The Decorah Fish Hatchery has 24 cement flow-through raceways and three rubber lined earthen ponds. Approximately 130,000 catchable size rainbow and 20,000 catchable brook trout are raised annually. Decorah Fish Hatchery personnel are responsible for stocking 15 put-and-take streams in Allamakee, Howard, Mitchell and Winneshiek counties.
Every weekday morning two or three streams get stocked with trout. The first step is to lower the water level in the raceways at the Fish Hatchery, so workers can enter the water and collect fish. They use a wood screened frame to crowd the fish to one end. Once the fish are concentrated, the workers gather fish and weigh them on a hanging scale.
"We determine how big the fish are by 'fish per pound.' We do three sample counts on a scale. We pour the fish into a bucket, weigh the fish, count the fish, and divide the number of fish by how much it weighed," said Decorah fish hatchery personnel Chris Larson.
"Each stream gets the same amount of fish every week, April through October. How many pounds we put on the truck varies with each different raceway. There may be a different number of fish per pound in each raceway. The heavier fish, it takes more pounds to get the same amount of fish," added Larson.
Sample counts are taken and then fish are collected in a large net, weighed on a scale and then transferred into tanks on a truck bed. Once the truck is loaded they travel along the stocking trails that go parallel to the streams. Trucks stop at every suitable area that will hold the fish. Every hole, every place people might fish receive a net full of fish tossed into the stream.
Streams vary in length. Bohemian Creek is about 250-300 yards while North Bear is 3.5 miles long. It takes the truck about 40 stops to throw all the fish in North Bear. The streams that are stocked are referred to as put-and-take streams. They get half a pound sized fish, about 10-12" in length, or some call it "pan sized fish."
Every stocked stream in NE Iowa now has received at least one stocking of 10-12 inch trout. It takes most the morning to stock the streams.
Funding to support the trout stocking program comes from the sale of fishing licenses and trout fees. Anglers must have a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout. Last year, 43,324 Iowans and 5,336 non-residents fished for trout. The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10.