MASON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — Members of the West Virginia Legislature’s Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Subcommittee along with other state officials made a splash Wednesday in Mason County.
The Apple Grove Hatchery—located at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam—is the largest warm-water hatchery in the Mountain State. As such, it is a major contributing source of revenue and recreation.
There’s nothing fishy about this operation:
“We raise catfish here, walleye, musky, hybrid striped bass, small-mouth bass, large-mouth bass. Wherever we need around the state, our biologist tells us [what] we need, this is where it happens,” says Stephen McDaniel with West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR).
State officials came to the hatchery to check on the status of one of West Virginia’s most prized natural resources—these warm-water fish.
“It’s certainly a big part of our tourism industry, and so [I] really was anxious to learn more about the role the hatchery plays in that process,” says Delegate Paul Espinosa, (R) Jefferson.
The legislative representatives believe it’s tours like these that help inform their perspectives on the challenges facing hatcheries.
“I think we’ll be better prepared in order to address any legislation that might be introduced during the upcoming legislation session next year,” Espinosa says.
“Remember, the hunting and fishing industry in West Virginia brings in over a half a billion dollars each year into the local economy,” McDaniel says.
The tour included some hands-on demonstrations, and a rainy tour of the grounds—all in an effort to drive home how important operations like these hatcheries are to the Mountain State.
“We probably sell more fishing licenses to people chasing warm-water fish than trout. We need hatcheries like this to supplement that,” McDaniel says.
The fishing season for these warm-water species is year-round, but officials say the best time to go fishing for them is in June.
For more information on where to get a license to do so, visit the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources website here.
West Virginia DNR officials say June 12th and 13th are ‘free fishing’ days where you can go out and fish without a license if you’d like to see some of those warm-water fish up close.