Stocking Fish: Should Waters Be Stocked with Non-Native Species?

By Tom Keer

Mar 25, 2015

Stocking fish has been a regular practice since Fred Mather obtained German brown trout eggs in 1883.

Stocking fish has been a regular practice since Fred Mather obtained German brown trout eggs in 1883.  After a few years of growth in New York and in Michigan hatcheries some 4900 brown trout fry were stocked into the Baldwin River which is part of Michigan’s Pere Marquette River system.  They were a huge hit and were so well received by the angling community that by 1900, 38 states received stockings of these fish.  These days, catching a brown trout in a stream, river, or lake is as common as sunburn.

Stocking fish (and game for that matter) has been a regular practice for so long that it is one that we, sportsmen and women, accept as standard operating procedures.  But I can only imagine what kinds of discussions were held around the cracker barrels when new fish were first introduced to a region.

I bet a lot of anglers were pretty excited about new species to catch.  There would be new techniques, new gear, and a new approach.  We, fishermen, always enjoy a challenge, and learning more about a new fish to catch is of the highest order.  Why travel to far away places when we can catch these exotics at home?

On the other hand, I bet a lot of anglers were downright peeved.  They’d probably boycott non-native species being introduced to local waters.  They’d worry that the new arrivals would displace the native species, and they wouldn’t want any cross breeding that would create a sterile hybrids.  A Tiger Trout is an unusual looking fish and it’s odd to see a colorful pheasant in an area where you’d expect to find bobwhite quail.

So what do you all think?  Is there a time and a place for stockings?  Should they only be of fish that were once native to the water?  Or is it ok to create a new fishery where one did not previously exist?
Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at