Where Are The Trout?

by ARLnow.com April 7, 2011 at 11:05 am 5,131 73 Comments

With floundering finances, Arlington budget sharks were forced to cancel the county’s annual trout fishing season this year.

“Trout season” is actually an artificial creation in Arlington County — a contractor stocks Four Mile Run with trout trucked in from a hatchery. But don’t tell that to the dozens of kids who show up with their parents every year with rod and reel in hand, eager to catch a fish.

In announcing that trout fishing was canceled, the county parks department advised anglers that trout fishing is still available in Fairfax County. More information about fishing in Fairfax is available here.

  • John Goilios

    “budget sharks”… trout fishing. HA! Very punny.

  • mehoo

    Too bad fish can’t just survive in the stream on their own.

    • Lou

      Wonder why that is?

      • YoBimbo

        Lou – last year’s article: “Trout cannot naturally survive in Four Mile Run due to the lack of cool, shady spots during the summer.”

        • Lou

          Thank you. I’m glad nobody is complaining about it being because of pollution or anything like that.

          • mehoo

            Why? Pollution is definitely a problem in 4MR, if not specifically for trout.

          • Lou

            I never said it was not a problem. I was just curious about your statement that fish could not survive on their own in the stream, since I knew I’ve seen plenty of fish in Four Mile Run over the recent years.

          • mehoo

            Ah, I see.

            Some fish can still survive there, yes. There used to be more kinds, and they were more abundant. For some, that’s probably due to pollution. It definitely makes life harder for some fish and other things.

      • mehoo

        As YoBimbo noted, shade is an issue. Also for trout and the other native species that used to thrive there, it’s the usual pollution, nutrient runoff, and silt that mucks up many urban streams. 4MR is better off than some urban streams, but it’s still rather sick.

        • Westover

          Kids were pulling tadpoles out of Four Mile Run last weekend, it is not that bad at all.

          • Lou

            Yeah, I don’t want to get into some contrived debate about Four Mile Run for certain people’s amusement, but I’ve seen plenty of fish in there for years. It was not so much the case 20 years ago, but the water is remarkably improved from when I was younger.

          • It isn’t good, but it is better than it was in the 70s and 80s. Stream discharges have been limited or improved. But, you can’t get away from urban runoff of chemicals, heavy metals, silt, etc.

          • mehoo

            Yeah, it’s probably better than it was back then. There have been some good mitigation projects to control runoff, and enforcement of dumping laws. Also I remember that an apartment building had accidently connected a sewage pipe to a drain pipe and was dumping sewage into the stream for decades before they discovered the error a few years ago.

          • mehoo

            Picking one species doesn’t count. Some species are more sensitive than others. 4MR used to have several species of native fish abundant, but they are all pretty much gone. Like I said, 4MR isn’t as bad as some urban streams, but it’s not exactly healthy.

            Here’s a report on how the health is measured, and the results:


            Are you sure they were tadpoles? Those only come from ponds, not running water. Maybe they were in a pool next to the stream. And it’s awful early for tadpoles anyway.

          • CW2

            You’re right. They must have been snakeheads 🙂

    • Good time

      It may have something to do with the 6,000 Illegals fishing for them. Ever run along the WO&D?

      • V Dizzle

        6000, really? Wow. My enragement limit is set on 1000, so that’s a lot!

        • Good time


  • Glad to hear they cancelled the fish massacre this year.

    • Vegan

      You’re a vegan right?

      • Nope. Fish, catch them, eat them……all good. Put a bunch of them into a stream where they can’t survive…..sorry, I don’t support it. It’s kind of like hunting for fun vs. hunting to eat what you get.

        • YoBimbo


        • mehoo

          Yeah, it’s like…shooting fish in a barrel.

        • Vegan

          I mistook your comment as being anti-fishing. I’ll go swallow a treble hook now.

          • V Dizzle

            A G-clef? Isn’t that considered bass…or barritone? Just sayin.

        • brendan

          eh. It’s more fisheries management is much more complicated than you think… Some years there are holdovers in local streams and there’s even one fishery inside the beltway that has a naturally-reproducing population of brown trout. Unfortunately, a vast majority of streams in Virginia that used to hold native fish no longer can support them year round and are therefore ‘subsidized’ with fall/spring stockings. It’s not like they’re being dumped into hot and poisonous water, trout stocked in late September can often survive and be fairly healthy until the end of June depending on the weather.

          There are relatively few mountain streams remaining in Virginia that support native and naturally reproducing trout… unless you want to have tens of thousands of trout anglers trampling the banks, picking bare and quickly destroying these delicate ecosystems it makes sense to offer stocking within the historical boundaries of native trout. 4mr is on the edge of the historical boundary but likely held a small population in the upper reaches before the paving/pollution/re-channeling so it’s not an entirely artificial putting a few back in there every spring for kids to catch.

