Something was fishy at Dug Pond. I was clear on the meeting spot—the Gina Donahue Boat Landing on Windsor Ave. But instead of meeting my contact from MassWildlife, in possession of 900 rainbow trout for stocking the pond, I found Natick Firefighters executing a training drill. “We’ll be here for about a half and hour,” a firefighter shrugged. “You’ll have to wait.”
Seems like everyone needed to access the life-giving waters of Dug Pond that day. Nearby, Josh Gahagan, a technician at the Northeast District office of MassWildlife, made use of the unexpected break to have an early lunch in his truck. On the back of the truck were three tanks that each held 300 of the 12-14″ fish. The trout were making their move from the McLaughlin Hatchery in Belchertown, where they’d spent the first two years of their lives, to the roomier 48-acre Dug Pond. Presumably it will be their last home, since the pond is stocked for the enjoyment of recreational fishers.
MassWildlife staff is in the process of adding nearly 500,000 brook, rainbow, brown, and tiger trout into ponds, rivers, and brooks across Massachusetts. Trout-stocking duties are Gahagan’s, and other technicians’, main responsibility for the season. “We do it for about three months in the spring. This spot is perfect. I can easily back the truck in and there’s no traffic around,” the bass fisherman said, recalling the challenges of releasing fish into the Charles River from the Pleasant Street bridge in South Natick. “That’s a narrow and dangerous spot,” he said.
At last the firefighters’ drill was done and Josh backed the truck down the boat launch and a couple of feet into the water. He netted a half dozen of the trout so I could get a good look at them, then tossed them into the water. Next, it was everyone else’s turn as Josh opened up the tanks one by one. You could practically hear some of the fish shouting out, “Freedom!” as they swam off to the center of the pond. Others barely moved from the shallows, and some were even floating upside down. But Josh assured me all was well. “They’re not dead, they’re just in shock. They’ll swim away soon.”
— Natick Report (@NatickReport) March 31, 2021
Dug Pond will get additional trout two more times this season, anywhere between several hundred and 900 more per drop.
About 600,000 Brook, Brown, Rainbow, and Tiger Trout are stocked into Massachusetts waterways during spring and fall stocking each year, according to the state’s trout stocking report. Typically (but not now due to COVID), you can even visit the Belchertown hatchery for a self-guided tour to see trout in different stages of growth.
Want a shot a catching some of these Dug Pond beauties? Here’s how you can get a freshwater fishing license. Everyone 15 or older who wants to fish in Massachusetts needs one.
Want more wildlife pics? Check out Josh’s amazing Instagram feed, filled with birds, wildlife, and underwater photography from the New England region. It’s well worth following him to see and encourage his beautiful compositions of mink, seals, birds, foxes, and more.
And by the way, Natick Report has a pretty nice Insta as well. Please follow Natick Report on Instagram for a look at our wanderings around town.
By the numbers: 2021 spring trout stocking
MassWildlife will stock approximately 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow, and tiger trout this spring.
- More than 75% of the trout will be over 12 inches
- More than 45% of the trout will be over 14 inches
- More than 48,000 brook trout will be over 12 inches
- More than 48,000 brown trout will be over 12 inches
- More than 200,000 rainbow trout will be over 14 inches
- More than 500 brown trout and 500 brook trout will be over 18 inches
- 1,000 brook trout will be over 14 inches
- All 2,500 tiger trout will be over 14 inches
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