New England'™s 2008 Trout Forecast

What's in store for New England's trout anglers in 2008? Here's a look ahead. (March 2008).

Photo by Steve Carpenteri.

New England's trout anglers are some of the luckiest in the nation. Productive coldwater fisheries are abundant throughout the region. New England also corners the market on wild brook trout habitat -- and fisheries biologists are working hard to keep it that way.

There are countless lakes, brooks, streams, rivers and ponds for trout anglers to choose from. Better yet, over 4 million trout are stocked into New England's public-access waters each year.

Here's a state-by-state roundup of trout management programs and best-bet locations straight from the folks who know -- fisheries management experts fresh in from their 2007 field work:

CONNECTICUT
The majority of trout taken by Nutmeg State anglers are stocked, and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has an ambitious program with dedicated fisheries biologists working to keep a quality fishery viable.

Nearly 745,000 catchable trout were poured into 100 lakes and ponds, and 200 rivers and streams in 2007, according to Michael Humphreys, a DEP Inland Fisheries Division fisheries biologist and Wild Trout Project leader.

Certain management areas receive special allocations of trout. Designated Trophy Trout Streams receive about 50 percent large specialty trout and fall under special creel limits of two trout per day rather than the standard five trout per day. Trophy Trout Streams are stocked with about 80,000 trout annually.

"Good bets for 2008 include the West Branch Farmington River and main stem Farmington River; the Natchaug River in Eastford; the Naugatuck River in Harwinton; the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport and Trumbull; the Salmon River in Colchester and the Shetucket River from Windham to Norwich," Humphreys said.Designated Trophy Trout Lakes are stocked with yearling brown trout and large specialty brown trout. These lakes fall under special regulations for season, size and creel limits, so be sure to check the latest rules before heading out.

"Best bets for 2008 include Crystal Lake in Ellington, East Twin Lake in Salisbury, West Hill Pond in New Hartford and Barkhamsted, and Highland Lake in Winchester," Humphreys said. "Additional lakes with great spring fishing for large, holdover trout include Beach Pond in Voluntown and Lakeville Lake in Lakeville."

Stocked Catch-and-Release Trout Management Area streams (TMAs) are popular with anglers because they provide some of the highest catch rates in the state. Some of these streams are seasonal, open to catch-and-release fishing from September to Opening Day, while others are year-round. Seasonal TMAs are stocked (often with larger trout) in September, and then several times again in spring.

"These streams provide excellent fishing in early spring when most other streams are closed to fishing," Humphreys noted. "The most successful seasonal TMAs include Lower Farmington TMA in Avon; the Hammonasset River in Clinton; the Mianus River in Greenwich; the Mill rivers in Fairfield and Hamden; the Salmon River in Colchester; the Saugatuck River Fly-Fishing-Only Area in Westport and the Yantic River in Lebanon."

Humphreys said the most popular year-round TMAs that offer consistently good numbers of large holdover trout include the West Branch Farmington TMA in Barkhamsted and New Hartford and the Housatonic River TMA in Sharon and Cornwall.

He noted, "The Willimantic Fly-Fishing-Only, year-round TMA provides consistently good action for recently stocked trout, some of which are very large."

Opportunities to catch wild trout may be found in Wild Trout Management Areas including Belding WTMA on the Tankerhoosen River, the Wachocastinook WTMA in Salisbury, the Mill River WTMA in Easton/Fairfield, Merrick Brook WTMA in Scotland, Furnace Brook WTMA in Cornwall Bridge and the Farm River WTMA in North Branford.

For more information about Connecticut's trout fishing regulations, destinations and stocking schedules, phone 1-860-424-3000. Or go to www.ct.gov and select "State Agencies." Click on "Environmental Protection," then "Outdoor Recreation" and select "Fishing."

MAINE
"We're still stocking trout and will continue until late December," said John Boland, Fisheries Division director, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

"By year's end, we'll have stocked approximately 1.3 million fish, including approximately 125,000 landlocked salmon, 20,000 rainbow trout, 910,000 brook trout, 175,000 brown trout, 16,000 lake trout and 33,000 splake." (Splake are hybrids of lake trout and brook trout.)

"Major renovations to Maine's fish hatcheries have allowed us to expand the number of catchable-sized trout," Boland noted. "As a result, anglers can expect more 10- to 12-inch brook trout this spring and 14-inch brookies in the fall. Also, Maine is expanding its rainbow trout program, which has proven quite successful." (Continued)

Boland mentioned that anglers should expect changes to lake trout and salmon regulations in 2008, so be sure to check the law book before heading out. The department is trying to streamline and simplify its fishing regulations, and has restructured trout fishing rules in the process.

