What's in in store for Empire State trout anglers in 2008? Let's have a look. (March 2008).
Photo by Rod Cochran.
If the 2008 trout season is anywhere near as good as last year's, Empire State fishermen who fish the Catskill streams will find the fishing absolutely phenomenal.
Across the state, informal reports indicate that last year, fishing success was at least above average. Upstate, however, a late-summer drought became a problem, especially in smaller headwaters. By the end of August, the seasonal rainfall was two inches short of the average, and Lake Ontario was nine inches below normal.
During September, low water levels in the Salmon River stressed spawning salmon, resulting in higher mortality -- and a one-month delay in the opening of the annual fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release season at Altmar.
Historically, floods or drought rarely have lasting effects on trout populations. At press time, expectations were for another great season, according to Jim Daley, head of the Cold Water Unit for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Here's a brief look at current trout-management operations across the state, followed by regional fishing recommendations by fisheries biologists for the upcoming season:
Of most interest to trout fishermen is the major trout-management program carried out by the DEC -- the annual stocking of approximately 2.3 million catchable-size trout in some 3,100 miles of streams, and 300 lakes and ponds (exclusive of the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie programs).
Last season, for example, 1.8 million brown trout, 392,00 rainbow trout and 151,000 brook trout were released. Stockings of 2-year-old brown trout continue to increase, with enthusiastic support from fishermen. Last season, approximately 89,000 browns from 12 to 13 inches in length were planted, with some as large as 15 inches long.
Additionally, the DEC conducts a trout and salmon fingerling-stocking program aimed at producing catchable-sized fish during succeeding years. More than 2 million lake trout, steelhead, landlocked salmon, splake and coho salmon are stocked in appropriate waters exclusive of lakes Ontario and Erie.
For anglers seeking quiet wilderness-like settings, the DEC stocked 340,000 brook trout fingerlings in 335 ponds. With this expansive stocking program well established, DEC fisheries managers are quick to point out that New York's thousands of miles of wild trout streams provide excellent fishing, a real treasure in today's fishing world.
Highlights of other trout-management programs include the Public Fishing Rights (PFR) program on coldwater streams, a high-priority project that receives money from the state's Environmental Protection Fund to provide public fishing easements on private land. PFR signs designate these stretches. But fishermen are cautioned that landowners may post these parcels against other activities besides fishing.
The Federal Sport Fish Restoration Fund reimburses the DEC up to 75 percent of the costs for various projects, including restoring native brook trout in six to 10 ponds by adding lime and eliminating nuisance fish; managing a data base of more than 69,000 surveys of 4,000 lakes and ponds conducted since 1926; and conducting statewide creel surveys to determine angler catches, sizes of fish caught and angler-use patterns.
A new program spearheaded by Trout Unlimited is the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, a 17-state effort to restore healthy, fishable brook trout populations throughout their native range.
A couple of years ago, it was discovered that only 5 percent of the country's historical brook trout habitat remains intact. New York's Heritage Brook Trout program will be a leader in this effort by preserving several genetically pure strains of Adirondack brookies.
Lengthening open seasons and permitting year-round, catch-and-release trout fishing are standard procedure on waters where ecological conditions and fishing pressure permit.
The DEC is taking aggressive steps to limit the spread of VHS, a virus harmless to humans but deadly to fish. Transport ships coming from Europe are spreading the virus throughout the Great Lakes region.
Scientists monitor the disease on nearly a daily basis, and hatcheries are being protected from contamination. The most recent reports indicate that VHS is continuing to spread.
As a result, new restrictions are in place regarding the use and transportation of baitfish and live fish. A statewide Invasive Species Council has been formed to coordinate efforts to protect native species by controlling dangerous imported pests and stopping future invasions.
Here's a region-by-region update on what state biologists are doing to improve and enhance fishing opportunities for the 2008 season:
In recent years, Stream surveys have been the focus of fisheries management operations in the western region, often on smaller headwater streams that hold surprisingly stable populations of brown and rainbow trout. These studies have been the basis for setting extended seasons on several streams in the region.
Anglers waiting for the trout season to open on April 1 can expect that hatchery trucks will have visited all of their most popular streams. These include Cattaraugus Creek, Ischua Creek, the Genesee River, East Koy Creek, and Goose Creek. If streams are high and muddy on opening day, a good alternative would be one of the Allegany State Park lakes, which are also heavily stocked. Quaker Lake and Red House Lake are recommended.
