Here's a look at what's in store for Empire State trout anglers as we look to the 2007 open-water fishing season. (March 2007)
Photo By Bob Borgwat
New York's 2007 fishing regulations permit catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only fishing for browns, rainbows and brookies during the off-season on an expanded list of streams this year.
That's great news for "early bird" anglers who just can't wait for trout season's traditional April 1 opening.
"Providing some of the nation's best fishing opportunities continues to be a goal," stated the official announcement from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). "And adopting these changes to fishing regulations will provide benefits for sportfish populations and anglers across the state.
"These regulation changes are intended to enhance angler satisfaction while also protecting New York's precious natural resources."
Streams designated for year-round fishing are primarily in central and western New York. A sampling of Blue Ribbon trout waters affected by the new regulations includes Salmon Creek above Ludlow Falls in Cayuga and Tompkins counties; the Otselic River in Madison, Chenango and Cortland counties; Owego Creek, and both branches in Cortland, Tioga and Tompkins counties; East and West Branch Tioughnioga River in Cortland and Madison counties; Wiscoy Creek in Allegany County; East Koy Creek in Allegany and Wyoming counties; Elm Creek, Elton Creek and Mansfield Creek in Cattaraugus County; Cattaraugus Creek upstream from the Springville Dam in Wyoming, Cattaraugus and Erie counties; and Goose Creek in Chautauqua County.
Additionally, the regular open season on trout has been extended from Sept. 30 through Oct. 15 on much of the Delaware River system. That matches the regulations of neighboring states and increases fishing opportunities for New York's anglers.
Anglers should check out all of the Extended Seasons in the current 2007 Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet -- look for the new sections printed in blue ink.
Stocking of catchable-sized trout will start this year in late March and early April as usual, beginning with the lower Hudson Valley, Long Island and western New York, and then proceeding north to the Catskills and Adirondacks.
The DEC is expected to plant well over 2 million browns, rainbows and brookies in nearly 300 lakes and ponds and approximately 3,100 miles of streams across the state.
The species breakdown is expected to be similar to last year's, when 1.8 million browns, 436,000 rainbows and 154,000 brookies were planted. Stocking 2-year-old brown trout -- which are 12 to 13 inches in length, with some going to 15 inches -- has proven popular with fishermen, and will be continued this year with an expected quota approaching 100,000 fish. In addition to stocked waters, of course, thousands of miles of wild trout streams offer exceptional fishing opportunities, with very few anglers on the water.
The following is a region-by-region look at New York's 2007 trout season. What can anglers expect as they gather their gear for another great Empire State fishing season?
WESTERN NEW YORK
According to Joe Evans, a DEC fisheries biologist stationed at Allegany, surveys of Wiscoy Creek and its two main tributaries, Trout Brook and North Branch Wiscoy, provided estimates of 1,000 to 2,000 brown trout per mile. These two Wyoming County tributaries were also supporting an estimated 500 brook trout per mile.
"All of those fish, both browns and brookies, were wild trout, as these streams haven't been stocked for decades," Evans emphasized.
For fishermen, the real shocker is that the surveys were carried out in August, when most people had quit fishing for the season! The Wiscoy fishery is famous among western New York's trout fishermen. But apparently few are aware that the action lasts all season for those adept at taking wild trout on small headwater streams. That portion of Wiscoy Creek in Wyoming County was previously open to Extended Season fishing, and that regulation now pertains to the Allegany County sector.
Trout streams slated for surveys this summer include Lime Lake Outlet and McKinstry Creek in Cattaraugus County, Clear Creek in Wyoming County and Hosmer Brook in Erie County.
This cluster of streams, situated where the three counties meet, is included in the new Extended Season regulations, offering a bonus of wild rainbows in the 12- to 13-inch range in addition to brown trout, according to Evans.
"Rainbows are easier to catch later in the season," he said. "They occupy open-water niches, while browns will be along banks protected by vegetation."
Researchers found that rainbows in these streams do not spawn until they reach an age of 3 years or older, and the recent special regulations -- minimum size 9 inches, daily limit of three fish -- have really boosted their numbers. Brown trout populations are also up, due to the special regulations.
While the Extended Seasons are in the spotlight this year, Evans claims that providing stream access is a continuing management program.
"There are plenty of public fishing rights on Wiscoy Creek and other western trout streams. Maps of these sites are available on the Department of Environmental Conservation's Web site (www.dec.state.ny.us)," he said.
Western-region streams slated to receive stocked trout this spring include the Genesee River; Ischua Creek and Upper Cattaraugus Creek in Cattaraugus County; Goose Creek in Chautauqua County and East Koy Creek in Allegany County, which receives yearling browns, along with some 2-year-olds. Traditional favorites in this region include Oatka Creek and Spring Creek in Livingston and Monroe counties; the Cohocton River in Steuben County and Cayuta Creek in Schuyler and Chemung counties.