Boland said that anglers would find more fall fishing opportunities available in 2008 regulations, as well.

"We continue to reclaim a couple of trout ponds each year," Boland said. "This year (2007), we reclaimed a small pond in southern Maine and another in northern Maine. Nadeau Lake in northern Maine was rebuilt and restored and should become an excellent wild brook trout water."

Anglers seeking rainbow trout or browns will want to wet a line in the Androscoggin River in the Bethel region. The Androscoggin is home to both stocked and wild trout.

"This water provides an exciting fishery every spring and fall," Boland said, "and has proven to be a top fishing destination."

Boland also noted that Baxter State Park continues to be an excellent destination for wild brook trout fishing.

In 2007, Maine's fisheries professionals worked hard to assess the strength of the state's wild brook trout populations as part of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV), which encompasses New England, Mid-Atlantic and some so

uthern states.

Early results indicate that the current model used to predict brook trout populations in any given water may need to be tweaked to better fit each region's particular conditions.

Through funding and partnerships with the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Trout Unlimited's Embrace-A-Stream Program and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the department was able to put five two-person teams of surveyors into the field. That effort provided data about trout status and fish habitat from 175 watersheds statewide.

In order to maintain, improve or restore wild trout fisheries, managers must first gain a basic understanding of what species inhabit certain areas and their relative abundance, assess the habitat's quality and the physical condition and stability of each stream.

MASSACHUSETTS
"We expect the trout fishing in 2008 to match the excellent 2007 season, when hatchery production reached a total of 668,000 fish," said Dr. Ken Simmons, MassWildlife's chief of hatcheries.

"This included 60 percent rainbow trout, 16 percent brook trout, 23 percent brown trout and one percent tiger trout." (Tiger trout are brook trout-brown trout hybrids.)

"Of the 668,000 fish stocked, 60,000 were stocked in the fall and the remainder during the spring," Simmons continued. "More than 75 percent of the rainbow trout stocked were more than 12 inches long, with most fish averaging more than 14 inches long.

"All of 8,000-plus tiger trout stocked exceeded 14 inches. Statewide, more than 1,300 trophy class fish (larger than 18 inches) were also stocked. All fish stocked during the fall period averaged more than 12 inches long."Bay State trout are distributed to about 500 lakes, ponds, brooks and streams statewide.

"Best bets for trout would include Quabbin Reservoir in the central region of the state," Simmons said.

"More than 5,000 rainbow trout averaging 14-plus inches are stocked in Quabbin annually. Holdover rainbows up to 4 pounds have become common. In addition, Quabbin also has a productive lake trout and landlocked salmon fishery.

"Other best bets include Onota Lake in Pittsfield in the western part of the state and Long Pond in Plymouth in southeastern Massachusetts," Simmons said.

"In addition to having excellent holdover populations of trout, both lakes receive regular stockings during the spring and fall."

The www.masswildlife.com Web site lists all stocked waters, by wildlife district and by body of water. The site also offers weekly updates during the spring stocking season, which begins in March.

At this Web site, you can also find fishing regulations, destinations and more. Or call the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife at (508) 389-6300 for information.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
"The predominance of trout stocked in New Hampshire are yearlings, which measure eight to 10 inches," said Dianne Timmins, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Coldwater Fisheries Project leader. "In 2007, we stocked about 129,600 brown trout yearlings and 277,105 rainbow trout yearlings.

"A total of 620,265 brook trout were stocked in four different age classes: 159,000 three- to four-inch fingerlings; about 445,000 yearlings; 15,000 eight- to 10-inch 2-year-olds; and about 1,800 3-year-old brook trout measuring greater than 11 inches."

Timmins said weather conditions should contribute to a great 2008 fishing season. She noted that 2005 was a hot, dry year, "while 2006 featured a wet spring and fall.

In 2007, we had wet periods in spring, but fortunately we did not experience any flooding. 2007 has been a really neutral year. Conditions have not gone beyond the critical zone," she said.

"With these weather conditions, the fish have been able to swim where they want, when they want. That makes it hard for anglers, so a lot more fish out there are going to hold over unless we have a hard winter. 2008 has the potential for a better over-wintering population than in the past."

Timmins noted that New Hampshire, too, has been busy with brook trout studies over the 2007 season. The state was selected to develop methods for sampling wild brook trout and habitat for the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, using special maps created to predict where brook trout populations should be extinct, moderate or intact.

The department is also studying the passability of culverts along Nash Stream in Stark by implanting passive, integrated transponder tags in brook trout, slimy sculpins and dace. Only two culverts, at Long Mountain Brook and Johnson Brook, were studied the first year. The department will focus on less accessible culverts in 2008. Information is gathered each time a tagged fish swims past antenna located upstream and downstream of the culverts, and the information is later downloaded to department computers for analysis.

