After achieving success in breeding of trout supported by intense experimentation, Department of Fisheries has over the years ensured that the trout which was considered as a Royal food reaches the common people.
The introduction of trout in Kashmir for angling is credited to a Britain Frank Mitchell. In 1899, he reared the trout in the premises of his private carpet factory at Bagh-e-Dilawar Khan, located in Shahr-e-Khas. He established the first trout hatchery at Harwan in 1901 and trained the locals.
“Later after floods, the temporary ponds at Panzgam were destroyed and the little trout flowed in Aru stream. “ These washed out trout grew so quickly in virgin streams that it was possible for the state to present 12 ½ pound trout to Lord Minot then Viceroy in 1906. Mitchell’s contribution in the field got him the title Father of Kashmir Trout Fisheries,” said Dr NA Jan former Commissioner Fisheries.
Tracing the introduction of Rainbow trout, which is in huge demand in Kashmir these days Dr Jan says it was early fifties that trout from Isleman in Denmark were put in various streams of the Valley.
It was in 1985-86 that a Trout Fish Farming Project, with assistance of European Economic Community (EEC) was established at Kokernag in Islamabad district. “With the upgradation of our infrastructure, we have been constantly able to produce over 100 tons of trout annually from 28 rearing and breeding units. Kokernag has turned out to be Asia’s largest fish farming project,” Asifa Khan, senior project officer Department of Fisheries told Greater Kashmir.
The Department puts the trout on sale at its rearing units and special sales outlet at Gagribal once in a week. “Trout has usually remained the feast of tourists and anglers. We wanted the trout to reach common people at low cost. As our rearing units are located at far away places, it caused inconvenience to people, particularly of Srinagar district to carry the trout which tastes best when kept in cold storage or consumed with few hours,” Asifa said.
The Department presses special vehicles designed to ferry live trout from rearing units to storage tanks in Harwan. “From Harwan, the trout depending upon the demand, is supplied to our sales outlet at Gagribal in fresh form. Due to huge demand of trout, our revenue had jumped from Rs 47.48 lakhs in 2000 to Rs 76 lakhs in 2006-07. This year we expect the figure to cross one crore,” an optimistic Asifa says.
The department has also established feed mills to manufacture finished trout feed depending upon the size of the fish.
“We produce the best feed under international standards for the trout and we are satisfied by the quality of trout. Still we have long way to go and strengthen our infrastructure like inclusion of sophisticated cold storage facilities so that the trout can be exported to other states and abroad,” she said.
Yaseen said the trout is in huge demand these days.
Fisheries Development Officer Muhammad Hussain said large number of tourists, including foreigners throng the sales centre for trout. “Recently some tourists from Pakistan were surprised by the low cost of the trout here. They said a kg of trout is sold at Rs 1400 in Karachi’s roadside eateries due to huge demand. We also have a large clientele of ministers and bureaucrats,” he said.