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Fish Are Biting At Accotink

With waders on and fishing pole in hand, Tommy Suttle stood in the ankle deep water of Accotink Creek watching Chico Arroyl cast his bait into a pool near a downed tree with no luck. Suttle cast into the rapids and pulled out a 3- pound Rainbow Trout. Suttle has caught 10 fish in Accotink's Rainbow Trout Fishing program, but not like the 3-pounder.

"This is the biggest one I've caught so far," Suttle said.

After seeing Suttle's luck, Arroyl gave up his structure fishing philosophy and dropped a line in the whitewater area.

"It's hard to figure them out," Arroyl said.

Lake Accotink park manager Tawny Hammond knows all about the trout in the stream. The “put-and-take” program is in its 15th year in Accotink Creek. Put-and-take is a term for a program in which the fish are put in the stream for the purpose of fishing them out but not stocking the stream for future purposes. By the end of the spring, all the trout that have not been caught will most likely die, said Hammond.

"They're never going to survive here. Trout's a clear water fish. They need cool running water," Hammond said.

In February, the spillway beneath the dam is stocked as well as one of the pools in the stream. Then every other week, an additional pool is stocked. Since trout are always swimming upstream, they predominately stay in the half-mile stretch downstream from the dam, Hammond said.

Although trout were in the stream 200 years ago, they weren't the rainbow trout that are stocked now. Those trout are considered a nonnative species. The North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA) addresses issues caused by nonnative species. On its Web site, the group states that it is "dedicated to the appreciation, study and conservation of the continent's native fishes."

Bruce Stallsmith, president of NANFA, looks at the food chain with a newly introduced species such as rainbow trout.

"They work as the new top predator. You put a strong, new predator on top of the food chain," Stallsmith said.

Hammond said that while rainbow trout are a nonnative species, they're all caught or die off later in the spring, so it doesn't have negative effects on the stream. Examples of animal and plant species that Hammond said are caustic to the environment include carp, Canada goose and kudzu vine. Hydrilla is another invasive species that has invaded the Potomac River in the last 30 years.

AT LAKE ACCOTINK, area fishing fanatics buy a pass and try their luck. Some fish in the deep waters in the dam spillway, while others put on the waders and venture downstream. There is no netting, no chumming or shooting the fish with a bow and arrow.

This year, the county purchased 6,000 pounds of rainbow trout, or about 4,000 fish from Cast a Line fish farm in Goshen, Va. The program is entirely paid for by the fishermen themselves through the passes, bait and tackle sales. Last year, 180 passes were sold, and this year, the county has sold close to 500, Hammond said.

"The men and women that fish are the ones who support the program," Hammond said.

Lake Fairfax has it's own trout fishing program as well, but the fish are stocked in the lake instead of the stream.