The Buffalo-Niagara metro area offers trout fishing for city dwellers at well-stocked locations including East Branch Cazenovia Creek, Eighteenmile Creek, Ellicott Creek and Hyde Park Lake.
Wild trout in more secluded locations will be found on Clear Creek, Wiscoy Creek, and Lime Lake Outlet.
Late March through early April is considered the prime time for Lake Erie's steelhead run. Recent surveys have revealed high angler success on Canadaway, Chautauqua, Cazenovia, Cattaraugus and Eighteenmile creeks and the Buffalo River
Similarly, Lake Ontario tributaries are reportedly yielding good steelhead catches, including Twelvemile, Keg and Eighteenmile creeks and the lower Niagara River.
Great Lakes waters are open to year-round fishing.
WEST-CENTRAL & WESTERN
FINGER LAKES REGION
Predicting the famed spawning run of Finger Lakes rainbow trout is difficult. Just before the season opens, a three-day warm spell or a two-week deep freeze will affect the timing of the run. But on average, enough lunker rainbows will be in the tributaries around the first week of April to make it possible for the season's first trout to be the largest of the year!
For a trophy steelhead catch, the best locations are Naples Creek, Catherine Creek and Springwater Creek. Also, early-season fishing from the shores of the western Finger Lakes produces rainbows and brown trout. Recommended locations include Hemlock Lake along the eastern shore, Keuka Lake at Keuka Lake State Park, Seneca Lake at the south end piers and the shore of Canadice Lake.
Stocked and wild trout will be taken this spring from a number of regional streams. Those at the top of the list are Oatka Creek and Spring Creek near Caledonia, the Cohocton River from Cohocton to Bath, and Cayuta Creek near Odessa.
Steelhead fishing should be going full tilt throughout April in Lake Ontario tributaries including Oak Orchard Creek, Sandy Creek, the Genesee River and Irondequoit Creek.
CENTRAL & EASTERN
FINGER LAKES REGION
Pre-season attention has focused mainly on steelhead in the Lake Ontario tributaries. While warmer days and thawing conditions in late March will have attracted more fishermen, their numbers will plummet in April, when the regular trout season opens.
That's unfortunate, according to some expert steelheaders who continue to have success on these streams until May. Also, fishing success has improved for a couple of years in the Salmon River, as well as some of the other tributaries.
The Salmon River is noted nationally as a steelhead-salmon river. Most nonresident anglers fish near Pulaski, although there are excellent fishing opportunities all the way from the estuary upstream to the Lower Reservoir at Bennett Bridge.
There are several public access sites, a pay-to-fish section downstream from Pulaski, and two fly-fishing-only stretches at Altmar.
Other steelie hotspots are Sandy Creek, Little Sandy Creek, Grindstone Creek, and the Oswego River at Oswego, where a fishing park provides shoreline fishing.
At the April 1 opening, rainbow fever hits the eastern Finger Lakes. Several Cayuga Lake tributaries are recommended, including Salmon Creek, Cayuga Inlet, Yawgers Creek and Fall Creek.
Owasco Lake streams will be less crowded. Good bets here include Hemlock Creek, Dresserville Creek, Decker Brook and Owasco Inlet.
From Skaneateles Lake, Grout Brook is a favorite with Syracuse-area rainbow fanatics.
Popular trout streams receive periodic stockings, mainly of brown trout, starting before the season opens if weather conditions permit and continuing for several weeks into the open season. These streams include Ninemile, Limestone and Butternut creeks; Oquaga and Nanticoke creeks; the Otselic River; Chittenango Creek; Factory Brook; Genegantslet Creek, plus Fall and Virgil creeks.
Early North Country anglers face problematic weather conditions. There will be minimal trout stocking until after the season opens. Many ponds will not be free of ice until mid-April, and snow melt will determine stream levels to a greater extent than in other areas of the state.
The Oswegatchie River downstream of Cranberry Lake, for example, is one of the few streams that might receive pre-season hatchery fish. Trout stocking usually kicks into gear by mid-April, starting in the Mohawk Valley and continuing through May working northward to the St. Lawrence Valley.An angler could spend the rest of the season sampling the famous trout streams in this region including the Ausable River, the Batten Kill, the Salmon River, West Canada Creek downstream from Hinckley Reservoir and the Black River.
