Ring around the rainbow

Like no other fish, rainbow trout have their own unique persona, emulated not only by the beauty of the fish themselves but the natural, coldwater streams they call home.

When plying the gin-clear waters for the highly acclaimed fish you may picture yourself standing in a small brook in some western state with mountains framing the skyline. But this won’t be the case beginning at daylight on October 22 when you can fish for rainbow trout on Kokomo Creek as it flows through Highland Park in Kokomo. That’s right, our very own Kokomo Creek. Who would have ever guessed?

Longtime DNR fisheries biologist Jed Pearson, (L.) and his assistant Tyler Delauder look over a section of Kokomo Creek where 400 rainbow trout will be released by October 22. Photo by author

Yes, you read that correctly. Over 400 rainbow trout will be released into the urban stream where anglers, young and old, can try for the tasty fish. The trout will be turned loose just upstream of the small lowhead dam, located near the park’s southern border. Access is available on both sides of the stream hopefully accommodating a large gathering of anglers who will take advantage.

Long time IDNR fisheries biologist Jed Pearson is spearheading the event. “Getting kids involved in fishing has been the highlight of my career,” he said. Pearson has been with the Division of Fisheries since 1971.

Although this opportunity is open to anglers of all ages Pearson hopes many children will take part in this event. “We know this isn’t a Colorado trout stream but we wanted to provide this special opportunity,” said Pearson, when he and his assistant Tyler Delauder overlooked the site several months back.

Kokomo Creek was chosen for several reasons. “We look for an urban area close to a higher population density so a large number of people can take advantage while having easy access to the water,” he explained. “We also look for suitable conditions, not perfect, but suitable.”

The fish will range from 12 to 14 inches in length and were raised at the state owned Curtis Creek Trout Rearing Station, located near Angola. Since trout prefer cold water environments, Pearson and his staff are waiting until October before releasing the fish. “The water temperatures will be cooler which these type of fish need,” he explained. Pearson is also optimistic remaining trout that do not succumb to hook-and-line may actually live in Kokomo and Wildcat Creek until water temperatures become too warm, which he estimates could be as late as next July.

“We are sure some fish may go over the dam in a highwater event and end up in the Wildcat,” he added. “They should do well in some of the deeper holes until next summer when the water temp rises.”

This is the first year for the trout stocking in Kokomo. If local interest is high and adequate numbers of trout are caught, DNR officials will continue the release program and may even organize a special family fishing event in 2017.

“We think these types of fishing opportunities provide a good way to reach out to families and new anglers who may want to try fishing for the first time,” said Pearson. He also wants anglers to know that even though there is a fish consumption advisory on Kokomo Creek, all stocked trout are not only delicious, but perfectly safe to eat. “It takes several years for fish to accumulate contaminants and these fish were raised in a clean, controlled environment,” he continued.

Better yet, kids do not need a fishing license until their 18th birthday but adults must possess a valid fishing license as well as a trout and salmon stamp, which can be purchased on-line by accessing the DNR website. The daily limit is five fish per person. Stream rainbow trout are not monstrous and neither should your equipment. Light action rods with reels spooled with nothing larger than six-pound test work best.

According to Pearson, some of the best baits include beemoth, red wigglers and kernels of corn placed under a panfish bobber. “Some who like to use artificial lures also do well with small, inline spinners,” he added.

“This is one of the best parts of my job,” said Delauder, as he surveyed the creek and adjoining parking areas. “Getting kids and even adults into fishing is an investment into our environmental future and we hope a good number of people take advantage of this special opportunity.”