Trout Culture in J&K

Prof. B.L. Kaul
Jammu and Kashmir attracts tourists not only for its breathtaking beauty and soothing climate but also for many other reasons. The chief attraction for majority of the foreign and some of the home tourists is trout fishing. Kashmir indeed is an angler’s paradise with a network of well stocked hill streams and high attitude lakes.
Trout culture in Jammu and Kashmir is associated with names of Mr. F.J. Mitchell, Pandit Sodhama Miskeen and Kh. Gaffar Joo. Mr. Mitchell a Scot was running a carpet factory at Srinagar in nineties of the nineteenth century. Kashmir fascinated him like many others and it occurred to him that cold waters there were suitable for trout culture. He thought that if trout was introduced in the streams it would attract more tourists so he obtained a consignment of seed (ova) from Scotland in 1898. He made first attempt at culture of the Brown trout in the valley in the vicinity of his factory at Bagh-e-dilwar Khan Srinagar. He also associated and intelligent young local man Sodhama Miskeen in his venture. The first attempt met with failure. A fresh consignment of ova was again got in 1900. This time Harwan near the famour Shalamar Garden was chosen for the purpose in view of availability of clear running cold water round the year. The experiment was a success and marked the beginning of trout culture in India. In 1903 there was a devastating flood in Kashmir and Harwan hatchery lost all its trout. Disheartened by this disaster Mitchell and Sodhama discontinued the attempt till one day, the former observed Brown trout in Ferozpur Nullah near Tangmarg jumping out of water for eating insects. Thrilled at the success of having been able to establish the trout in the Valley. Mr. Mitchell was on the job once again to Harwan. He was able to convince the ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh to establish a Fisheries Department in the State and became it first Director. He appointed Mr. Sodhama as the first inspector and Gaffarjoo as the first guard. By 1908 Brown trout (Salmo trutta) was well established in the valley and several beats in the streams were created for angling.
In 1912 eyed-ova of Rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) were obtained from Briston water works and nearly one thousand alevins (advance try) hatched. In 1908 a hatchery had been built at Achabal in Anantnag District from where eyed-ova of Brown trout were sent to all over Kashmir. Mr Sodhama who had now become an expert trout culturist was deputed to transplant trout at other tourist spots like Kangra, Kulu, Simla, Nanital, Shilong and later to Bhutan and Sikkim. By now Sodhama had become a house hold name in Kashmir and he was affectionately called “Gada Sodhama’’ (Sodhama the Fisherman). He was respected by high and low alike for his expertise in the field. It must also be said to the credit of the erst-while rulers of Jammu and Kashmir that they officially encouraged attempts of introduction and establishment of trout in the valley and on request from rulers of other states also introduced trout at tourist spots in many parts of the country and even outside it.
Following the successful transplantation of Brown and Rainbow trout, Fisheries Department of Jammu and Kashmir imported eyed-ova (seed) of eastern broom trout (Savelinus fontinalis) from Canada and land-locked salmon (Salmo salar) from the USA and splake a hybrid of brook trout and lake trout from Canada. In addition to kashmir and some northern parts of the country, trout species have also been introduced in Nilgrims and Kodia Hills in Tamil Nadu and Munnar High ranges in Kerala.
Trout is essentially a cold water sports fish which prefers cold water of clear terrential streams and transparent high altitude lakes. There is abundance of such streams and lakes in the Himalayas and in the mountain ranges in extreme south. Such waters have a high oxygen content, low vegetation and temperature ranging between 9-19 Degree C- conditions necessary for trout culture. Besides, there is a sizeable population of insects which form food of trout in these water bodies. The important snowfed trout streams in Kashmir valley are Bringhi, Lidder, Sind. Erin and Madhumati. In addition, there are three spring-fed steams the Verinag, Kokernag and Achhabal. The high altitude lakes stocked with trout are Gangabal, Vishensar, Kisenar, Satsar, Gadsar, Sheshnag and Kounsarnag.
As per Rajesh Dogra, Director Fisheries of the State introduction of trout in the cold water hill streams of Jammu division has been a great success. Trout has been introduced in Dhaggar Nallah at Bani in Kathua district, in Kirchi stream at Daddu-Basantgarh in Udhampur District, Thanala in the upper reaches of Neeru nallah in Doda district in Fember nallah, Keshwan nallah, Singhpura nallah and Marwah-Wardwan nallah in Kishtwar district at Budhal in Rajouri district in Bhadora stream and Sui Devta nallah in Reasi district and Mohu-Mangat and Kheet Streams in Ramban district. This will indeed give a boost to tourism in Jammu Division of the State.
Trout is a crafty sportfish and an angler has to use all his skills to get it. Trout fishing is best done in the early mornings, and late evenings. The angler is required to follow the rules of the game. Firstly trout fishing is allowed only after obtaining a prmit from the department of fisheries. Secondly an angler is allowed to use only artificial bait fly. If one type of fly falls another one is tried. Thirdly fishing is allowed in a day in only one beat which extends over 2 kms. There are about 100 such beats within a two hour motor car drive from Srinagar. Fourthly an angler is allowed to catch up to 6 fish a day. Finally trout fishing is open for 6 days a week for the tourist tand only on Sundays for the local anglers.
The Department of Fisheries has collaborated with a Danish firm for large scale trout breeding. This ambitious project as Kokernag, will enventually result in the introduction of fish into more streams. In the meanwhile it is being used for culturing trout for supply of table fish. It is hoped that production of not only trout for supply of table fish. It is hoped that production of not only trout but also other culturable fish increased in forseeable future so that protein requirements of the common man are adequately met. This is possible only if proper stress is laid on culture fisheries of all types as compared to capture fisheries which policy had been followed for too long in the past.