If most streams are high and muddy on opening day, some inland lakes that have been stocked will be good bets including Allen Lake in Allegany County; and Case Lake, Harwood Lake, New Albion Lake, Red House Lake and Quaker Lake (the latter two in Allegany State Park) in Cattaraugus County.
CENTRAL NEW YORK
Last year's flooding, particularly the widespread property damage caused by the Susquehanna River, did not harm any of the trout streams in central New York, according to Dan Bishop, a DEC fisheries manager stationed in Cortland.
"We were unable to find any trout stranded after the floods," he reported, "and we believe that young-of-the-year were able to escape."
The main trout-management accomplishment for 2007 is the new Extended Season on certain streams in this region of the state.
New Fall Creek regulations also offer fishermen some unique opportunities, Bishop said. In that section of the stream from below the railroad bridge downstream from Route 13 to Ithaca Falls, catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only fishing will be permitted from Jan. 1 through March 15.
Another Finger Lake tributary change involves Spafford Creek, the inlet to Otisco Lake, previously considered a lake-run rainbow fishery. Surveys have revealed that for this stream, general trout-fishing regulations are more suitable.
And this year, the open season on Spafford runs from April 1 through Oct. 15. The daily limit is five fish with no more than two trout longer than 12 inches, plus five brook trout less than 8 inches.
Stream improvements are continuing in this region, and structures recently completed on Ninemile Creek are a good example. In the stretch between Marcellus and Camillus, which is extremely popular with Syracuse-area fishermen, several cross vanes have been installed to raise the water level, narrow the stream and protect an eroding bank. One deep pool has been created, along with riffles and shallow pools.
Good fishing is expected this year throughout the Finger Lakes. Seneca, Cayuga and Owasco lakes will offer great opportunities for browns, rainbows and lake trout. Skaneateles should produce good catches of lakers and rainbows and, along with Cayuga, excellent chances for landlocked salmon.
Tributaries featuring lake-run rainbows include Catharine Creek, an inlet to Seneca Lake that remains the most popular tributary for early-spring fishermen. Naples Creek (the inlet to Canandaigua Lake) is also a good bet. Smaller Finger Lakes tributaries --such as Salmon Creek, Cayuga Inlet, Yawgers Creek and Fall Creek on Cayuga Lake; Hemlock Creek, Dresserville Creek, Decker Brook and Owasco Inlet on Owasco Lake; and Grout Brook on Skaneateles Lake -- will usually have fewer fishermen.
Central New York streams with above-average populations of trout this spring include Ninemile Creek, Butternut Creek and Limestone Creek in Onondaga County; Chittenango Creek in Madison County; Oquaga and Nanticoke creeks in Broome County; the Otselic River in Chenango and Cortland counties; Factory Brook in Cortland County; Genegantslet Creek in Chenango County and the East and West Branch Owego Creek in Tioga County.
NORTHERN NEW YORK
Last year's generous rainfall is expected to result in more holdover trout in the fabled Adirondack rivers and other North Country streams, a welcome change from recent seasons.
But conditions on opening day, always questionable in this region, will depend upon the snowpack in the mountains and daytime temperatures at the end of March. Unless the weather is unusually brutal, a few selected streams will have been stocked with trout by the time the season opens. Prospects for this early stocking, for example, are the Chateaugay River in Franklin County; the Saranac River within the village of Saranac Lake; and Oswegatchie River below Cranberry Lake in St. Lawrence County.
Hatchery trucks will begin their regular rounds in April and will continue delivering fish through May.
Three Hamilton County waters have new trout regulations this year. In that portion of the Indian River in the town of Indian Lake and in Lake Pleasant, the trout season is open year 'round, with no size limit and a daily limit of five fish. In Sacandaga Lake, the landlocked salmon season is open all year. Minimum length is 15 inches. The daily limit is three trout.
Adirondacks pond fishermen wait for ice-out with great anticipation --possibly until May -- when some of the year's best brook trout fishing occurs near shore during the first sunny days of spring. Trolling a streamer behind a canoe, or fly-casting midge emergers to rising fish are highly recommended techniques.
On larger lakes, surface-trolling for lake trout and landlocked salmon produces some hot action, despite the chilly spring weather.
Keep in mind, however, that in most Adirondacks ponds, fish may not be used as bait --check the fishing regulations booklet for details.