          • brendan

            oops. tried to cut and paste a couple things and the above comment ended up a little garbled. apologies, but hopefully you get my point.

  • Westover

    I would prefer trout over the Artsphere.

    • mehoo

      “Trout Over the Artisphere.” Sounds like a Broadway musical.

    • +1

      As far as boondoggles go, there is nothing that even compares to the Artipshere. Heck, compared to the cost/benefit the wasteful dog-park is a winnar.

      • DAWG

        Oh no you didn’t…..now there will be 487 comments about dog parks and the poor trout will be lost in the stream of conversation…..

        RE: Trout – I think they actually stock the streams, so if none get stocked none get fished and that’s that – easy budget cut to make.

      • When someone is walking their dog past your house for exercise and the dog takes a piss on your front lawn you’ll be the one who yells “Take you damn dog to the dog park instead of walking him past my house!”

        • mehoo

          Just don’t let your trout piss on my lawn, buddy.

          • Bluemontsince1961


  • The Beavers

    It’s all about the lobbying. Trout are here today gone tomorrow. We are long term residents and therefore have a “right” to funding.

  • mr. Ed

    All the money went to the Artisphere = FAIL

  • YoBimbo

    What an odd concept – stocking a stream (that is often befouled with pollution and sewage) with fish that cannot survive in that environment even if the stream were clean.

    • When I was a child in the early 1970’s there was a swim club off of 395 (then Shirley Highway) that used to periodically stock the pool with goldfish for the kids to catch. Even as a young child I was able to deduce that putting a bunch of fish into a pool where the chlorine would burn their gills was nothing but cruel. Same would be true here with Four Mile Run. It’s not chlorine, but it isn’t much better for trout.

    • mehoo

      I think it’s great – people, including kids, learn to enjoy fishing in their back yard, and then they ask “why can’t the fish live here year-round” and it starts a conversation about why and how to fix that. Like it did here.

  • GetReal

    This could be a really fun event for the kids except for 1 problem. In the past the first few hours of opening day was reserved for kids under 12(?) to give them a chance to catch some fish. Well, I can’t tell you the # of redneck adults i’ve seen out there during those hours either snagging or using powerbait. It’s gets difficult trying to teach your 5yr old sportsmanship when the a-hole next to you is snagging fish during the hours reserved for kids. The sad thing is game and wildlife were present and not enforcing the rules.

    • This isn’t really the place to teach your kid the enjoyment of fishing, for reasons you’ve cited and more. Get in your car, or get a zipcar if you live Arlington idealism, and take a day trip to Shenandoah. If you can’t afford that much time, try something else in the area that is not around a crowded sponsored event. There are lakes and streams in Fairfax and Prince William where you can fish with your kid and teach him/her the beauty of nature at the same time.

      • mehoo

        Why not teach my kids that I shouldn’t have to tolerate an open sewer for a stream in my own community, or tolerate a-holes who break the rules?

        • If that’s your goal, then go to the trout fest at 4MR!

          • mehoo

            I will, when it comes back.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    My neighbor took his two little girls last year and they had a great time. The girls caught their first fish and they smiled like they’d climbed Everest.

  • Duke of Soarl

    I fish Thompson Lake out near Front Royal. They stock it a few times a month until the water warms up too much for the trout. Take your kids there – just make sure you get a trout license in addition to your VA freshwater.

  • Here’s some good resources on 4MR. History, pollution, upgrades, restoration, etc.


    • mehoo

      Thanks OB. Good reference there to the flooding problem. It shows you how environmental degradation can cost millions of dollars (in flood damage and then huge, ugly flood control projects downstream) that could be partly avoided by simply protecting land and trees near the stream to slow the water flow.

      • Indeed. Take a look at what Fairfax County has done on the Occoquan River and Reservoir, where they have a drinking water plant. They have protected the water body by creating a park the whole length of the water body that has natural terrain consisting of trees, grasslands, etc. This was done to protect the drinking water source. The hiking trails there are wonderful, and people can even use the water. Visit Fountainhead Park sometime. It’s great. Of course, if you look over to the Prince William side they have allowed development. Much of it is single family homes on large wooded lots, but quite a bit of it in Woodbridge is dense townhomes right up to the reservoir. Not good.

        • PikeHoo

          Those single family homes alongside the PWC side have been there for at least 30 years and development of that kind has been at a standstill. You’re right though about the townhouses built near the Lake Ridge marina. The PWC zoning/development committee members who approved the building should be thrown in jail.

          • There have been dams on that river dating back to the 1920’s with reservoir expansion in the 1950s, and with heavy regulation beginning in 1971 to improve poor water quality (primarily from poorly regulated wastewater treatment). Fairfax County did their part in curbing development since 1971 right around the water body to protect it. Prince William could have cared less. Those townhomes you speak of are VERY new and are right up to the shoreline. Of course, Fairfax owns the water….. Ironically, I think Prince William must buy some of it from Fairfax.

