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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The North Chickamauga Creek at the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area in Soddy-Daisy on Nov. 27, 2017.

Local anglers might be surprised to find trout in some different places in North Chickamauga Creek.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, with the help of some local fishing-enthusiast volunteers, placed about 200 rainbow trout upstream from the state's usual stocking point on March 5.

TWRA previously has stocked trout in the stream only at Thrasher Bridge in Soddy-Daisy. In keeping with the past, the agency still placed about 200 at the bridge.

The trout were transported about 100 miles from the Flintville Hatchery, the state's oldest.

Starting at the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area parking lot located off Mowbray Pike and using an all-terrain vehicle to pull a small utility trailer, the agency loaded the trout in a large insulated ice chest and pulled the trailer up the trail about a quarter mile.

From there, using plastic-lined backpacks, a dozen or so volunteers outfitted with waders carried the rainbows and placed them in selected locations — 15 in all, according to Travis Scott, TWRA's Region III river and streams biologist.

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Photo by Gary Petty / John Dorough watches from the bank as fellow Chattanoogan T.J. Maurer follows him across North Chickamauga Creek through waist-deep flowing water during a TWRA trout stocking last week. The volunteers are wearing backpacks filled with oxygen-added water and rainbow trout.

Some were placed below the parking lot and along the creek to just above the "blue hole," a span of about one mile from the parking lot. Locals know the blue hole as a favorite swimming location.

Oxygen was added to the water-filled plastic bags, which then were sealed. Scott said the trout would live about 20 to 30 minutes with the added oxygen.

Transporting the backpacks filled with about five gallons of water plus about 15 trout was no easy task for the volunteers.

Four of them had the added challenge of carrying their loaded packs through waist-high water in crossing the swollen creek to get to the blue hole.

"The river crossing was a little scary. It was pretty high," T.J. Maurer of Chattanooga admitted.

Asked if he thought he was going to go down the creek with the heavy backpack, he replied, "I did a couple of times."

Maurer hopes the area will become a year-round trout-fishing site.

"I like to fish there, but I like the idea of getting some fish up there and them climatizing, and hopefully let them potentially start creating a self-substantiating population in the future," he said.

There might be some hope for that, according to Scott.

"You really don't want to see (the water) above 70 degrees," the biologist said. "Some of the fish will find a spring that is along the creek, but generally anglers will not find too many trout in that location."

Nate Hefner, owner of The Hatch Outfitter, a fishing supply store on Brainerd Road, organized the volunteers for the stocking.

"I think it was awesome. It was really fun to have some volunteers to get some trout in some local waters here," Hefner said. "I think we were just trying to keep it small. We didn't really announce the stocking. We just told a handful of people to get out there so we could get it stocked.

"I think everyone was pretty excited about it. It is really a pretty place to fish in there, and to be able to catch some trout in there is just kind of a plus."

Scott said he thought the volunteer effort "was a tremendous success. It is good see anglers taking a vested interest in the resource and helping develop that fishery. We had a nice turnout and I feel they did a really good job of spreading the fish out. It's an extra opportunity for anglers to expand that fishing area there. I could not have been happier.

"Really, without them we would not have been able to stock that big of an area.We might have been able to get some fish in around the parking area, but certainly not hike them in that distance."

With trout now in the upper part of "North Chick," anglers will have a more mountain-wilderness experience than just sitting on the side of the creek below Thrasher Bridge, Scott noted.

TWRA plans to stock the same area again the week of April 4, provided there is an ample supply of volunteers.

Contact Gary W. Petty at sports@timesfreepress.com.

 

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