Introduced by a Scotsman in Kashmir 118 years ago, Trout farming has become a major economic activity with the establishment of 533 units in the private sector apart from trout beats set up in 142 rivers, streams and lakes of the state.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has recorded nearly 600 tons of trout production in the last financial year.
“J&K has setup 533 units of trout farms in private sector. There are 59 trout rearing units and hatcheries”, Director, Fisheries department of J&K, R N Pandita said.
Not only this, trout farming has been practised in over 142 rivers, streams and lakes in Jammu and Kashmir.
“There are about 150 fishing beats spread over 40 streams with an aggregate length of 500 km, besides, there are 12 high altitude lakes ranging from 8,000 feet to 12,000 feet above the sea level having Brown Trout,” Pandita said.
The first batch of Trout ova of 10,000 eggs arrived from the UK in 1899 with the courtesy of Duke of Bedford, to whom the Kashmir Maharaja presented an excellent Kashmir stag trophy through Sir Adelbert Talbot, British Resident at Srinagar.
“Kashmir’s trout fisheries history goes back to 1898 when Mr Mitchel, a Scotsman, introduced trout for the first time in Kashmir with the help of Pandit Sodhama Miskeen and Khwaja Gafarjoo. The fish seed was obtained from England. Half of it perished in transit because there were no airplanes those days and sea route was the only option,” environmentalist and former educationist B L Koul said.
He said from Mumbai (then Bombay) the seed had to be carried first by rail up to Rawalpindi and, then by bus to Srinagar in containers of water.
“The water had to be changed frequently. The first attempt failed but subsequent attempt in 1900 to breed trout succeeded,” Koul added.
The Maharaja of Kashmir was then approached and a Department of Fisheries with Mitchel as director and Pt Sodhama as an inspector came into existence.
The initially seed farms in Kashmir were established and trout beats were established in streams such as, Lidder, Sindh, Ferozpur nullah, Madhumati, Kishenganga nullahs, Chenab and other streams of Jammu province. Many lakes and springs like Gangabal, Verinag were also used to stock trout fish.
The trout fishing of Kashmir had become a great tourist attraction by twenties and thirties of the last century, the Maharaja of Kashmir was requested by many princely states to supply seed and expertise to them for the introduction of trout in their fast running streams-a precondition for trout to thrive, Prof Koul said, “Thus, Pt Sodhama travelled to Nilgiris in the South and Himachal (then part of Punjab) and UttaraKhand (then part of Uttar Pradesh) and Muree (now in Pakistan) to introduce trout fish there”, he said.
The department undertakes brood stock management to achieve better fertilization during spawning. “These two projects have the capacity to produce more than 3 million eggs per year. The department has established a net work of 59 trout rearing units and hatcheries across the state and, more units are coming up”, Pandita said.
The beautiful geographical variations of Jammu and Kashmir, along the course of each river and lake, offer endless possibilities for anglers, he said. “The various waterways, crisscrossing the state, are important fishing retreats rich in trout. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is known as a paradise for fishing enthusiasts”, he said.