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  • Writer's pictureNelson Sigelman

Harbinger of Spring: Trout Truck Arrives on Martha's Vineyard

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

DFW wildlife technician John Garofoli stocks Upper Lagoon Pond.

The arrival Thursday, March 16, of a Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) tank truck filled with hatchery-raised trout was a tangible sign of spring for Island fishermen of all ages.

Early Thursday afternoon, DFW wildlife technicians Connor Fleming and John Garofoli drove off the ferry with a tank truck loaded with about 1,000 trout from the Sandwich State Fish Hatchery. The first stop was Duarte’s Pond off Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury. The former cranberry bog received 150 brook trout.

The next stop was just up the road. Net by net, John tossed 150 brookies and 150 rainbows into Seth’s Pond, a kettle pond remnant of the last ice age. (The guys supplied those numbers, but given the squirmy nature of transferring fish by net from a bathtub on a flatbed, I'd say those are approximate counts.)

Mill Pond received 150 rainbow trout. The man-made impoundment is nothing more than a scenic mud puddle, but the trout will provide fun for big and little kids until they disappear. Ned Casey of Edgartown arrived soon after the trout truck left and caught three nice trout for dinner on power bait.

I caught up to the stocking truck at Upper Lagoon Pond. The men stocked 200 rainbows into the pond, which along with Seth’s, provides the best trout habitat on the Island. Mark Campos of Vineyard Haven showed up with a light trout rod rigged with a rooster tail lure. If Mark, a frequent Derby winner, is using a rooster tail, I’d say it’s a good bet to catch trout.

I spoke to Cooper "Coop" Gilkes one day after the trout arrived. Coop was fly fishing by the dam at Mill Pond as cars and trucks whizzed behind him. "I had to time my casts to keep from hooking a car," Coop said with a laugh. As he fished, a pickup truck stopped on the road and the driver asked Coop what he was doing.

"What's it look like?" Coop said. "I'm fishin'."

"There's no fish in there," the driver said. And in typical fashion, at that moment, Coop hooked up and a trout broke the surface of the water.

A second stocking is scheduled a few days before the popular annual Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun club kids trout derby, scheduled this year on Saturday, April 8. In addition to state-provided trout, the club pays for an additional stocking of trout to introduce youngsters to the fun of fishing.

With the support of many volunteers and contributors, the club provides trout, donuts, hot dogs, worms, hot chocolate (coffee for adults), and prizes. The annual free fishing event kicks off rain or shine, at first light, at approximately 5:45 am. It is open to any child 14 years old and younger. Depending on the weather and the attention span of the many young fishermen, it will finish at about 8:30 am.

Fishermen are allowed a limit of three trout per day from ponds. Fishermen 15 years of age and older must have a Massachusetts freshwater fishing license. Licenses are available online.

Each year MassWildlife stocks about 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow, and tiger trout from its five hatcheries in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague.

The trout stocking program is not supported by the state's general tax fund. Fishing and sporting license buyers pay for the stocked trout. MassWildlife, the umbrella agency, is supported by license buyers and federal taxes on fishing equipment (Wallop-Breaux) and hunting equipment (Pittman-Robertson).

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