It didn't take extra research for Timmins to recommend some best-bet trout holes for 2008.

"The Connecticut River is always good," she said. "The upper section is more prized. Some sections are fly- fishing only. The lower end, below Murphy Dam, is open to all anglers. And then north of Murphy, there are special regulations areas, fly-fishing-only stretch and some sections that are catch-and-release only.

"Signs were put up but sometimes people pull then down, so I would encourage anglers to reference their law books," she advised.

Above Murphy, there are brook trout predominately. Below Murphy, there are brookies, browns and rainbows.

"And don't neglect the tributaries," Timmons concluded. "Some northern hotspots include the Mohawk River in Colebrook and Simms Stream in Columbia. Both have multiple trout species and good access. For central New Hampshire, try the Mascoma River in West Lebanon and the Sugar River in Clearmont, which has wild rainbow trout as well as a population of stocked trout."

RHODE ISLAND
The Ocean State's Department of Environmental Management, Fish and Wildlife Division stocks over 180,000 trout annually, according to Christine A. Dudley, supervising biologist for freshwater fisheries.

Fish are stocked at nearly 100 sites, and stockings take place three times each spring, twice in the fall and once again over the winter for hardwater anglers.

"We stock approximately 40 percent brown trout, 40 percent brook trout and 20 percent rainbow trout statewide," Dudley said. "In addition, the division provides fish for children's programs through the Aquatic Resource Education Program.

Opening Day is April 12, 2008, Dudley noted, and it's "always a big day for Rhode Island's families, with numerous children's programs and opening day breakfasts being offered by various organizations.

"We have great opportunities all over, but anglers can consistently find excellent fishing on the Wood River in Hope Valley, Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond, Carbuncle Pond in Coventry, Saint Mary's Pond in Middletown and the Pawcatuck River in Westerly. The Blackstone River has also become popular for a variety of fishing experiences in many fine access points. We have children-only sites as well.

There are countless lakes, brooks, streams, rivers and ponds for trout anglers tochoose from. Better yet, over4 million trout are stockedinto New England's public-access waters each year.

"We anticipate an excellent fishing season in 2008," she concluded.

"We have a new initiative on the Pawcatuck. Sea-run brown trout have been stocked for the last two years and are beginning to return from the estuary. This should also prove to be an exciting fishery."For more information about Rhode Island's fishing regulations, destinations or stocking schedules, you can visit www.dem.ri.gov

VERMONT
Each year, fisheries in the Green Mountain State pour more than 840,000 trout of varying sizes and species into Vermont's waters.

Though many of these are tiny fry, the state also stocks yearling and 2-year-old trout.

According to Rich Kirn, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist, while 164,723 steelhead fry were released last year that will take a while to grow to catchable size, 2008 anglers can also look forward to catching some of the 63,716 yearling steelies released.

A total of 267,860 brook trout were released. Of those, 85,091 were yearlings and more than 6,500 were good-sized 2-year-olds. Brown trout yearlings totaled nearly 127,000, and about 3,000 2-year-olds were stocked.

A total of 125,740 or so yearling rainbow trout were poured into Vermont waters, along with 12,340 2-year-olds. Lake trout yearlings released in 2007 totaled 75,755.

The department is in the early stages of a six-year management plan targeted toward restoring habitat and managing wild trout on the Batten Kill without stocking.

In southwestern Vermont, the Batten Kill is a popular destination for brookies and brown trout. Due to strong public opposition to stocking, there are no plans to stock trout in the Batten Kill during the life of the 2007 to 2012 management plan.

As always, Lake Champlain is the crown jewel of Vermont's fishing destination lineup. However, anglers won't want to miss out on the state's many other fine fishing waters.

"Vermont is fortunate to support a wealth of wild trout fisheries," Kirn noted. "Abundant wild brook trout waters are available throughout the state in our smaller coldwater streams. Wild brook, brown and rainbow trout are found in mid-sized to larger streams, with portions of seven large rivers managed with special wild trout regulations." Those rivers include the Dog, White, Lamoille, Winooski, New Haven and Mettawee rivers, and the Batten Kill.

"In addition to these wild trout waters," Kirn concluded, "Vermont provides many larger lakes that produce quality brown trout, rainbow trout and lake trout fishing, including Lake Willoughby, Lake Seymour, Caspian Lake, Harveys Lake, the Waterbury Reservoir and Lake St. Catherine. Numerous small ponds support excellent brook trout fishing, as well."

For a copy of the Batten Kill Trout Management Plan, as well as current fishing regulations, stocking schedules and destination information, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com

Find more about New Englandfishing and hunting atNewEnglandGameandFish.com

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