Here's a look at what's in store for New England's trout fishermen in 2010. (March 2010)
When it comes to trout, New England's anglers are luckier than most. Habitat improvement and stocking programs continue throughout the region. In addition to stocked brown trout, rainbows and brookies, New England boasts healthy populations of wild lake trout. New England, especially Maine, provides one of the last strongholds of native Eastern brook trout in the U.S.
Here's a roundup of state-by-state management updates and biologists' best-bet waters for 2010:
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's trout-stocking program is one of the highest priorities of its Inland Fisheries Division, according to Michael Humphreys, a DEP fisheries biologist and the state's Wild Trout Project leader.
"Our program is continually reevaluated and small adjustments are made each year," Humphreys said. "For example, there was an intentional slight reduction in trout densities in a few hatchery production ponds in order to produce larger, healthier fish. Humphreys was happy to share a few best bets for year-round trout action.
Humphreys said that fishing success at this time of year is highly dependent on water temperatures and flows. Several of the smaller Class 1 Wild Trout Management Areas are more consistent and predictable at this time of year, including Merrick Brook, Pootatuck River, the Tankerhoosen River and the Mill River in Fairfield.
"When flows and temperatures are suitable, early-season fishing for holdovers on the Housatonic and Farmington rivers can be amazing," he added, "and the Naugatuck TMA will be full of large recently stocked trout. Most of the seasonal catch-and-release areas are stocked in early March, and fishing for recently stocked trout can be very good in March and early April."
Humphreys said these waters included the Salmon River, the fly-fishing-only area of the Saugatuck, the Mianus River TMA, the lower Farmington River TMA, Hammonasset River TMA and the lower Mill River-Fairfield TMA.
"The Farmington remains cold and is stocked into July," he said. "It also supports many holdover and wild brown trout. Many of the Class 3 Wild Trout Management Areas support trout year 'round and provide good opportunities to catch a mix of sizes of trout when flows are not dead low."
These include the Fenton, East Aspetuck and Blackberry rivers. Fall trout fishing will be especially good in seasonal TMAs and Trout Parks that receive fall infusions of stocked trout, Humphreys said.
"Lakes that are stocked with trout are listed in the anglers guide," he noted. "All offer reasonably good opportunities to catch stocked trout in spring during the regular open season. A few of these waters offer opportunities to catch large holdover trout."
Lakes swimming with large holdover trout include Candlewood, Highland and Waramaug, he said. When winter rolls around, try fall-winter stocked waters like Mt. Tom Pond, Tyler Lake and Stillwater Pond.
"The summer of 2009 was exceptionally cool and rainy, with consistently high flows," Humphreys said. "In general, this was good for trout survival and growth. There should be significantly more large holdover trout in many streams, some of which do not normally hold many trout from one year to the next."
For more Connecticut fishing information, call (860) 424-3474 or visit www.ct.gov/dep.
The Bay State's trout-stocking program remains stable, according to Dr. Ken Simmons, who runs the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's trout hatchery program.
There have been no big changes to stocking rates in the Granite State, 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 2-year-old brook trout, 1,685 3-year-old brook trout, 41,500 brook trout fingerlings, 277,925 rainbow trout yearlings and surplus fish that are available most years.
"We have started to review trout ponds for their current management and stocking rates," Timmins said. "A lot of our trout ponds have had illegal introductions of bass or pike, and at this point some of these waters need to be reviewed for trout growth. When this happens, trout growth can decline, as well as trout condition and quality.
"The trophic status of some of the ponds has also changed, resulting in higher water temperatures and poor dissolved oxygen levels, which can be stressful to trout," she continued. "This occurrence is happening naturally, but it does warrant review of our rates in the ponds that are affected. Some stocking rates may change after our review."
The rainy summer of 2009 was a boon to New Hampshire's mature trout, Timmins said.
"The rain seemed to be welcomed by adult fish because more food gets washed in, they are mobile and can find refuge," she said. "It can affect juveniles because they are less mobile and their habitat can get filled in with sediment. I did not notice any reduction in some of our long-term index sites, so I am going to say the rain didn't seem to affect things this year."
