Nutmeg State biologists have responded to anglers' surveys by creating special regulations governing select trout waters statewide, including some that are new for 2003.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
By Robert Sadowski
No matter what type of trout fisherman you are, Connecticut has a stream or river for you.
Connecticut's Trout Management Program is the culmination of a 13-year sport-fishing project. The state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered that there were anglers who practice catch-and-release and others who like to catch and keep their fish. Some want to catch trophy-sized fish and others want to catch a lot of fish of any size. There are even anglers who prefer the fight of a wild, non-stocked trout to stocked hatchery fish. And then there are those whose quarry is sea-run trout.
The DEP stocks trout raised at its two hatcheries, filling Connecticut's streams, brooks, rivers and lakes with about 700,000 to 800,000 brook, rainbow and brown trout.
"Mostly brown trout are raised," said Tim Barry, the DEP's Western District fisheries biologist. "Years ago, it was decided to stock browns because browns have a higher tolerance to heat and are more likely to survive when water levels drop during the summer months. Browns are also harder to catch than brook trout and rainbow trout."
According to Barry, stocking commences in March with yearlings averaging 6 to 8 inches in length and adults that are 9 to 12 inches long. In- season stocking is 50 percent complete by opening day (the third Saturday in April). After opening day, the remaining fish stocking is finished by Memorial Day. Lightly stocked areas receive a second stocking and moderately to heavily stocked areas receive two more loads of trout.
WHAT THE ANGLERS SAID Through angler creel surveys conducted on more than 60 streams, the DEP found that fishermen favored alternatives, and liked the idea of stream-specific management to enhance trout fishing. The DEP also examined nearly 800 streams across the state to determine fish populations, physical habitat and water chemistry. The study identified streams that could support larger trout populations, confirmed the presence of wild trout populations and provided data about streams that could maintain trout populations through summer, as well those that could only support trout during the cool months.
The surveys revealed that the quality of fishing and the diversity of trout angling experiences could be enhanced.
"The creel surveys conducted on fishermen actually fishing the streams revealed that fishermen wanted a variety of products," explained Bill Hyatt, director of Inland Fisheries. "After conceiving the Trout Management Areas (TMAs) plan over a decade ago, and through the stream surveys conducted from the late 1980 to the mid-1990s, we discovered the best way to provide those products within the constraints of our resources."
In 2001, the TMAs were instituted via stream-specific harvest regulations, reduced creel limit and minimum length requirements.
TROUT MANAGEMENT AREAS Trout Management Areas feature area-specific regulations such as fly-fishing and catch-and-release only. These areas may also combine other Trout Management Program categories. For example, the Housatonic River in the western part of the state offers year-round catch-and-release fishing for flyfishermen only. This area starts from the bridge at the intersection of routes 112 and 7 in the towns of Salisbury and Canaan south to Cornwall and Sharon at the bridge where Route 4 crosses Route 7. Farther south on Route 7 in Kent is Bull's Ridge TMA, which is also open year 'round and is catch-and-release only, but it is open to all angling methods. There is also a trout park in Kent at Kent Falls State Park.
Farther south in Derby, Orange, Shelton and Stratford, the Housatonic offers tidal waters with sea-run browns and no closed season.
Here's a look at some other TMA rivers and streams that offer different types of fishing experiences.
Farmington River The Farmington River flows from the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts through the northwest portion of Connecticut to Windsor in the south, where it meets up with the Connecticut River. This river has a year-round flow of cool water that ensures good fishing for trout.
Look for trophy-sized trout from the Goodwin Dam in Hartland downstream to the Route 177 bridge in Unionville. The minimum length here is 10 inches and the daily bag limit is two fish.
At the Farmington's confluence with the Connecticut River below the Rainbow Dam in Windsor, a sea-run trout 15 inches long is a keeper and two fish is the legal limit.
Hammonasset River The Hammonasset River is heavily stocked along Route 80 from Clinton into Madison. The season is open year 'round from Lake Hammonasset Dam to Chestnut Hill Road, but anglers must release all fish from Sept. 1 to the third Saturday in April. After April creel limits are set at two and trout a minimum of 9 inches long. Sea-run trout are available upstream from the Interstate 95 bridge, but they must be 9 inches in length. Past the I-95 bridge, creeled trout must be 15 inches long. The daily limit upstream and downstream from the I-95 bridge is two fish.
Mianus River Trout are heavily stocked in the Mianus River in the Greenwich-Stamford area from Merrybrook Road upstream to the dam. Sea-run trout can be found upstream from Mianus Pond Dam near Boston Post Road.