The list of most noted rivers, however, barely scratches the surface of Blue Ribbon trout waters. Some of the best bets this year are the Bouquet River, Crystal Creek, Oriskany Creek, East and West Branches St. Regis River, Saranac River, South Branch Grass River and Kayaderosseras Creek.
Surface-trolling for trout and salmon just after ice-out is a traditional technique in this region, and highly effective when fish are prowling the shallows near shore. Some good bets this spring include Upper Chateaugay Lake, Lake Champlain, Lake George, Paradox Lake, Lake Clear and Meacham Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Schroon Lake, Brant Lake and Lake Luzerne.
For a wilderness experience, another option is packing a canoe into one of the innumerable Adirondack ponds for wild brookies. If you miss the initial ice-out shallow-water bonanza, brook trout will begin surface feeding on midge emergers as the water warms -- the period when black flies begin attacking in earnest should be about the right time.
The DEC's Web site contains information on the current status of brook trout populations. Log onto www.dec.ny.gov and insert "Brook trout restoration" in the subject index box at the top of the page.
Anglers can usually count on streams being fishable when the season opens in this region. But high, cloudy water is the norm, and a late run-off in the northern Catskills always makes high water a possibility.
Although a few snow flurries are to be expected during the early weeks, the icy banks and risky wading conditions that often occur elsewhere in the state are rare here. Fishing deep and slow with worms or minnows is the popular technique, where permitted.
Fly-fishing purists will likely resort to weighted nymphs and streamers. When the water temperature reaches 50 degrees, insects will begin hatching, and then dry flies and emergers will become the order of the day.
Lengthening open seasons and permitting year-round, catch-and-release trout fishing are standard procedureon waters where ecologicalconditions and fishingpressure permit.
The Delaware River system -- which can be considered to include the Beaver Kill and Willowemoc Creek and the other major rivers including Esopus and Schoharie creeks and the Neversink River -- has dominated trout fishing in this region for many decades.
These are among the state's top trout waters and should be on every angler's list to sample this season.
This year, incidentally, the border stretches of the Delaware and West Branch do not open to catch-and-release trout fishing until April 12.
In addition to these famous rivers, you have many other opportunities for angling excursions, ranging from heavily stocked suburban streams to remote mountain headwaters that offer fi
shing for wild trout.
Some of the recommended lower Hudson Valley streams include Wappinger Creek, East Branch Croton River, the Ramapo River and the Mongaup River below the Rio Dam downstream to the Route 97 bridge.
In the northern Catskills and reaching up to the Capital District, where more severe weather conditions may be encountered, trout stocking is not likely to be completed until late April. However, some of the best bets for the trout opener, however, include Kinderhook Creek, the Hoosic and Little Hoosic River system, Poesten and Wynants kills, Roeliff Kill and Jansen Kill, the upper stretches of Catskill Creek and Onesquethaw Creek, and Batavia Kill.
These streams are slated to receive plantings of yearling and 2-year-old brown trout once the weather permits full-scale stocking operations.
In this region, 21 New York City water-supply reservoirs offer unparalleled trout-fishing opportunities. In addition to fishing licenses, free public-access permits are required.
The Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County, for example, is noted for producing trophy-sized rainbows, which also run up Esopus Creek. Rondout and Kenisco reservoirs are recommended this year for lake trout.
Most anglers will be trolling for brown trout in the Neversink Reservoir and West Branch Croton Reservoir in Putnam County. A modest population of landlocked salmon provides occasional surprises in both impoundments.
For information about public access permits and boating tags on these reservoirs, call the New York City Department of Environmental Protection at 1-800-575-5263.
Excellent early-season trout fishing is offered on short steams in three Long Island parks governed by unique, special regulations designed to manage this region's immense fishing pressure. These are the Connetquot River in Connetquot River State Park, the Nissequogue River in Caleb Smith State Park and the Carmans River in Southaven County Park, all of which are heavily stocked during the season.
The tidal sections of these and other streams are hotspots for sea-run wallhangers. Ponds recommended for trout include Laurel and East lakes in Suffolk County, and Massapequa Reservoir in Nassau County.
Find more about New Yorkfishing and hunting atNewYorkGameandFish.com