Podcast — Ep. 4: Wild Trout vs Stocked — The Hierarchy of River Trout

by | Oct 12, 2021 | 15 comments

 The Troutbitten Podcast, Episode 4 is now available everywhere that you find and listen to your podcasts.

** Note **  The Podcast Player and links to your favorite providers appear below

Wild Trout vs Stocked — The Hierarchy of River Trout

Keep wild trout wild. Not all trout are created equal, and there are many differences in the trout we catch — in their appearances and their behaviors. Wild trout, stocked trout, holdover trout, fingerlings and club fish are very much a different breed — or at least they can seem that way.

My friends, Austin, Bill, Josh and Trevor join me for an honest discussion about the trout we pursue. All of us fish for every kind of trout on the list. And all of these trout hold value — but not equally.

We believe wild trout populations should be protected, wherever they are found. That starts by eliminating the stocking of hatchery trout over wild trout. And it continues by finding struggling wild trout populations and helping them out — strengthening their numbers by improving water quality and habitat. Neither government nor private organizations should be permitted to stock over established wild trout populations. Full stop.

Why does a wild trout matter? Because it’s real. Because it’s adaptable. Because it holds the evolutionary genetics for surviving in its own river system. Because it is a strong, lasting creature. Because wild trout are (most often) more challenging to catch. Sometimes they’re harder to find. Because they are survivors. Because they are a symbol of nature’s persistence against human intervention. And a wild trout, in all its beauty, is . . . simply . . . wild.

In this episode, we talk about each of the five kinds of trout that we catch, because this hierarchy holds up all across the country, not just here in Pennsylvania.

  • Wild Trout
  • Fingerling
  • Holdover
  • Stockie
  • Club Fish

All trout have value. And if you are having a great time catching trout, well, that’s the point. And that’s excellent. Enjoy it. Get out there, fish hard and have fun.

And yet, there’s also nothing wrong with addressing this topic and understanding that there are major differences in the trout we catch. Stocked trout are often nothing like their wild counterparts. This is true.

We discuss the following:

  • The harm done by stocking over wild trout
  • Stocked trout habits
  • How to tell the difference
  • The important value of stocked fish
  • How club fish set up expectations

We believe that wild trout, wherever they are found, should be kept wild and given a chance. It’s important to recognize the exceptional value of wild trout and to understand the limited value of the stocked trout. We should not get them confused. By pushing for regulations that protect wild trout and enhance their habitat we can prepare a better future. By choosing to showcase wild fish over hatchery fakes we send a signal.

Value the wild trout. Protect it. Catch it, and release it.  And yes, value the stocked trout for what it is.


READ: Troutbitten | The Hierarchy of Trout In Pennsylvania
READ: Troutbitten | Posted — Club Fish — 2065
READ: Troutbitten | Why Wild Trout Matter
READ: Troutbitten | What Happened to Laurel Run? The Story of a Stocked Trout Stream and a Fisherman
READ: Troutbitten | Does a Stocked Trout Ever Become Wild?

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Thank You!

The Troutbitten Podcast continues to grow very quickly, and that’s thanks to you. I sincerely appreciate the support. Your downloads, subscriptions to the podcast and five star reviews are the key metrics in the podcast world. These kinds of stats help garner financial support from the industry and keep these podcasts coming. So thank you for being part of it all.

Fish hard, friends.


** Donate ** If you enjoy this podcast, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. I love this podcast (the entire series, for that matter). Great work. Keep them coming.


    • Thank, man. I enjoy the creative process of the whole thing, too.

      Appreciate the support.


  2. Re: Stocking over wild populations
    Also, consider that none of the processes for sterilizing hatchery fish are perfect. Some will remain fertile, adding the problem of maladapted genetics to the problems of competition for food and space.

    • Right on. I mentioned that when we talked about reproductions. It’s important.


  3. Enjoyed the podcast and learned a few things, particularly about trout angling under PA rules. That said, I feel like you missed one classification on your list and it ought to be #1: native fish. I personally don’t believe a native fish can be anything other than wild, however “native, wild” might be necessary to get the point across to a wider audience. This may not make as much sense here in the East as it does out West, but as part of a framework that can apply everywhere, as your article implies, I think we need to include native fish in the discussion and I personally believe they should get priority protections. Thanks again for the discussion.

