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Our Top Trout Streams

Our Top Trout Streams

Don't let summer's hot temperatures keep you from enjoying some great trout fishing. Our expert explains where and how to find some great stream trouting near you this summer.

Photo by Vic Attardo

As New York trout anglers know, summertime angling success depends on the flow. Whether the summer months produce boom-or-bust fishing is related to how much cold water is flowing down the pipe. The water may come from the gates of a dam or from gray skies above, but only with a sufficient cold flow can fishermen expect to enjoy good angling.


How important is a cold flow to trout? Last fall, New York Department of Environmental Conservation aquatic biologist Daniel Zielinski searched for a temperature and flow recorder on the upper Delaware River below Lordville. It was just after the passage of Hurricane Ivan and DEC biologists were having a tough time locating the sunken treasures.

The information the recorder provides is necessary to continue an ongoing study of the Delaware River, perhaps the most important economic asset in rural southeastern New York. While information is still being compiled, the DEC is learning what it takes for trout to survive and thrive in the mighty river.

In an earlier study of the Delaware's tailwaters and the Beaver Kill, another top recreational and economic asset, the DEC had already discovered that trout travel a great deal and some of their migrations depend on elevated water temperatures.

Using implanted radio-telemetry units, the study revealed that some trout traveled up to 127 miles over the course of two seasons. Some of the movements were temperature related, occurring in connection with rising summer temperatures. Other trout ramblings were related to spawning, while the reason for other wanderings was unknown.

Biologists found that in high water temperatures trout moved to "thermal refugia." In layman's terms, that's "a cool place to be." The study also speculated that some trout might move in response to rapid increases or decreases resulting from run-off events, such as sudden storms.


The fact that the DEC is putting a lot of effort into managing the Delaware River tailwaters comes in response to the public attention the watershed is receiving. In December, the Friends of the Delaware River (FODR) met with a state delegation, including Governor Pataki's staff, the DEC and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, among others. In the meeting the Delaware River Basin Commission was pressed to include fisheries biologists on studies that the DRBC is performing on the river.

But the Delaware River is not the only eastern trout water that is getting recognition. Last year, interest in the Croton River watershed warranted a stream guide to fishing on New York City Watershed property.

For example, the East and West Branch Croton rivers are being managed under both artificial lure-only and general angling regulations. Summer fishing opportunities vary by river section and reservoir outlet. For instance, the West Branch Croton River below the outlet of the same name has wild browns that provide excellent season-long fishing opportunities in a wild and remote woodland setting.

The new free public access permit required to fish the New York City properties is not needed on the Croton River-New Croton Reservoir Outlet.


The Beaver Kill is crossed numerous times by the noisy bridges of Route 17 ("The Quickway"). This famous stream still offers trout anglers one of the most satisfying experiences in the eastern part of the state.

The Beaver Kill, which flows through Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware counties, has received its share of attention from the DEC of late. A large part of the radio-telemetry study, whose findings were published in May 2002, cited work on the lower Beaver Kill.

The study said that from Roscoe to the East Branch Delaware, the stream flows for some 15 miles over some excellent trout habitat. In the Roscoe-to-Horton reach, habitat consists of riffles and pocket water intermingled with deeper pools. From Horton, past Peakville, all the way to the mouth, the pools are less numerous but larger in size.

Often, water temperatures in the lower Beaver Kill are not in a trout's survival zone. Even nighttime water temperatures can remain above 70 degrees, while daytime temperatures soar to the mid-80 degrees. While cool water exists in the lower Beaver Kill in the eight-mile stretch from Roscoe to Horton, downstream of Horton high water temperatures and fewer "thermal refugia" areas severely limit trout populations. Obviously, trout anglers looking for good fishing should concentrate their efforts upstream of Horton.

In the Beaver Kill, there is a well-known cool spot at the mouth of Horton Brook. According to the DEC, during periods of thermal stress, over 1,000 trout have been observed congregating at this location.

Above the Junction Pool with the Willowemoc River, most of the upper Beaver Kill is in private hands. However, about two miles of the upper headwaters cross state land and this is brook trout water.

Downstream, a mile of public water is at the Covered Bridge State Campground. Brown trout are the mainstay of this section of the river. Farther downstream, you'll also find open water east of Rockland at the Route 206 bridge continuing downstream to Roscoe. Public easement purchases on private land are a key to fishing the Beaver Kill around Route 206. Between Roscoe and Butternut Grove, there are at least five parking sites that will put you on the river.