Pequabuck River Expect to find wild browns mixed with hatchery fish in the Pequabuck River. The area from routes 229 and 72 in Bristol to Route 117 in Plainville is open year 'round under catch-and-release-only regulations, as are the West Branch Farmington River stretches one mile upstream from the Route 318 bridge and downstream to the Route 219 bridge in the towns of Barkhamstead and New Hartford
Saugatuck River Year-round fly-fishing only is allowed in Westport from Dorr's Mill Dam to the Merritt Parkway in the William "Doc" Skerlick TMA on the Saugatuck River. Fishing is catch-and-release only from Sept. 1 to the third Saturday in April, after which the minimum length is 9 inches and the daily creel limit is two fish until Aug. 31. Expect some spots in the river to be heavily stocked.
Bladens Brook From Woodbridge to Seymour, Bladens
Brook is moderately stocked. Native browns can also be caught here. At the Legions Pool from Chatfield Street upstream to the footbridge over Bladens Brook is catch-and-release only. Intermittent sections along the Hockanum River in the towns of Vernon, Ellington, Manchester and East Hartford are heavily stocked.
This TMA is from I-84 in Vernon downstream to where I-84 crosses Laurel Marsh on the Manchester-East Hartford line. It is open to year-round catch-and-release fishing.
Moosup River In Plainfield and Sterling, the Moosup River is heavily stocked with the TMA beginning at Route 14 to where the Moosup flows into the Quinebaug River. The lower portions are fly-fishing and catch-and-release only.
Salmon River The Salmon River flows through the towns of Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton and Haddam and is heavily stocked, offering trophy trout fishing from Colchester to East Hampton. The daily limit is two 9-inch fish.
There is a trout park where the Blackledge and Jeremy rivers flow into the Salmon. Fishing is allowed year 'round. There are also posted sections along the Salmon River that are open to fly-fishing only.
At the junction of the Salmon and the Connecticut River, downstream from Route 151, there are tidal waters that offer sea-run trout.
Willimantic River The Cole Wilde TMA in Tolland and Willington on the Willimantic River starts at the mouth of Roaring Brook and ends downstream at the bridge on Route 74. Fish are heavily stocked in various sections along the Willimantic from the town of Stafford Springs to where it joins the Natchaug River.
In Lebanon from Barstow Road downstream on the Yantic River to the bridge at the intersection of Fitchville and Schwartz roads fly-fishing- only rules are posted. Fishing is catch-and-release only from Sept. 1 to the third Saturday in April, after which two 9-inch trout fill the daily limit.
TROUT PARKS Easy access, ample parking and a frequent stocking schedule best describe Connecticut's trout parks.
"Trout parks have been a phenomenal success," said biologist Hyatt. "They are very popular and successful in attracting families and novice fishermen."
These waters are stocked weekly and offer plenty of open space for easy casting. Fishermen interested in trying fly-fishing for the first time might consider visiting a trout park. Open space and a long fly rod make a happy combination, and the abundant hatchery fish increase the odds of landing a trout on a fly. Spinning gear is also allowed. The creel limit is two fish per day and there is no minimum length.
Black Rock State Park's Branch Brook in Watertown is moderately stocked. The daily creel limit is two trout. Route 80 provides access.
In Killingworth in the southwestern part of the state, try the Chatfield Hollow Pond and brook in Chatfield Hollow State Park. Trout are heavily stocked here and the pond has easily accessible fishing.
In Kent Falls State Park, try Kent Falls Brook below the base of the falls. Trout fishing is good along the banks, but there are plenty of spots that are easy to fish. The area is lightly to moderately stocked.
Route 7 parallels the Housatonic River. If you care to hike and fish, a five-mile portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail skirts the Housatonic through the towns of Kent and Sharon. The trail can be accessed at North Kent Road and River Road in Kent.
Sleeping Giant State Park gets its name from a natural rock formation that resembles a reclining giant. Hatchery-raised fish are released into the Mill River, which runs through the park. The daily limit is two fish of any length.
Eightmile Brook provides easy-access fishing in Southford Falls State Park off Route 188 in Oxford.
Stratton Brook State Park offers an easy place to fill a two-fish limit. Stratton Brook in Simsbury is moderately stocked.
The Natchaug River offers a variety of angling options on one river. The trout park is in Natchaug State Forest in Eastford. The daily creel limit here is two fish with no minimum length.
The Natchaug is also a trophy trout stream.
The Salmon River Trout Park is at the junctions of the Blackledge and Jeremy rivers downstream to the Route 16 bridge. There is a posted fly-fishing-only section about midway. Anglers may keep two fish over 9 inches from the third Saturday in April until Aug. 31. Trophy trout angling is also available.
TROPHY TROUT AREAS Large trout is the name of the game at these TMAs.
"Our Trophy Trout Areas are also very popular," said biologist Hyatt. "More people catch fish in these areas thanks to the creel and size limits and catch-and-release areas. On the Farmington River, for example, the size limit was 10 inches, but in 2003 that has been increased to 11 inches."
The DEP stocks larger trout in these spots. Minimum lengths depend on the stream or river. The daily creel limit is two trout.
