native homes these fish would be born in fresh water rivers and streams, then leave those waters to live and grow in the oceans. Once the trout mature, they return to their native rivers to lay eggs and reproduce or spawn.
The trout that call the Lower Saluda home cannot leave the river for the ocean because as the Saluda water moves further from the dam, the water temperature rises to a point that is not suitable for the fish. This short stretch of the lower Saluda River has become a “put and take” fishery where the fish are stocked each year to be caught by fishermen. Through efforts of SC DNR, SCE&G, local officials, and local fishing groups, the water in the river has improved to a point that some fish are surviving for longer than a year. Larger fish of trophy size have become more abundant in the river and Saluda Shoals Park is one of the best access points for fisherman to find the “big ones.” The shoals in the Saluda River are trout hot spots where many fishermen have found success.