WILTON — The fish living in the Norwalk River got some new neighbors on Tuesday — 1,100 to be precise.

That’s how many rainbow, brown and brook trout were released into the upper and lower sections of the river as part of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s stocking program.

The fish were all of catchable length, nine to 12 inches on average. Eighty percent of stocked fish are usually caught on opening day of the season, said Jeff Yates, director of volunteer operations for Trout Unlimited.

Fishing season, however, opened early this year, on March 24, to avoid the crowds that usually converge on rivers and lakes the second Saturday in April. The state says this season’s fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience or with members of an angler’s immediate household, not as a group activity.

The Norwalk River, which has its source in Ridgefield, flows through Wilton and Norwalk to Long Island Sound, and there are many prime fishing spots along the way.

“The Norwalk River is one of the best trout streams in lower Fairfield County by far,” Yates said, “with more than 10 miles of public access on town, state and private commercial land. Most rivers run through private property.”

While Yates described the Norwalk as a “thriving wild trout stream,” he said the hatchery fish boost the odds people having success while fishing.

Hatcheries were started as early as the Industrial Revolution because rivers had become so degraded from pollution.

The fish introduced to the Norwalk River came from the Burlington State Fish Hatchery, one of three state fish hatcheries that stock the public waters of Connecticut with trout and salmon. The Burlington hatchery is the state’s oldest, built in 1923.

Statewide, among the three hatcheries, DEEP introduces 500,000 to 600,000 catchable trout into public waters each year.

Future conservationists

“The benefit of the stocking program is that people and kids can have fun fishing,” Yates said. “Perhaps they will become conservationists. The program can help build a community around conservation.”

Trout Unlimited has done substantial conservation work in and along the Norwalk River where it flows through Schenck’s Island in Wilton, making it more hospitable to trout and other wildlife.

“One of the goals of Trout Unlimited and the restoration work is to restore the river to such a level it doesn’t need to be stocked,” Yates said.

Social distancing

Fishing is one sport that can easily lend itself to social distancing.

Along with its conservation and recreation partners, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Trout Unlimited is working to elevate the idea of responsible recreation by encouraging people to go beyond six feet of separation and find new places to explore.

“There’s high potential on the Norwalk River for people to congregate in large groups,” Yates said, which should be avoided. “There are excellent places to fish from Georgetown below the factory pond to south of Ring’s End in Wilton.

“There’s plenty of water and people should look for places where they can park and walk in, not fish just at bridges. Use this as opportunity to walk up and downstream and find your own secluded spot on the river.

“Catching fish is an incentive, but more than anything it’s about being out, seeing the river, maybe seeing a mink or a beaver, watching a blue heron fish.

For those looking to find new fishing holes, the Mianus chapter of Trout Unlimited has a video on its Facebook page on where the wild trout streams are in western Connecticut.

The state DEEP also has an interactive stocking map on its website, at ct.gov.

All fishing laws and regulations, including requirements for a fishing license, are in effect. For complete information on fishing in Connecticut, visit ct.gov/DEEP/Fishing.