October 04, 2010
Things are looking good for Empire State trout fishermen this year. Here's a look at how things are shaping up in lakes, rivers and streams near you. (March 2010)
Some say it's never too early to plan a trout trip, and that's especially true this year, as the good news has been making the rounds all winter. Last summer's generous rains that were scattered throughout most of the season and the generally cooler temperatures were a great benefit to trout statewide, according to Jim Daley, Cold Water Unit leader for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
"We're expecting trout fishing to be excellent this spring, with a lot of holdovers that will improve prospects even before our regular stocking program begins," he predicted.
The fact that water supply reservoirs that remained at desirable levels all season also helped maintain trout populations in Catskill rivers and streams, Daley explained.
Trout fishing in New York state remains a big deal, and when a banner season is forecast, it's an even bigger deal. Where else will you find the classic brown trout fishing offered by Catskill waters, and what about the Adirondack Mountains, where tiny tributaries sparkle with wild brook trout and lunker brookies lurk in wilderness ponds? What about the Finger Lakes, which offer leaping rainbows and landlocked salmon, or the score of NYC reservoirs that harbor a potpourri of salmonids?
Then, there are the streams feeding lakes Ontario and Erie that bring big-time steelheading to our back yards, and, of course, those uncounted park ponds and neighborhood creeks, no more than a bicycle ride away, that are seeded annually with trout.
Although state agencies will be operating with reduced funding this year, the DEC expects to maintain fish hatchery production at recent levels, according to Daley. More than 2.3 million brown, rainbow and brook trout of catchable size will be stocked in more than 300 lakes and ponds and roughly 3,000 miles of streams across the state. Included in the total are about 100,000 browns that will be 2 years old and range from 12 to 15 inches in length, which have become highly prized by fishermen. More than 2 million yearling lake trout, steelhead, landlocked salmon and splake will be stocked this spring to provide fishing excitement over the next few years, and another 325,000 brook trout fingerlings will be planted in 343 remote Adirondack ponds and lakes, also for future fishing fun.
The DEC's Public Fishing Rights program remains a high priority statewide. Working with landowners over many years, the state has purchased fishing easements to more than 1,300 miles of water on about 400 streams. These stretches of water are marked with yellow DEC signs, and fishermen are urged to respect these fishing-only private property shorelines.
So, with higher trout populations at most locations this spring and a great variety of lakes and streams with reasonably good public access, April 1 is just around the corner!
Here's a look at where to get started in each of DEC's management regions:
Long Island's lakes, ponds and streams typically provide excellent early-season fishing. Trout stocking operations are usually started before April 1, and by the end of the month, approximately 23,000 brown trout will have been released including about 3,000 2-year-olds.
Recommended rivers this year are the Carmans and Nissequogue in Suffolk County -- the tidal sections of these rivers are premier fly-fishing waters offering trophy-sized fish.
The Connetquot River, one of the most unique trout streams in the country, will be open to fishing this year as usual, but fishermen should be alerted that the state park's ancient fish hatchery is still undergoing restoration and sterilization from a fish disease outbreak. Hatchery operations are expected to resume next year.
Recommended still waters for trout this year include Laurel Lake, Upper Lake, East Lake, West Lake, Southards Pond and Argyle Lake in Suffolk County. In Nassau County, Upper Twin Pond, Oyster Bay Mill Pond and Massapequa Reservoir are good bets.
There is a three-trout daily limit on Long Island except for brook trout, which are managed under catch-and-release-only restrictions on all streams. Special regulations permit daily limits on brookies in the state parks in the Connetquot and Nissequogue rivers.
A complete list of trout waters on Long Island is available by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Trout Stocking List, Bureau of Fisheries, 50 Circle Road, SUNY, Stony Brook, NY 11790; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Streams are usually in good fishing condition during early spring in southern New York, and stocking operations will be started here before April 1. By the time stocking is concluded in early summer, the DEC's hatcheries are expected to deliver more than 300,000 trout to 85 streams and 30 lakes and ponds in the region. About 16,000 of these fish will be 2-year-old brown trout ranging up to 15 inches, and those fish will be released in 40 of the larger and more accessible streams.
