TROUT: A Treasure of Kashmir

The ecological degradation is posing a threat to the habitat of trout in the valley
"A small portion was released in the streams of Dachigam, while Mr Mitchell reared rest of them in his carpet factory at Bagh-e-Dilawar Khan in Shahr e Khas, Srinagar, until they reached the fingerling stage."
"A small portion was released in the streams of Dachigam, while Mr Mitchell reared rest of them in his carpet factory at Bagh-e-Dilawar Khan in Shahr e Khas, Srinagar, until they reached the fingerling stage." Author

Trout are fresh water fish belonging to the genera Oncorhynchus, Salmo and Salvelinus, all of the subfamily Salmonidae. Trout usually live in cool freshwater, often among submerged objects or in riffles and deep pools.

Duke of Bedford helped to send 10,000 trout eggs from the UK in 1899 but unfortunately these perished on the way. A second consignment arrived from Scotland the next year.

A small portion was released in the streams of Dachigam, while Mr Mitchell reared rest of them in his carpet factory at Bagh-e-Dilawar Khan in Shahr e Khas, Srinagar, until they reached the fingerling stage.

The rainbow and brown trout adapted well to the Kashmir valley, while the indigenous snow trout continued to flourish. The department of Fisheries was started by the Maharaja with Mr Mitchell as its founding Director.

Rainbow trout, also called red band trout, are gorgeous fish, with colouring and patterns that vary widely depending on habitat, age, and spawning condition. They are torpedo-shaped and generally blue-green or yellow-green in colour with a pink streak along their sides, white underbelly, and small black spots on their back and fins.

The rainbow trout is native only to the rivers and lakes of North America, west of the Rocky Mountains, but its value as a hard-fighting game fish and tasty meal has led to its introduction throughout the world. The few forms that migrate to sea between spawning’s return to streams at this time.

The eggs take two to three months to hatch, and the newly hatched trout, or fry, become known as fingerlings when they leave the nest and begin feeding on a collection of organisms in water called plankton. When introduced in the streams of our valley these fish adapted very well, thrived and multiplied.

Kashmiri trout has none of the sponginess found in their western counterparts. The clear and fresh water of our streams add to its taste. Trout had made Kashmir as one of the world’s major angling destinations and drew tourists from all over the world.

The Sindh and the Lidder streams offer the finest trout fish any where in the world. In spite of some troubled times in valley for the last 2 decades anglers continued to come. The recent COVID pandemic worldwide and the frequent lockdowns however has affected it badly.

The number of international anglers coming had been varying between 1100 to 1450 and from various countries like western Europe, Britain, Canada, Japan, Dubai, Oman and other Gulf countries. The number of anglers is not increasing and in fact it was decreasing till the onset of pandemic.

These numbers fall short of the valley’s angling potential. As per the last official information valley had around 175 beats with each beat accommodating two anglers per day.

We can easily host at least 350 anglers a day. The angling season typically is from April to September. We need more beats and should advertise and equip them with better rods and also have good trainers. There are at least 20 streams flourishing with trout in the valley.

These are Lidder, Wangath, Gurez, Harnam , Lam , Sindh, Kishanganga, Surnam, Doodganga, Erin, Ferozpora (Tangmarg), Bringi, Ahrabal, Irpora, Dachigam, Kokarnag, Naristan, Madumati, Nowbugh and Doodpathri.

Unfortunately, the ecological degradation in their habitat mostly due to boulders, lifting of sand, pebbles and stones is taking its toll. The use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc. has contaminated the water resources leading to their depletion and deterioration in the quality.

Deforestation and making of several new hydro electric projects also adds to this problem . Construction of houses close to the banks of the streams in Sindh, Lidder and Ferozpora areas with the resultant sewage going into the streams is a very concerning development over the years.

Typically, trout is not consumed as a curry as most Kashmiris take other varieties of fish. It is best had as a simply fried, baked or roasted. It is served with butter, potato wedges, lemon or some plain rice. The author during the times of Dr Jan, retired commissioner of fisheries had the opportunity of staying overnight at the Dachigam fishery.

Dinner had several preparations based out from trout. These included, a curry made out of mashed fish made into small balls, roasted, fried and baked trout. All extra ordinarily delicious. I have had a good exposure of the fisheries at Kokernag and Lidder through my friends Showkat Ali and Muzaffar Bazaz both retired directors of Fisheries department.

They showed me all the stages of growth and Stages of development of trout including 1, egg , 2,hatch, 3,alevin/ swim-up (after yolk-sac depletion) , 4,fry/ fingerling and 5, adult.

Kashmir is an important source to supply eggs for rearing to several states mainly from its Kokernag farm in District Anantnag. The main recipients are Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

More than 500,000 trout ova are exported annually. The Kashmir trout is believed to be healthier, faster growing and genetically superior.

TAILPIECE

Though trout has been a native in the form of Snow trout in our valley, the really sought-after varieties of rainbow and brown trout were introduced by the British gentleman Mr Frank K Mitchell during Maharaja Pratap Singh’s time in 1900. Finest trout flourished in the natural cold-water streams all over the valley especially in Liddar and Sindh catchments.

Angling has been a favourite past time and drew thousands of international anglers till the pandemic of COVID began. The ecological degradation is posing a threat to the habitat of trout in the valley.

We all need to get concerned over this and take appropriate steps to conserve this treasure of ours which also is a big revenue generator.

Prof Upendra Kaul is founder Director Gauri Kaul Foundation, recipient of Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy Award

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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