CLIFFTOP — Anglers dropping a line at Babcock State Park in the coming days may strike gold.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia DNR Director Stephen McDaniel and others to stock golden rainbow trout in Glade Creek as part of the second annual West Virginia Gold Rush. This week, the WVDNR is conducting a special stocking of golden rainbow trout in more than 50 designated lakes and streams across the state.

"It doesn't get any prettier anywhere in the world (than West Virginia)," Justice said while delivering remarks to the assembled crowd with the famous Glade Creek Grist Mill as a backdrop. "There's no prettier place on the planet than West Virginia. There's no prettier place anywhere than our state parks, and to be able to invest money to upgrade our parks, yeah, sure, we need to do that."

Justice, who earlier recalled "great memories" of fishing with his father while growing up, welcomed the Gold Rush, calling fishing a "wonderful tradition in our state."

Like the family excursions Justice recalls, the Roche family from Beckley was on a day trip to Babcock State Park Wednesday to spend some quality time together and try their hand at snagging one of the elusive fish. Steven Roche was accompanied by his wife, Emily Roche, his stepson, Joseph Ball, and the rest of the family's children: Charles Jasper Roche, Riley Reuben Roche and Taylor Madison Roche.

Steven Roche says he is usually more apt to fish in Glade Creek of Raleigh or at Little Beaver State Park, but the family discovered about the Wednesday stocking in time and opted to make the drive to Fayette County.

Roche works as a paramedic in White Sulphur Springs and doesn't get much weekend time off, he explained. "We saw this as an opportunity to (create a family outing during the week)."

Such a family outing makes McDaniel smile.

"That's why I do it, quite frankly," he said. "I'm here for one reason, to serve the people of West Virginia.

"Anything I can do to make it better and make it just a little more fun for those kids down there (motioning toward the creek bank), that's all the reward I need."

Justice said the Gold Rush program is growing.

"Last year, I think we stocked 35,000 trout; this year, we're gonna stock 40,000 golden trout," he said. "All of us were excited beyond belief with the idea that just maybe, maybe you could catch a golden trout."

"Days like today are what we yearn for, the beautiful sunshine, and we're at Babcock State Park, probably one of the most photographed areas in the entire state of West Virginia," McDaniel said. "And we're putting golden trout in the (creek), and the governor came up and helped us do that.

"We're really excited about the Gold Rush."

The Gold Rush is a good complement, McDaniel said, to a $60 million bond initiative geared toward improvements in state parks and forests in the Mountain State.

The governor's office announced last October that West Virginia had sold $55.2 million in excess lottery revenue bonds, issued through the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA), to make the upgrades with an eye toward promoting economic development and increasing tourism efforts.

"We're making a lot of investments here at Babcock State Park with rehabilitating (the cabins)," said McDaniel. "We're going to be doing that system-wide."

Also during his remarks, Justice stressed that the current system of trout stocking needs an overhaul. Rather than dispatching trucks primarily to stock streams that are easier to reach, Justice said a move must be embraced that will broaden the scope of stockings around the state.

Babcock State Park Superintendent Clinton Cochran called Wednesday a "great day" for the park.

"We were very happy to have the governor with us to announce the Gold Rush and the stocking," said Cochran. Being a seasonal park, Babcock greets numerous early-spring fishermen in the latter part of April and into May, Cochran said.

Babcock's Boley Lake was set for a golden rainbow trout stocking this past Saturday.

According to the DNR's website, the golden rainbow trout is more commonly known as the golden trout in West Virginia. The fish, according to the DNR, are a mutated strain of the rainbow trout, and have been selectively and successfully bred by WVDNR biologists. Originally introduced to the public in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s centennial celebration, the golden rainbow trout took several years to develop, according to the website.

To conclude last week's program, the DNR planned a big release on Saturday, April 6.

Anyone who catches a golden rainbow at a state park is eligible to receive a West Virginia Gold Rush Golden Rainbow Trout Certificate. Anglers can also print their own Gold Rush certificate at www.wvgoldrush.com.

All fishermen ages 15-and-older are required to have a West Virginia fishing license with a current trout stamp and a valid form of identification while fishing. For more details about buying a license, visit www.wvfish.com.

Those interested in participating in Gold Rush can find a list of stocking locations at www.wvgoldrush.com.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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