Some trout hotspots east of the Hudson River that are good prospects for hefty holdover fish include Sprout Creek, Tenmile River, Wappinger Creek and Fishkill Creek, all in Dutchess County. In Westchester County, the Croton River below the New Croton Dam and the Stone Hill River are also early-season favorites.
While the famous Catskill rivers in Region 3 are well known and generally easily accessible, there are dozens of small streams and mountain brooks populated with wild brook trout in Sullivan and Ulster counties that rarely see an angler.
Another suggestion for fishing off the beaten path is the Mongaup River below the Rio Dam in the Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area.
Even a slight improvement in the water management plan for the Delaware River Basin is good news for this important fishery, and the results of a new agreement by DRB partners should become evident this season.
Pete Grannis, DEC commissioner, announced last summer a revised plan that will help protect fish from the stresses of high temperatures in the basin by clearing the way for more coldwater releases from the bottom of Cannonsville Reservoir into the West Branch, a favorite stretch for many anglers.
The agreement is also expected to improve habitat by reducing unnatural changes in water levels -- the so-called "yo-yo effect." The basin partners -- New York City, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey -- agreed that the Cannons
ville Dam will release 325 cubic feet of water per second during summer unless prolonged drought conditions restrict releases. This new plan increases releases about 25 percent over the 2008 summer releases.
Water management of the Delaware River is an ever-changing fact of life. The 2009 agreement is a modification of the Flexible Flow Management Program that was hammered out as recently as 2007.
Last September, Cannonsville releases were increased over the agreement plan because one of NYC's water supply tunnels was closed for repairs.
"We keep making incremental improvements, and the water releases are better now than they were," biologist Daly explained.
Trout streams in this region are usually in pretty fair condition as the season opens, but snowmelt in the mountains or March rains can quickly produce high, roily water.
While the Delaware system and other classic Catskill trout waters receive the most attention here, fishermen have many other early-season choices. The upper Kinderhook Creek and upper Hoosic/Little Hoosic systems in Rensselaer County are recommended, along with the Posten Kill and Wynants Kill. The upper Catskill and Onesquethaw are a couple of Albany County favorites, and Otsego County anglers are certain to be hitting Schenevus Creek, Butternut Creek and Wharton Creek.
Trophy brook trout from Adirondack ponds and lakes continue to dominate the spotlight with another record set last season. A 5-pound, 4 1/2-ounce brookie was caught from Raquette Lake by Utica angler Tom Yacovella. The 21-inch beauty, which hit a Rapala lure, surpassed the previous record by 5 ounces.
Reclaiming mountain ponds for brook trout fishing is continuing as a major DEC management goal this year. Under the plan, non-native fish are eliminated, barriers are put in place to prevent re-entry and brookies and other native species are restocked.
Fifty-three ponds have been reclaimed, and in a few cases they have been stocked with rare or endangered Adirondack heritage strain brookies.
Although high-elevation ponds are ice-covered as the season opens and spring is still a few weeks away elsewhere in the region, early trout fishermen will be looking at the southern counties.
Kayaderosseras Creek, in Saratoga County, for example, is open year 'round upstream from the first railroad bridge. The Battenkill in Washington County is another possibility that is open all year from the Vermont line downstream to the Eagleville covered bridge, but for catch-and-release fishing only. Depending on the weather, the Chateaugay River in Franklin County is frequently stocked with trout by April 1.
Trout management in this portion of the North Country is divided into three categories: stocked streams, prime streams (which have wild trout and are fairly accessible) and remote wild streams. In addition to stocking streams and ponds in more developed areas, securing public access is a continuing effort.
Renovations at the Rome hatchery will be completed this year, where 160,000 pounds of brown trout, rainbows and brookies are produced annually. The hatchery is one of the DEC's oldest and largest, and is the site of the Fish Disease Control Center, which monitors all of the state hatcheries.
This region remains winterized well into spring, although conditions often permit the stocking of the Oswegatchie River below Cranberry Lake before April 1.
A better bet for the early season might be to try the myriad small streams offering wild brookies and browns in the Tug Hill area, a plateau east of Lake Ontario.
Most fishermen focus on the southern waters as the season opens, however, some of the best include West Canada Creek, a marvelous trout stream in Oneida and Herkimer counties. The West Canada has a catch-and-release stretch below Trenton Falls.