  • TrouserTrout

    If you want an excellent read on the history of fish stocking and its impacts, pick up a copy of Anders Halverson’s “An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World” that was published last year. Might sound boring but it’s fascinating, fairly short, and I couldn’t put it down.

  • brendan

    Sad to see this fun program get dumped when it’s really a great and relatively inexpensive opportunity for the youngins. Perhaps the County should lobby the state VDGIF to get 4mr designated as an urban trout fishery ? Fairfax currently has two streams w/ this designation and Alexandria has Cook lake.

    I’m not sure whether or not VDGIF even knows Arlington is part of Virginia. The “local” office is in Fredericksburg and they provide zero stocking and in the 20+ years i’ve fished in the area, i’ve yet to see a single enforcement officer up here.

    There’s an opportunity to change that.

  • Lacy Forest

    I wonder how many trout seasons the county is going to have to cancel in order to shift funds to pay for Artisphere? I’m so mad at the moment I could chew aluminum siding after reading the front page story on the Sun Gazette that the CB is thinking about using taxpayer dollars to prop up Artisphere. Are public safety services fully funded? Is the education budget free from cuts? Is the infrastructure budget flush? Only if everything else (and I mean everything, including any funding for the homeless)is fully funded should the CB even think of diverting any dollars to Artisphere.

    • Just me

      I agree with you! I wonder what is in it for them or who is friends with who.

  • arglebargle

    I see people fishing under chain bridge all the time, why cant the kids go there to fish?

    Hiring someone to dump fish into a creek where they are sure to die just seems stupid.

    And I didnt see how much this whole fiasco used to cost yearly, anyone know?

    • brendan

      have you ever been fishing at Chain Bridge? Not a safe or fun place for kids to learn how to fish.

      As for cost… Can’t imagine it’s more than a few thousand… You can usually buy farm raised (live) rainbow trout in bulk at around $1-2 per lb + base/trans fee so if you wanted to stock 1,000 legal size trout it shouldn’t be more than $2,500 depending on who you purchase them from.

      • Not a fan

        Great! If it’s such a bargain to stock a stream, perhaps the parents of the children who enjoy this activity can all chip in to make it happen. While I would agree that using taxpayer dollars to teach children to read and write is a good investment in societal well-being, I do not believe that teaching them to fish is quite the same thing.

        • mehoo

          Give a kid a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a kid to fish, he eats so many fish that he gets sick.

          • CW

            From heavy metal poisoning?

          • I would guess overeating….. but I think things like certain pesticides can build up in fish tissue over time. Metals too I guess, and our brake componants are the biggest culprit there. Brake dust just washes into the streams with each rain.

          • brendan

            trout aren’t in the water long enough to build up the contamination levels past health regulations… that being said, i wouldn’t eat them.

        • brendan

          ah the old reused and irrelevant libertarian argument.

          As a county we have decided to spend millions on Parks & Recreation so it’s more of a ‘how it’s spent’ than ‘we don’t have the money, they can pay for it if they want’ decision. I’d argue the cost per use/enjoyment factor of stocking a few trout is better than most line items in the county budget.

          FTR, We spent nearly 3,000x the estimated $2,500 cost for annual trout stocking on initial funding for the Artisphere.

          • Not a fan

            Ah, so you understand. That is my exactly point. I disagree on “how it’s spent.” The use of taxpayer dollars for the maintenance of parks and sports facilities where every Arlingtonian, regardless of age, can pursue good health and fitness as part of an active lifestyle is precisely why the Parks and Recreation was created. I disagree with spending money to release a species of fish into an area where they cannot naturally survive so that a handful of children (and rednecks, from what I read) can be amused for a short period of time by killing a living thing.

    • mehoo

      Like Brendan said, fishing isn’t nearly as safe there, or easy for a kid either.

  • Curious George

    So they release flounder also?


    • bigus dickus

      Welease Wodewick! Welease Bwian!

  • othersideoftheriver
    • brendan

      Whoever wrote this blog post has very little understanding for what’s being discussed in terms of 4mr and fisheries management in VA.

      1) The fish they dump in 4 mile run are Rainbows, not Browns.

      2) The state doesn’t track which fish you catch… yes, their are some forums for feedback, but it’s not like patronizing a certain stretch of water will encourage them to stock more brown trout.

      3) state and federal agencies have been working together w/ fisherman to protect the native trout waters. They’re not stocking browns in places designated as native/wild fish waters and have spent the past twenty years attempting to thin out non-native species from Shenandoah national park and other headwater streams.

      4) Brown Trout can be useful in balancing the water eco-system in certain areas that used to hold brookies but can no longer due to a change in stream conditions. Depends on the strain, but brown trout generally have a greater tolerance warm water temps and pollution allowing them to reproduce naturally in spots where brook trout no longer can.

      If you’re going to write a book about this stuff I really hope you do some more research first b/c right now it seems like you have no idea what you’re talking about.


Subscribe to our mailing list