    • Hi there. Thanks, and I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast.

      Respectfully, I did address the Native vs Non-Native topic. It’s found at 5:05 on the podcast.

      Thanks again for listening.


  4. I enjoyed the podcast overall but I’m disappointed that you skipped over the one of the most important points of the discussion in my opinion, that being the native vs non native hierarchy. Some of the same detriments to the stocked trouts “value” can also be applied to wild but non native trout.
    The argument that non native wild trout fill the gap where native trout cannot survive can also be said for stocked fish. In many waterways no trout reproduction can occur and the only way to make it fishable is to stock hatchery fish therefore filling that gap. The bigger, unnatural, unfair size of stocked trout can also be applied. In brown trout they are genetically advantaged compared to brook trout to grow bigger and faster, although humans don’t have a direct control on the size like hatchery fish it’s still unfair and unnatural to that ecosystem. You also mentioned that pressure from stocked fish can hurt wild populations of trout. This couldn’t be farther from the truth with non native wild trout also. I live in a different state then PA, however it is somewhat similar here. In my state brown trout are currently overrunning and destroying the last remaining natural-native brook trout stream.
    From a purely fisherman point of view I think everyone would agree that browns are the biggest, most fun, and challenging of all the trout to catch. However, at least in my state browns are the most detrimental to native trout far more then the stocked non reproducing rainbows. Browns would be on the bottom of the list in my opinion looking at them from a biological standpoint.
    No matter your opinion on browns and other non native wild trout I think it’s clear that any wild native trout in its natural environment would be on the top of the hierarchy and far outweigh any other trout.

    • Hi Jake,

      Thanks for listening, and thanks for your thoughts.

      Respectfully, I did address the Native vs Non-Native topic. It’s found at 5:05 on the podcast.

      As I mentioned there, Native vs Non-Native is a different topic altogether, and it doesn’t belong here. It doesn’t fit into this discussion. You make a lot of great points in the paragraphs in your comment. But do you see how what you brought up doesn’t fit into the discussion that we had on the podcast? As an author and now host, I guess, of this podcast, I learned a long time ago that subjects must be focused. So that’s why I made the choice to leave it out but also quickly address my thoughts on it at 5:05.

      Thanks again.


      • I seen where you mentioned the topic. Correct me if I’m wrong but I was under the impression that you viewed all wild trout as equal when you mentioned it. To be honest I don’t see how it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the discussion. I’m not a writer but as a listener my take was the focus of the podcast was more of “the hierarchy of trout” instead of “wild vs stocked” since you went into different subcategories and such. I don’t see how going into subcategories of wild trout would be any different than the subcategories of stocked trout. In my opinion it would just add more to the discussion and strengthen the idea that different category’s of trout have different values in fishing and the fisheries themselves.
        At the end of the day it’s your podcast and you can say what you like but that is my constrictive criticism. Overall it was a good podcast but I hope you mention the topic in the future.

        • Hi Jake.

          All I can say is that I addressed it specifically in the podcast. But no, that discussion does not fit into this one. That’s a whole different agenda. This was about stocked trout and wild trout. Native vs Non-Native is a different topic. And sure, we may tackle that someday.

          Thanks for your input. And thanks for listening.


  5. The night game scared me straight tonight. I loved it and I didnt catch a thing.

  6. Thanks again for another amazing podcast! As a relatively new fly angler (just over a year) I can’t tell you how instrumental your website and now podcast has been to my education!

    I experienced the stocked over wild issue just yesterday. 2 weeks ago I caught a beautiful wild brown and yesterday afternoon I caught a holdover rainbow in almost the exact same spot. The water I was fishing is not stocked but the feeder stream about 100 yards from where I was fishing is. Catching that rainbow yesterday definitely cast a shadow of doubt on my “wild” brown. He acted wild, looked wild and definitely fought wild, but was he? I guess I will never know.

    Thanks again for your insights, can’t wait for the next topic!

  7. I listen to lots of podcasts on various topics. Yours is one of the best regardless of category. It’s a great fishing podcast but also a great podcast on friendship, family, respect, and character. Truly great work. A real gift. Sometimes the internet feels like a dumpster fire and then you come across content like this and remember why we used to think it was awesome. Keep it up

    • Thanks, Danny. That’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve gotten. Cheers. Dom


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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