PEPPERELL -- If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a day. But if you teach him to restock those fish, the river can be full for a lifetime.
More than 20 volunteers joined Charlie Shadan, owner of Evening Sun Fly Shop, in stocking the Nissitissit River last Friday with about 600 brown and rainbow trout.
Assisted by Rick Pecorelli, of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, who brought the fish from Montague Hatcheries, the volunteers formed assembly lines to transport the flopping fish from the truck to the river, one bucket at a time.
Shadan said the restocking efforts, which happen three times a year, serve to replenish the dwindling fish population.
"There isn't enough reproduction of the natural fish to satisfy the demand of fishermen. It also extends the season and improves their quality of life," he said.
Volunteers released the fish in six different areas of the Nissitissit, traveling together to each site over the course of about three hours.
Shadan has been helping to stock the Nissitissit and Squannacook rivers for more than 35 years, originally with conservation organization Trout Unlimited.
"The objective is to spread the fish out over large areas so we can reduce poaching and the taking of too many fish, and also spread the fish out so they can find homes and increase their longevity," he said.
"It serves all fisherman well because they're not all balled up in holes where people can take them out," he said.
While some areas of the river are catch-and-release, others impose limits on how many fish a fisherman can keep.
Shadan said his shop encourages fishermen to be mindful of how many fish they remove from the river.
"We ask people not to operate under the theory of catch your limit, but we ask everybody to limit your catch," Shadan said. "We do ask everyone whenever possible to put the fish back in the river or eventually there'll be no fish to catch."
For volunteers, Shadan said the restocking provides the opportunity to learn different areas of the river and to do something beneficial for the health of the river.
"People really have fun doing this. With the volunteers, you see their commitment, how much fun they have doing it and their desire to be participating in helping the health of their local community."
First time volunteer Jerry Doty, of Dracut, said restocking the river was both fun and a learning experience.
"It's something I've always wanted to do. I've gotten to see more of the river and to find out where the fish are," Doty said.
Linda Picceri, of North Chelmsford, also helped restock the river this past spring.
"It's nice to see the fish go back into the rivers and, hopefully, spawn and reproduce. It makes the rivers alive. A lot of rivers get fished out, so it's nice to put them back in," Picceri said.