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has been working for the past few years on habitat restoration along Nash Stream to restore the main stream and create pool habitat while also increasing the sinuosity of the main channel.
"The river was straightened after a dam blew out in 1969," Timmins said. "It sent a wall of water down the river and caused major channelization and riparian destruction. Work will continue with 'chop and crop' (elimination of woody materials) and removal of the culvert on Farrer Brook. Also, plans include moving the road in a section where it is too close to the river and erosion has occurred."
Timmins said that early-season fishing is good throughout the state.
"Southern waters tend to heat up faster," she said, "but when fishing opening day, temperatures are still good. Also, most waters will have all been freshly stocked, so fishing is usually topnotch in the beginning."
New Hampshire's larger lakes hold their own through the heat of summer, and trout can be found by fishing deep, she said. The state's mountainous brooks and streams also continue to offer good fishing, as do spring-fed waters.
"Try Lake Francis, Winnipesaukee, Squa
m, Nubanusit and Spofford lakes," Timmins said. "Also, try rivers with bottom flow dams, such as the Magalloway and the Connecticut."
Fall fishing, she said, is good on the Androscoggin and Cocheco rivers, Highland Lake in Andover, Manning Lake in Gilmanton and at Dublin and Pleasant lakes.
For trout through the ice, try Stinson, Waukewan or Webster lakes and Streeter, Akers, French and Tewksbury ponds.
For more New Hampshire fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or visit www.wildlife.state. nh.us.
On the second Saturday of April each year, an estimated 20,000 anglers will line the shores for the first day of open-water trout season -- and with good reason. This might be the smallest New England state, but Rhode Island has an ambitious freshwater stocking program. There are hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams that are freshly stocked and waiting for the arrival of eager anglers.
The state Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife operates a generous stocking program to supplement wild trout numbers and keep pace with angler demand.
Each year, the DEM raises about 180,000 brookies, browns and rainbow trout. Some waters are spring-stocked only, while others get additional fish each fall. About 70,000 trout are stocked annually -- 10,000 in the fall and the majority in the spring.
According to Christine Dudley, the DEM's supervising biologist for freshwater fisheries, trout species stocked each year depend upon availability and suitability. Rainbows and browns are best in areas where the water temperatures may be higher and longer lasting, Dudley said. The Blackstone River is one such water that is stocked with rainbow trout and offers anglers many fine areas to fish.
Watchaug Pond is a Designated Trout Water that is mostly within Burlingame State Park in Charleston. For access to the 573-acre pond via the state park, take U.S. Route 1 in Charlestown to the park entrance.
Stafford Pond in Tiverton is a Designated Trout Water that gets extra infusions of fish each spring and fall. There's a state-owned boat ramp here and plenty of parking. Access is off Route 81.
Other Designated Trout Waters that receive extra fish each spring and fall and offer anglers state-owned access include Beach Pond in Exeter, Meadow Brook Pond in Richmond and the Moosup River in Coventry.
For more Rhode Island fishing information, call (401) 789-7481, or visit www.dem.ri.gov.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has a hefty stocking program, a migratory spring run of steelhead in the northeastern portion of the state and a strong population of wild trout for anglers to target.
Rich Kirn, trout team leader for the department, said that about 25 percent of annual stockings in many waters consist of 2-year-old trout ranging from 14 to 18 inches. These include Baker Pond in Brookfield, Osmore Pond in Peacham and the Searsburg Reservoir, which receive large brook trout.
Amherst Lake in Plymouth, Mill Pond in Windsor and Rescue Lake in Ludlow receive big rainbow trout.
Several of Vermont's rivers are stocked with big rainbows and brown trout. Try East Creek from Patch Pond Dam downstream to Otter Creek or the Passumpsic River from the I-91 bridge to Arnolds Falls.
According to Jud Kratzer, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist, the best fishing for steelhead trout is below the falls on the Willoughby River in Orleans or below the falls on the Black River in Coventry Village.
"When the water warms up, people will start fishing above the falls on these two rivers and above Orleans Village on the Barton River," Kratzer said. "Steelhead fishing continues into early June."
For more Green Mountain State fishing information, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit the Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.