As the season opens, some of the rivers that are usually consistent include the Batten Kill in Washington County, the Kayaderosseras River in Saratoga County, the Mettawee River, West Canada Creek, Mohawk River below Delta Lake, Oriskany Creek and Sauguoit Creek in Oneida County; and the St. Regis River in St. Lawrence County.
EASTERN NEW YORK
Despite last year's severe flooding of many Catskill streams, spring 2007 fishing is expected to be very good in the larger rivers, according to Norm McBride, a DEC fisheries manager stationed in Stamford.
"Most of the damage (downed trees, erosion, new channels and the like) occurred in smaller tributaries," McBride reported. "The West and East Branches and main-stem Delaware, for example, were in excellent shape last fall, producing some great fishing, including good numbers of 17- and 18-inch browns."
Make no mistake, last year's floods will impact trout fishing this season and for seasons to come -- at least on certain stretches of water. This spring, fishermen will find fewer wild brown trout yearlings -- fish hatched in 2005 -- because preliminary DEC surveys have documented a decline in that year-class. But adult browns seemed to have survived the floods.
"The biggest biological impact will be in the stream-bottom invertebrates," McBride said, meaning that anglers can expect fewer insect hatches this year.
Some favorite stretches have also changed. Pools have been deepened and some filled, new pools and riffles have been created, and there will be plenty of logjams and eroded banks.
Emergency cleanup after the floods was not beneficial to stream ecology, as some stretches were channelized. Stream restoration projects will start this year and will continue as long is funding is available, McBride said.
According to Mike Flaherty, DEC fisheries manager stationed in New Paltz, headwater flooding was especially damaging in western Sullivan County, as heavy flows in the Beaver Kill, Willowemoc and Callicoon Creek moved tons of gravel around.
"It looks like the 2006 year-class of both browns and rainbows will be reduced," he reported. The Esopus drainage was affected to a lesser extent.
This spring, encouraging news is expected regarding water releases from the three dams on the Delaware River watershed, an ongoing problem that never seems to end. Apparently the interested parties have nego
tiated a revised flow-management plan, based on Columbia University's landmark study of the water supply-versus-recreation controversy.
This year, the DEC is scheduled to implement a plan that places more emphasis on the economic impact of fishing and other recreation -- and after last year's experiences, perhaps flood control as well.
The new Extended Season regulations apply to significant stretches of the Delaware River. But on border waters, the opening of the regular trout season has not changed -- this year, trout fishing on the West Branch Delaware River opens on April 14. The open season has been extended through Oct. 15. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted on these two rivers during the remainder of the year, although artificial lures are required on the West Branch.
The major Catskill rivers are famous among the trout-fishing fraternity. But fisheries managers are quick to recommend a sampling of other eastern streams that will be well stocked by opening day. Some of these include Wappinger Creek and Fishkill Creek in Dutchess County; East Branch Croton River in Putnam County; Peekskill Hollow Brook in Putnam and Westchester counties; Tenmile River in Sullivan County; the Ramapo River in Rockland and Orange counties; and Sawmill River in Westchester County.
Anglers should also check out these streams in the region: Butternut Creek, Schenevus Creek and Wharton Creek in Otsego County; Catskill Creek in Albany and Greene counties; Kinderhook Creek in Rensselaer and Columbia Counties; Ouleout Creek in Delaware County; Poesten Kill, Tackawasick Creek and the Walloomsac River in Rensselaer County; Roeliff Jansen Kill and Taghkanic Creek in Columbia County; and Schoharie Creek in Greene County.
Lakes and ponds provide a lot of early-season trout fishing on Long Island, where holdover populations are generously supplemented with hatchery browns.
Waters recommended for opening-day action include Laurel Lake, Upper Lake, East Lake, West Lake, Southards Pond and Argyle Lake in Suffolk County. Nassau County offers Upper Twin Pond, Oyster Bay Mill Pond and Massapequa Reservoir.
Three streams on Long Island provide a rare opportunity for trout fishing in a metropolitan area. These include the Carmans River in Southaven County Park, the Connetquot River in Connetquot River State Park and the Nissequogue River in Caleb Smith State Park. Fishing is strictly controlled by park regulations. For details, call (631) 581-1005 for Connetquot, or (631) 255-1054 for Caleb Smith.
Standard regulations apply to the tidal portions of these rivers, which are good bets for trophy-sized sea-run fish.
For more information on spring trout-fishing opportunities in New York, call the regional office in Allegany at (716) 372-0645, in Avon at (585) 226-5380, in Cortland at (607) 753-3095, in Watertown at (315) 785-2261, in Ray Brook at (518) 897-1291, in Stamford at (607) 652-7367, in New Paltz at (845) 256-3098, or in Stony Brook at (631) 444-0310.
Find more about New York fishing and hunting at: NewYorkGameandFish.com.