Zach--Thanks for the clarification, but I guess I'll raise another question. Unless I'm off base, the life expectancy (on the long side) of a rainbow is 3-6 years at best, and I tend to think that super size for rainbows (which I would define as anything aboe 11 inches) is more a product of environment than longevity.
That being said, certainly precious few rainbows reach the length of those found in Lynn Camp Prong.
I find it curious that only one of them has been identified as a stocked fish. I can virtually guarantee that I can identify a stocked fish 99 times out of 100, although admittedly hatchery fish look much better than once was the case. Odds are, and very heavy odds, that they are all stocked fish.
As to the means of getting them there and "stocking" them, I suspect the scenario was something along the following lines:
(1) Buy rainbows from a trout farm--plenty of places to do that.
(2) Transport them, perhaps using some type of small aereated tank and perhaps a bit of the kind of chemicals bass fishermen use in live wells to keep fish alive, to the trailhead.
(3) Load them on a horse or, possibly but far less likely, in a backpack. I would note that the browns in Slickrock Creek are direct descendants of fish carried in using backpacks back in the 1930s.
(4) Dump the fish in the stream.
It would be pretty hard to catch someone doing this, and I'm not sure just how far a ranger could go with a search. I've never checked the regulations on that, but I can see it opening up an "unreasonable search" lawsuit if some litigious and innocent person was searched if the law isn't crystal clear.
The essence of the matter is that it is quite complicated and a prime example of how one or two *#$%^@ (I'll leave it to you and others to fill in the best descriptive term, because all that come to my mind would bring the censurious wrath of Paula down on my head) can make live miserable for all of us.
It is quite likely that the same mindset that used to see fires set regularly in the Park when I was growing up in Bryson City is at work here. There is a small, mean segment of locals, on both sides of the Park, who hold a deep, abiding hatred for it. That is sad indeed.