Here's a look at what New England's trout anglers can expect as they make plans for their 2009 fishing adventures. (March 2009)
There's a reason why New England's trout anglers are die-hard fans of the species -- the fishing is so great here! This region has more wild brook trout habitat than any other part of the country. Stocked ponds, roaring rivers and deep, cool lakes will provide great fishing right through the dog days of summer.
Each state manages its trout resources through stocking and a variety of season dates, length and creel limits. To better manage brookies, browns, rainbows and lake trout, many states have gone to water-specific regulations, so before venturing out, be sure to check the most current law book in your state.
Biologists were more than happy to provide updates on trout management news this year, as well as their picks for best-bet fishing holes. Here's what they had to say:
Browns, brookies, rainbows and tiger trout (a brown trout-brook trout hybrid) are stocked into Connecticut's public-access waters each year.
Last year, more than 700,000 adult and "specialty" trout were stocked into more than 200 rivers and streams and more than 100 lakes and ponds.
More than half of the state's trout allotment is stocked prior to the spring open-water season.
The Farmington River is stocked multiple times over the summer. Nearly 40 lakes and 20 rivers, including a number of trout-management areas, also receive fall infusions of trout. When available, hefty brood stock trout also get stocked.
"Seasonal TMAs stocked with trout in early March improve immediately during the catch-and-release period before the opening-day harvest begins," said Michael Humphreys, a Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection fisheries biologist and the state's Wild Trout Project leader. "Once the regular season opens, there are many good and predictable opportunities for excellent fishing for stocked trout."
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has plans underway to develop and improve runs of sea-run brown trout in certain coastal streams. In recent years, thousands of juvenile browns, as well as yearling brown trout and tiger trout, have been stocked into these waters.
"The cool, wet summer of 2008 was generally good for trout survival and growth," Humphreys said, "and many wild-trout fisheries have rebounded from the droughts and floods in 2005-06.
"Merrick Brook, the Tankerhoosen River and the Mill River are at the top of our Class 1 Wild Trout Management Areas, open year 'round for catch-and-release fishing for wild brook and brown trout."
He said that early-season fishing on these waters could be especially fine during those years when spring arrives early. He also noted that the Upper Housatonic River TMA was stocked last fall with a substantially increased number (1,200) of large brown trout that should hold over and offer excellent fishing this spring.
"In early May," he said, "the West Branch Farmington River TMA will be stocked with about 1,000 large brown trout from 16 to 18 inches long. These Farmington-survivor-strain fish have proven to be fairly easy to catch and are very strong fighters, making them very popular with anglers. In addition, our surveys last September revealed many large brown trout."
For more Connecticut trout-fishing information, call 1-860-424-3474, or visit www.ct.gov/dep.
The Pine Tree State is one of the last bastions of excellent wild brook trout habitat in the East, in addition to having all-around excellent coldwater fisheries.
Each year, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's regional and research fisheries biologists spend a significant amount of time in the field gathering data, according to Joe Dembeck, an MDIFW research fishery biologist.
"The department is always looking into trout-fishing regulations that will provide the best opportunity to manage waters for trophy fish, quality fish or high catch rates," he said.
"As you can imagine, no single regulation can be effective for all these different types of trout fisheries," Dembeck added. "Therefore, we focus on determining different types of regulations that will protect wild fisheries, provide the diversity that anglers look for and allow the effective use of stocked trout in waters that don't offer suitable conditions for wild trout populations."
Each state manages its trout resources through stocking and a variety of season dates, length and creel limits.
Over the last three years, they've tried to simplify the law book for anglers by condensing the number of regulations for brook trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon. A new combined law book for open-water and ice-fishing is now in the works and will take effect April 1, 2010.
"There will be some water-specific changes concerning trout in this new law book," he said. "But the most noticeable changes will probably be expanded fishing opportunities during the open-water and ice-fishing seasons for warmwater species, as well as put-and-take stocked trout waters.
"Throughout the state, the preliminary outlook for trout fishing in 2009 looks to be very good," he added, noting that weather will play a role in determining the season's outcome.
