The beginning of summer doesn’t have to be the end of great trout fishing in New York.
By Thomas Ham
After the melee of spring it seems only diehard trout fishermen continue seeking the fussy fish. Trout fishing certainly doesn’t get any easier as streams warm and trout grow more educated. Eventually the crowds begin shifting their romance to warm-water species more likely to strike anything that moves.
Conventional wisdom states trout fishing dies off in summer, but the truth is trout don’t take vacations from eating.
The enduring reputation for tough summer trout fishing rages on because most anglers are unwilling to change tactics. Just because the game gets tough doesn’t mean it’s over, teams still score without the lead.
Heading into the summer trout fishermen should accept that success will most likely come in the early morning or late evening hours, which means you will be dealing with either alarm clocks or a slog back to the car after sundown. Trout aren’t big fans of sunlight exposure in the first place, and they sure don’t appreciate it when it increases temperatures on their already warming environment. If early or late times don’t fit your schedule, you can always attempt to fish deeper runs with cooler temps — the places of refuge for weary trout. So don’t give up on trout too soon — instead, consider the following streams to kick off your summer with some great fishing.
CARMAN’S RIVER — LONG ISLAND
This fly-fishing only gem of Suffolk County rolls along for 10 miles, and is mostly fresh water until tidal influence from the Great South Bay pushes in on the bottom. Largely designated as a scenic or recreational river, Carman’s is generated by groundwater and benefits from stable flows despite lower rain levels in recently.
At Brookhaven the river gets stocked a handful of times in March and April, with a booster in May. While it does receive its fair share of stocked rainbow and brown trout (between 2,500 and 3,000), plenty of wild brookies have also been fooled and landed. If you’re lucky enough for that, you’ll need to exercise a brief celebration before turning it loose as brook trout must be released. Brown and rainbows, however, come with a 9-inch minimum, three-per-day limit.
As to be expected, fishing pressure dips off in June but the trout will still be there. June of 2016 recorded a catch rate of half a fish per hour and 2017 boasted a much better two fish per hour.
Located in a county park, there is a small fee to fish, and a New York fishing license is still required. Once signed in at the boat house, anglers can drive close to their spot.
Like many other trout streams in June, Caddis patterns are a solid choice; the Carman’s fishes well with grey, green and tan sizes 14 through 18. Blue Winged Olives work, as do Sulphurs and Light Cahills. Towards the end of the month you’d want to keep an eye out for an early Trico hatch.
COHOCTON RIVER — LIVINGSTON AND STEUBEN COUNTIES
The Cohocton is a nice choice for fisherman wishing to feel away from it all but not be too far from their vehicle; its waters meander through a valley hosting woods, farmlands and wetlands.
Though stocked with plenty of brown trout, many sections of the Cohocton and its tributaries hold wild browns and a sprinkling of wild brook trout, which are mostly in its cooler headwaters.
In 2017 more than 9,600 brown trout were stocked in the river between March and June. Almost a quarter of the stocked trout were 12- to 15-inch fish. Of the daily limit of five, only two can be over 12 inches, ensuring everyone gets a crack at those 2-year-olds. Even with a hefty daily creel limit, many of the fish hold over into the fall. Trout fishermen eager to know stocking points can call the Region 8 fisheries department in early March for clues.
Spin-tackle fishermen will have good luck with Roostertails and Panther Martins until a discernible hatch tempts the fish with tasty winged morsels. As always, where legal, worms will do the trick.
The Cohocton falls under different rules depending on location, so check the regulation book to understand where the “artificial lures only” sections exist on this water.
For topwater fly action, anglers have a chance to work the vestiges of a Sulphur hatch, but can look forward to solid Golden Drake and Trico hatches in June.
NINEMILE CREEK — ONONDAGA COUNTY
A hop, skip and a jump from Syracuse, Ninemile Creek is a heavily stocked water with 5 miles of public fishing rights lining its banks. Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery places approximately 18,000 fish into the stream, 4,300 of which are two-year-old brown trout falling in the 12- to 14-inch range. Brook trout are also stocked and anglers might get into some rainbows and wild browns as well. The 2017 stocking schedule called for an excess of 30,000 fish placed in the waters, giving anglers plenty of opportunities.
With that many fish in the stream, holdovers are inevitable and those fish get wise. Anglers chasing the bigger, older trout need to practice stealth and concealment, perhaps even fishing nocturnally to land a trophy-sized fish.
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The stream has easy access with four parking lots along Route 174 between Marcellus and Camillus, a lot and kayak launch just south of Amboy and another in Marcellus County Park.
From April 1 through Oct. 15 there is no minimum size and the daily limit is five (with only two over 12 inches). Anglers may use any tackle in much of the stream, but the section from the Amboy Dam to Onondaga Lake is open to all-year fishing that is catch-and-release only.
Fly fishermen will succeed using March Browns, Green Drakes and Green Caddis. Those hatches typically fire up in May and last well into June, giving way to a Golden Drake hatch lasting into July. Light Cahills also hatch in June.
