Fishin' Tipster Visits A Rainbow Trout Farm
"Tell it isn't so", lamented my long-suffering wife, Dot. "You're not really going to catch those little biddy trout, are you? Can they ever bend the rod?"
Yes, I was taking some flack about going to catch rainbows. BUT, I knew three things Dot didn't. First, rainbow trout, especially fresh ones, are among the best eating fish anywhere. Second, I was taking her to a trout farm where there were 800,000 rainbows to cast a lure to. (It definitely should NOT be too hard to catch a fishy!) And, finally, some of the rainbows went 7-8 pounds. They were very capable of 'bending the rod', as Dot was to later find out.
John Graf owns and operates the 13-acre Cruso Trout Farm, just south of Canton, NC. Cruso is actually the 'town' in which the Farm is located. But, Cruso is so small that a sign is about all that marks its beginning and end. This rather secluded area is some 25 miles SW of Asheville, right on the northern slope on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smokey Mountain range. We have a summer place in the cool mountain range and our neighbors had clued us in on the Farm. Needless to say, if it has to do with fish, we usually plan to 'check it out'. And, we did.
John's operation involves obtaining and raising fingerling trout for commercial restaurant sales, pond stocking services, and an excellent 'catch your own' fishing program for the public. The 9 ponds that comprise the Farm are fed by an intake from the cold-flowing East Fork of the Little Pigeon River, which is formed by the run-off from the adjacent mountain range. Only 30 feet, or so, wide at this upper altitude, the small river is actually what most would simply call a 'stream'. By diverting s small amount of water into the upper end of the Farm complex and allowing it to exit at the lower end, The Cruso Trout Farm makes excellent utilization of the fresh water availability, with no interference to the natural aspects of the river. The real key is that it provides the continuous current flow of cold water so vital to sustaining rainbow trout.
John Graf feeds his fish mostly by hand, but has recently installed some automatic feeding stations on some of the ponds. The trout food used looks a lot like chicken feed pellets, but is a very high protein compound. As I recall, the protein concentration was in the neighborhood of 75-85%. Although I did not do a comparison, I suspect the 'feed' is very similar to that used in commercial catfish farming. John Graf stated that a pound of the relatively inexpensive feed would produce approximately a pound of trout.
Watching John feed his stocks was reminiscent of seeing Piranha fish attack the cow in the old Tarzan and Jungle Jim movies of the 1950's. As he approached the shoreline with bucket in hand, the fish would immediately come towards him in a cloud of wiggling, churning fish-life. Once he tossed pellets into the water, the entire surface came alive with frenzy, as trout went after the feed with reckless abandon.
The layout of the ponds is such that clean, grassy bank access is readily available for fishermen. It is a perfect place to take children, the elderly, and even those with physical challenges and disabilities. The maximum depth of the crystal clear ponds is 3.5 - 4 feet, so they are very safe if supervision is present. While we were visiting, John was playing host to three youngsters who had an absolute ball catching the high-flying trout.
One would think that tossing most any lure into a mass of thousands of rainbow trout would draw an immediate strike, 24-hours a day. Believe it or not, that is not always the case, if the lures being used are artificials (live bait ALWAYS gets their attention). John Graf indicated that the fish can get a case of artificial lure lockjaw immediately after he feeds them, or under certain weather conditions. After a feeding, he demonstrated this using small MEPPS spinners, plastic grub lures, and even Berkley's famous Power Bait for trout. The fish were, unbelievably, not interested at all in the artificials. (We took this as a challenge, went back to Florida, and set out to find a fail-proof artificial for trout. We will save the details for another time when we plan to release the information on our new lure. (UPDATE!! The lure, now known as BITTY-BITE is available ONLINE, Click Here for more Info) But, suffice to say, we came up with a very small derivative of our famous Swimming Worm design and it took trout EVERY cast and at ANYTIME we cast it into the water. A local angler, who was watching in disbelief at our success, wanted to buy all we had. Explaining they were prototype lures and that we only had a few, we gave him a sample lure. We asked him to try the lure in the local trout streams and rivers and let us know what he experienced. His report was that everything in the water bit the lure - rainbows, brown trout, panfish, smallmouths, and even a small sucker fish locally known as a Red Horse. You can contact John Graf to verify this lure's phenomenal success.)
So, our adventures at a trout farm were really successful. Dot found that rainbows are not always so small, can certainly bend a rod, and love to fly through the air (trout are very tender and easily damaged, so we only fished for the 12-13 inch 'eating-size' fish). We discovered a new lure design that we are sure will help more anglers catch a lot more fish. And, finally, we got that fresh trout dinner we went after.
In fact, we got that dinner about 3 times a week!!! Life is sometimes tough for wandering minstrels and fishermen, don't-cha know.
As a final note, the Cruso Trout farm is For Sale. John Graf owns and operates other businesses, including a sawmill, and has become too overloaded to handle them all. So, he plans to sell something. The trout farming operation is his first love, but he says it is on the block to the right person. John can be reached at 828-235-8594, or 9072 Cruso Road, Canton, NC 28716.
The NEW LURE is now available ONLINE!!
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