Other Oneida County recommendations include Oriskany Creek, which has special regulations water below Deansboro, the East and West branches of Fish Creek and the Mad River, which joins the West Branch Fish Creek at Camden.
Trout will be prowling the shoreline shallows and feeding on the surface at ice-out in Beardsley Lake in Montgomery and Herkimer counties, Kyser Lake in Fulton and Herkimer counties and Stillwater Reservoir in Herkimer County.
Lake management is important here, and a good example is Owasco, one of the Finger Lakes. A popular bass-walleye-panfish fishery, many anglers may not realize there is excellent lake trout fishing in the deep north end. Fishing diaries from 19 anglers last season revealed that on 139 trips, 245 legal lakers were landed that averaged 24.5 inches in length. A few brown trout and rainbows were also taken. Stocking allocations for Owasco this year are approximately 16,000 lake trout, 5,000 rainbows and 10,000 brown trout plus an additional 20,000 rainbows for Owasco Inlet.
Steelheaders are out now on Lake Ontario's tributaries, and the center of activity is the Salmon River in Pulaski. The peak of the spring steelhead run generally occurs in mid to late March, with fish averaging 8 to 10 pounds. Anglers enjoyed an excellent season on the Salmon last year, and early reports indicate another may be in store in 2010.
The rainbow runs from the Finger Lakes provide another way to kick off the early season. If you hit it right, big 'bows can't be beat for excitement, but the main spawning run is sometimes over before the season opens.
In the trophy trout game, however, hope springs eternal. In Region 7, Salmon Creek, Cayuga Inlet, Yawgers Creek and Fall Creek are recommended tributaries at Cayuga Lake, and Grout Brook is where Skaneateles Lake rainbows make their annual run.
As the season opens, central New York fishermen will also flock to Ninemile Creek, Limestone Creek and Butternut Creek, all in Onondaga County. Broome County offers Oquaga Creek and Nanticoke Creek, while the Otselic River is productive in Chenango and Cortland counties.
Chittenango Creek is a favorite in Madison County, and Fall Creek and Virgil Creek are recommended in Tompkins County.
Trout fishing here is a mirror image of Region 7 in many respects, where the focus beginning April 1 is on wild rainbows ranging up to 5 pounds running the Finger Lakes tributaries.
DEC management programs permitting year-round trout fishing in Region 8 have been expanded, with certain restrictions, to Oatka Creek near Caledonia, the Cohocton River from Cohocton to Bath and Cayuta Creek near Odessa.
Recommended streams beginning April 1 are Post Creek in Steuben and Chemung counties, Meads Creek in Steuben County and Canandaigua outlet in Ontario County.
The piers at the southern ti
p of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen offer great shore-fishing for early-season trout. Pier-fishing all along the south shore of Lake Ontario peaks in late April for brown trout, rainbows and coho salmon.
DEC fisheries managers are presently engaged in extensive surveys of the state's trout streams, and the study of Ischua Creek's 2.2-mile catch-and-release stretch was completed last year.
Among the highlights is that good habitat is present with abundant pools, logjams and some old cribbing structures, and summer temperatures were ideal for trout, never exceeding 70 degrees. At three sampling sites, 47 adult wild browns were captured along with 26 hatchery browns and 20 hatchery brookies. Based on the samples, the stream had an estimated 104 adult brown trout per mile.
Wiscoy Creek, in Allegany and Wyoming counties, is considered the region's premier wild brown trout stream, with an average of more than 1,400 adult fish per mile. Clear Creek in Cattaraugus County is also recommended for wild browns.
Lime Lake Outlet, Elton Creek, McKinstry Creek and Mansfield Creek in Wyoming County, offer wild browns and rainbows. The most heavily stocked streams in the region are the Genesee River, Cattaraugus Creek, Ischua Creek, East Koy Creek and Goose Creek.
More information on the upcoming trout season is available on the DEC's Web site at www.dec.ny.gov. To research public fishing areas on streams, for example, go to Outdoor Recreation, Fishing, Places to Fish and Public Fishing Rights Maps, which are listed by counties.
The DEC's regional offices may be called for additional information. County Web sites provide maps and other necessary travel information for visiting anglers.