ORISKANY CREEK — MADISON AND ONEIDA COUNTIES
Oriskany Creek flows through both fisheries regions 6 and 7, originating at the Dutch Canal in Madison County and flowing to the Oriskany falls in Onieda County. There are 16 miles of public fishing rights along the banks with plenty of parking.
The section in Region 7 is chock-full of wild brown trout and not stocked at all. Region 6 gets stocked with an excess of 8,000 brown trout, a mixture of both yearlings and two-year-old fish. Some stockings occur in June. Region 6 also had fingerlings stocked at 4 to 5 inches in October and those fish should grow to 9 inches by July.
Steps have been taken by the fisheries department to introduce Oriskany spawned trout to their hatchery brood for a new strain of vigorous browns.
Spring fed, the Oriskany runs cool throughout the summer and at about 45 degrees in winter months, giving the browns a chance to grow and thrive all year. The healthy catch rate surpasses the catch-rate goal of half a fish per hour. Dry summers can wreak havoc on the lower section, which slows to a low and clear 60- to 80-foot-wide creek at times, but the upper section will still fish well, being much narrower and consisting of more riffles and deeper pools.
Surveys indicate low fishing pressure on the Oriskany, which creates many opportunities to fool some trout. Anglers need to be aware of a regulation shift in Onieda County, downstream of Deansboro, where the fishing is “artificial lure only, catch and release” outside of the usual trout season.
CLEAR CREEK (ELLINGTON) — CHAUTAUQUA AND CATTARAUGUS COUNTIES
Originating near the former Cockaigne Ski Area, the Clear flows 13 miles to the Conewango Creek, and has public fishing rights for over 10 miles of its banks, making it one of the most completely accessible waters in western New York.
Annual stocking stopped in 2010 as the stream is now full of wild brown trout. Some upper sections contain 2,500 adult fish per mile, while lower sections hit 950 per mile. Overall the stream holds an average of more than 1,000 adult fish per mile. Wild rainbows, most likely illegally stocked by rascally anglers, have also been caught.
The Clear has an interesting tendency to flow below the surface at times, which has a cooling effect on the stream even though technically it isn’t spring-fed but instead relies of rainfall and snowmelt. Sometimes lower portions of the stream take on a different appearance as storm waters can shift the gravelly stream beds.
It does tend to get lower in the summer but with a wet spring June can have great flows and solid hatches.
Regardless of tackle, a savvy angler can haul out some big fish after a storm when the waters begin to rise and have yet to cloud up.
The stream does have a year-around fishery designation which includes a “catch and release, artificial lures only” season from Oct. 16 to March 31. Otherwise anglers will abide by the usual daily limit of five with no more than two 12-plus-inchers.
Trout fishermen will have no issues finding a place to park, with plenty of angler lots near Ellington, bridge lots along the way and road access.
BEAVER KILL, ULSTER, DELAWARE AND SULLIVAN COUNTIES
The west has become a nauseatingly popular marketing tool for fly fishing, gaining poster child status on everything from high profile conservation issues to magazine covers hawking 18 inch cutthroats as the end all be all of trout fishing.
The simple fact that our angling heritage has not only stretched westward, but conquered the region, is a nod to its place of genesis, which inarguably is the Catskill region of New York.
Rich in history, the Catskills were established as an angler hotspot over 100 years ago due to great conditions and close proximity to New York City. Several names from fly fishing lore are connected to the region — the Wulffs, the Darbees, and the Dettes to name a few.
The Catskills are also responsible for the most recognizable fly pattern in the sport, the Catskill Dry fly, which may not be used as often today due to improvements over time, but is still etched in the brains of many anglers.
Trout fishing in this region both starts and ends with the Beaver Kill. This waterway emanates in the mountains of Hardenburgh and flows 40-plus miles to the East Branch Delaware River. Sections known as upper and lower become so at the confluence of the Willowemoc Creek.
Anglers will get into plenty of wild brown trout in both the upper and lower sections, and the upper section contains wild brookies, which become more prolific the further up you go. Stocked and naturally reproducing rainbows are also in the mix. In 2017 the DEC stocked 14,400-plus brown trout between both Sullivan and Delaware counties. Rainbows are often placed by private outfits.
The hatches are legendary and consistent to this day, so much so that the popularity of fly fishing trumps bait fishing even where bait is legal. The public fishing rights cover most of the banks on the lower section with plenty of parking near most towns and bridges.
According to Joe Fox, owner of Dette Trout Flies in Roscoe, the season peaks the first week of June with the arrival of Green and Brown Drake hatches, after which it turns to summer fishing conditions. The Isonychia, Sulphurs and some March Browns are also major hatches.
Being a freestone stream the Beaver Kill can change a bit as June transitions spring into summer.
“Once we get into the summer conditions in the second half of the month, we see a lot of Sulphurs, Dorotheras, Isonychia and Blue Winged Olive,” said Fox. “The flows should be under 1,000 cfs at the Cooks Falls gauge to be wadeable but 300 to 750 is the ideal range.”
Anglers should consult the regulations book for closed seasons and catch and release rules.