Heavy spring stocking in put-and-take waters in late April and early May will provide anglers with opportunities closer to home, he said. And in Maine's western mountains, wild trout ponds will be teeming with hungry fish from mid-May through July. (Continued)
Excellent early-season waters on Dembeck's short list include the Androscoggin River in Bethel and upstream, the Kennebeck River in the tailwaters of Shawmut Dam and the section from Madison upstream to Bingham, and the Magalloway River.
Auburn Lake should be a good early-season hotspot, and Sebago Lake's hot action is pretty much year-round. Rangeley Lake is another good water for early trout.
For when waters warm later in the season, Dembeck recommended the East and West outlets of Moosehead Lake, the big lake and the Roach River in Kokadjo.
For more fishing information, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries
and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit www.maine.gov/ifw.
The Bay State has an ambitious stocking program, focusing primarily on put-and-take waters.
"We're dealing with 400,000 pounds of fish," said Dr. Ken Simmons, who runs the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's trout-hatchery program.
"That's about 550,000 fish going out. About 70 percent will be rainbow trout, most of which will be over 12 inches. Plus a good number will be over 14 inches."
Simmons said that the state's hatchery program is on track, and its production goals remain stable from year to year.
"We have a standard list of about 500 stocked waters across the state," he said. "The list is reviewed each year and is posted on our Web site by town and region. Water quality or access issues are about the only reasons why the list might change.
"We do get annual requests from fishermen to add or remove waters, and we take those into consideration," Simmons noted. "We look at the water quality, access and what kind of trout would be suitable.
"We're divided into five wildlife districts," he explained. "Each has a fisheries manager -- it's their decision. Once the trout are allocated, the district biologists will determine the stocking schedule, how many fish and which species to stock."
Simmons said that rainbow trout are "our bread-and-butter fish" for production and for angler satisfaction.
"A lot of what we do is put-and-take, so long-term survival is not a big issue. We try to give anglers a good return for their license money," he added.
Massachusetts has a fair amount of habitat for wild brook trout, though it's under pressure from development, pollution and other factors. Simmons said that for wild trout, the state's western and central regions have been the historical destinations.
"Our wild trout are confined mostly to rivers and small streams," he said.
"The Quashnet River out on Cape Cod is open to catch-and-release fishing. Red Brook, at the head of the Cape, is also open to catch-and-release fishing."
Simmons' early-season picks include Hamblin Pond in Barnstable, Long Pond in Plymouth, Asnacomet Pond in Hubbardston (which gets a good allocation of trout each year), Onota Lake near Pittsfield and Stockbridge Lake in Stockbridge.
Other good trout waters to try this season include the Deerfield and Millers rivers, he said. Both are heavily stocked in partnership with local Trout Unlimited groups.
For more Massachusetts fishing information, call (508) 389-6300, or visit www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw. NEW HAMPSHIRE
The Granite State is on target with stocking numbers, according to Dianne Timmins, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Coldwater Fisheries Project leader. Most fish stocked are yearlings.
Annual target numbers are approximately 132,120 brown trout, 438,470 yearling brook trout, 14,515 two-year-old brook trout, 1,685 three-year-old brook trout, 41,500 brook fingerlings, 277,925 rainbow yearlings and surplus fish that are randomly available most years.
Fisheries managers are spending a great deal of their time on habitat-restoration projects for brook trout, Timmins said.
"The fishing should be good in 2009," she said. "Last year, we hardly had a summer until the very end. It was bad for humans, but great for the fish. In fact, we've had good conditions for fish for the past two years.
"When there is a lot of rain, there's better productivity because the storms wash a lot of food into the water. Windstorms and the tornado in the mid-southern part of the state knocked down a lot of trees. Usually when that happens, it changes the habitat, but increases productivity in brook trout."
The Connecticut River tops Timmins' go-to list.
"All the rivers in the state are really good in the spring because we conduct most stockings before the season opens," she noted.
"Most streams have some natural reproduction as well. Spring is a good time to fish because coming out of winter, the trout are hungry."
Timmins said that Back Lake in Pittsburg gets 11,000 trout each year and is closed to ice-fishing, making it a sweet spot for spring anglers. She said that in the spring, anglers should hit Clarksville Pond because stocked trout there don't hold over the summer. Upper Hall in Sandwich is another good bet for spring trout.