From the Goodwin Dam in Hartford downstream to the Route 177 bridge in Unionville, two trout fills the daily limit on the Farmington River. In the West Branch Farmington, about a mile upstream of the Route 138 bridge downstream to the Route 219 bridge, anglers must use only barbless hooks while catch-and-release fishing. Expect larger trout from the confluences of the Naugatuck River's east and west branches to the Kinneytown Dam in Seymour. The daily limit is two fish.
In Trumbull, find the Whitney Avenue bridge and follow the Pequonnock River through Trumbull Basin State Park to the bridge on Daniels Farm Road. The DEP stocks the Pequonnock with a mix of large and small fish.
The Pomperaug River from Woodbury and Southbury is heavily stocked. The bigger fish are between Route 47 and the junctions of the Pomperaug and Lake Zoar.
The entire Natchaug River from Eastford through Chaplin to Windam is trophy fish water. The river is heavily stocked, and the creel limit is two trout per day.
From Colchester, East Haddam and East Hampton, the Salmon River is open to trophy trout angling. Except for the trout park, which is clearly posted, the daily limit is two fish at least 9 inches long.
Trout are heavily stocked on the Shetucket River from Windham through Scotland and Sprague to Norwich. Expect this river to hold larger trout. From the Scotland Dam to the Norwich Dam in Occum, the DEP releases surplus brood stock Atlantic salmon each fall. Salmon fishing is catch-and-release only during specific times of the yea
r, and anglers may keep salmon caught on a fly or lure with a single hook.
SEA-RUN TROUT STREAMS Sea-run brown trout migrate up rivers from the sea to breed in fresh water. These streams are stocked with fingerling and yearling brown trout and have no closed season. The daily creel limit is two fish with a minimum length of 15 inches.
Hyatt said that more research is needed on the types of fish to stock as well as what size and when to stock them.
"The migration factor is a part of the process that can't be controlled, but initial findings are very good and anglers can expect more sea-run fishing in the near future."
For a chance at migrating trout in western Connecticut, try the Farm River and the Hammonasset River above and below I-95, the Mianus River upstream of Mianus Pond Dam in Greenwich-Stamford, and the Saugatuck River downstream of Wood Dam.
In the eastern part of the state, try downstream of the I-95 bridge on Oil Mill Brook and Latimer Brook, downstream of the Route 184 bridge on Whitfords Brook, Devil's Hopyard State Park and sections below to Hamburg Cove on Eightmile River.
WILD TROUT MANAGEMENT AREAS Connecticut's WTMAs offer angling for self-sustaining wild trout. These natives average about 6 inches, though you may encounter fish in the 10- to 14-inch range.
"WTMAs do not attract mass anglers like the trout parks do," Hyatt said, "and they are not designed to. These areas are mostly comprised of smaller streams with limited access."
The WTMAs are broken into three classes. Class 1 offers abundant wild trout with no stocking of hatchery-raised trout. There is no closed season and it is catch-and-release fishing only using barbless, single-hook lures or flies. Class 2 features some wild trout and stocked trout with a creel limit of two fish and a minimum length of 12 inches. Class 3 streams also have a mix of wild and stocked trout, with creel limits of five fish, and a minimum length of 9 inches.
Class 1 WTMAs in western Connecticut offering wild browns include Eightmile River in Southington. In Easton, the Mill River holds browns, and the Quinnipiac River in Southington and Cheshire also is home to native fish.
Look for wild brookies in Hawley's Brook in Easton and Weston. Both brookies and browns can be found in the Wachocastinook River in Salisbury downstream of South Pond within the Mt. Riga Corporation property.
In the eastern part of the state, expect Class 1 WTMAs to hold both wild brookies and browns. The Tankerhoosen River in Vernon, Deep Brook in Newtown and Beaver Brook from Route 14 to Merrick Brook are good bets.
Furnace Brook in the town of Cornwall Bridge contains the Heather Reaves Class 2 WTMA. Expect to catch native browns in this western-region hotspot.
The Salmon Brook Class 2 WTMA is home to native brookies and browns along its entire length in Glastonbury downstream of Addison Pond.
Three brooks categorized as Class 3 WTMAs in the west offer both wild browns lightly supplemented with stocked hatchery fish. These include Beacon Hill Brook from Route 63 in the town of Naugatuck downstream to the Naugatuck River, Morgan Brook in Barkhamsted, and Salmon Brook from Route 20 in Granby to the Farmington River. More heavily stocked rivers and streams that also hold native browns include the East Branch Naugatuck River from Newfield Road in Torrington to the West Branch Naugatuck River, Farm River in North Branford from Mill Road downstream to the Route I-95 bridge in East Haven, the Norwalk River in Wilton and Ridgefield upstream of Wolf Pit Road, and the confluence of both the Blackberry River from the Whiting River and the East Aspetuck River from Lake Waramaug to the Housatonic River.
For more information on Nutmeg State trout-fishing opportunities, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, 79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106-5127; or call the Inland Fisheries central office at (860) 424-FISH (3474). Anglers may also visit the DEP's Web site at www.dep.state.ct.us.
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