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Trout Schooled On Joy Of Worms Hatchery Fish Get Hooked Before Release

Trout raised in Idaho’s hatcheries are being sent to school, because they don’t know they’re supposed to enjoy fat, slimy worms on fishermen’s hooks.

Trout raised by the state Fish and Game Department grow up hooked on fishy junk food: little green pellets made of fish meal and vegetable protein.

“They’ve never seen a worm in their life,” said Jeff Dillon, in charge of the department’s trout education project.

That creates a problem for anglers who try to catch fish with nightcrawlers, widely sold for bait.

Before the training program, Dillon said, “It was harder than heck to catch a fish with a nightcrawler.”

But it’s too expensive to feed only worms to hatchery fish, because pellets cost 30 cents a pound, compared to worms at $4.

So, the agency is putting some of its 9- to 12-inch trout on shock diets, taking away the pellets and tossing nightcrawlers into the fish-raising ponds.

At first, the fish are intimidated by the slimy dish, but they’re given five days to grasp the new concept before being released.

Dillon said the department doesn’t want to be perceived as favoring fishermen who go after trout with live bait. They just haven’t found a way to teach trout to prefer artificial flies, he said.