Winnipesaukee is a reliable trout hotspot throughout the season, and Spoonwood Lake often remains productive into the summer.
"Umbagog Lake is a good one if you fish the upper section," Timmins said. "You get the fish coming out of the rapids. The Magalloway River is always good.
"Christine Lake is a good one for brown trout. It's difficult to fish because the lake is deep, but there are some good browns in there."
Timmins also recommended the Androscoggin River.
"The lower section is catch-and-release now, and it always makes for a fun float trip," she said. "The Ammonoosuc River is good for probably the first three-quarters of the summer, but the upper end stays cooler longer. As summer heats up, anglers should focus on the top section."
For more fishing information, visit the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
The Ocean State also has some great freshwater opportunities. For the April 11 opening day this year, an estimated 20,000 anglers are expected to turn out on the hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams that are managed for trout.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife runs a busy stocking program designed to augment natural populations and keep up with angler demand. Each year, the DEM raises some 180,000 brookies, browns and rainbow trout. Some waters are stocked in spring only, while others get additional fish in fall.
Last fall, according to Christine Dudley, the DEM's supervising biologist for freshwater fisheries, about 10,000 rainbow and brown trout were stocked in over 15 locations statewide. Additional fish are stocked prior to the ice-fishing season, and the most fish are stocked in spring.
"Trout species stocked each year depend upon availability and suitability," she said. "For example, rainbows and browns are best in areas where the water temperatures may be higher, and they last longer. The Blackstone River ha
s many fine areas to fish, and we put rainbows there as well. Rainbow trout also grow larger than the others. Many fishermen are quite pleased to pull in a 3-pounder from time to time.
"We are still supporting the sea-run brown trout program on the Pawcatuck," she continued, "and it is going well. The 2009 season should be phenomenal. Over 70,000 trout will be stocked, and the opportunities for anglers will be great."
Dudley encourages families to fish together this year, and grandparents should not be afraid to introduce their grandchildren to the sport.
"We have several universally accessible fishing areas in the state," she said, "including Carbuncle Pond in Coventry, Silver Spring in North Kingstown, Melville Pond in Portsmouth and Barberville Pond on the Wood River in Arcadia.
"Our Aquatic Resource Education Program has a variety of programs to introduce the public to the sport of spin-cast or fly-fishing."
For more Rhode Island fishing information, call (401) 789-7481, or visit www.dem.ri.gov.
The Green Mountain State has plentiful wild trout fisheries, an ambitious stocking program and, in northeastern Vermont waters, a migratory spring steelhead run to keep anglers occupied this season.
Rich Kirn is a trout team leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. He said that about 25 percent of annual stockings in most waters are comprised of two-year-old trout, ranging from 14 to 18 inches.
These include the Adams Reservoir in Woodford, May Pond in Barton and Miller Pond in Strafford, which receive large brook trout.
Echo Lake in Plymouth, Raponda Lake in Wilmington and the Townshend Reservoir are among the many waters that receive infusions of big rainbow trout.
Several of Vermont's rivers are also stocked with larger trout. The Black River receives browns and rainbows. Sweet spots can be found from Howard's Hill Bridge downstream to Downers Covered Bridge.
The Lamoille River is stocked with browns. Try fishing from the Fairfax Dam to Route 128. Or fish for big rainbows along the Winooski River from the Route 2/100 bridge to Bolton Dam.
The Northeast Kingdom offers a variety of hotspots to explore.
"When trout season opens, the best fishing is for steelhead below the falls on the Willoughby River in Orleans and below the falls on the Black River in Coventry Village," said Jud Kratzer, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist. "When the water warms up, people will start fishing above the falls on these two rivers and above Orleans Village on the Barton River. The steelhead fishing action continues into early June."
Kratzer noted that anglers might enjoy early-season success by fishing the mouths of tributary streams that dump into any lake where rainbow trout are stocked.
Len Gerardi, also a fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife, said that many waters in the state are mainly put-and-take spring fisheries for brook trout, but noted that some waters have the potential for holdover brookies later in the season.
These include Center Pond in Newark, Lewis Pond in the Conte National Wildlife Refuge and Long Pond in Westmore.
For more information about the state's trout-fishing opportunities, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit www.vtfish andwildlife.com.