Two small tributaries to the Beaver Kill on state land offer brook trout and brown trout fishing. Russell Brook enters the Beaver Kill downstream of Butternut Grove. The first few miles of Russell Brook are in private hands, but the road of the same name traverses close to the stream and into state lands. Just about the same thing can be said about Berry Brook and Berry Brook Road near the Covered Bridge State Campground.

In places, these streams offer the trout the kind of "thermal refugia" they are looking for in the summer. In addition, there are fishing easements on the Beaver Kill at Horton Brook, the site of the noted cool spot, but the brook is in private hands


The Willowemoc River connects with the Beaver Kill at Roscoe. Its headwaters are in Ulster County, but the bulk of the stream flows through Sullivan County.

Fortunately for the angler, the majority of the Willowemoc runs through fishing easements on private land. In fa

ct, nearly the entire 24-mile stretch of the "Moc" from near Sprague Brook downstream to Roscoe is open to public fishing.

In addition, there is a six-mile section downstream of the village of Willowemoc, and another three miles north of town are accessible to all anglers. Farther upstream, a three-mile portion of Fir Brook, a tributary to the Willowemoc, is open for fishing.

Parking spots are available on Route 84 south of the river town and along Route 82 east of Livingston Manor. At least two public parking sites can be found on Route 17 on the south bank of the river.

From the headwaters downstream to Livingston Manor, the Willowemoc is a narrow to mid-width stream. One branch of the headwaters, Fir Brook, is a brook trout stream. Unless there are summer storms, much of Fir Brook will run low and slow. However, deeper holes full of brookies exist even in July.

Closer to the village of Willowemoc, the stream grows wider, and anglers will find mostly brook trout, with some wild browns in the mix. The public easement area north of the village is an excellent place to enjoy this two-species fishing.

The river opens up, both in terms of width and public access, in the area of the Willowemoc Covered Bridge Campground. Brown trout are the mainstay of the Moc from Mongaup Creek downstream through Livingston Manor and the lower half in Roscoe. However, this is mid-width stream fishing and not the big water you'll find through much of the Delaware Basin.

The riffles and pocket water downstream of Livingston Manor are a pleasure to fish. It is usually easy to cross back and forth to the banks of the Willowemoc, and this may be necessary for fly-rodders facing the dense brush and trees on some shores. Working pocket water from an upstream angle allows fishermen the ability to cast over the center of the stream, thus avoiding the usual summer entanglements.

Unlike the lower Beaver Kill, which suffers from high water temperatures in the summer, the lower Willowemoc is still a viable July fishery depending on the flow, of course.


Putnam County is on the east side of the Hudson River facing West Point. Next to the Connecticut border, it's the home of numerous reservoirs on New York City Watershed property.

Using implanted radio-telemetry units, the study revealed that some trout traveled up to 127 miles over the course of two seasons.

All of the streams are tailwaters and rely on flows from their upstream reservoirs. Some 8.5 miles of the Croton River features public access in Putnam County, and another three miles of Croton River are open to angling downstream in Westchester County.

Three sections of the West Branch Croton River offer good fishing. The first flows from Boyds Corner Reservoir to West Branch Reservoir in Kent. This section is stocked with 500 yearling and 100 2-year-old brown trout measuring 12 to 15 inches. The one-half-mile stretch is accessible from Route 301.

A wooded 2.3-mile section of the West Branch around Carmel is not stocked but contains fine wild brown trout fishing. This stretch flows from West Branch Reservoir downstream to Croton Falls Reservoir. The stream is accessible from Route 6 at its upper end and by Drewville Road at the lower end. The stream averages 60 feet in width between these two roads with numerous shallow riffles and runs. With many large rocks breaking the flow, this section contains some fine pocket water.

While the previous sections are managed under general angling regulations with a five-fish daily limit and staggered seasons, another section of the stream is limited to artificial lures only. A one-mile stretch from Croton Falls Reservoir to the juncture with the East Branch Croton River is governed under no-kill regulations. Anglers may not possess a trout on this section. This stretch is stocked with browns and also contains a "fairly significant" population of wild browns, according to DEC.

The Special Regulations area is around Carmel and Somers. Access to the stream is from routes 100 and 202 and from the Mahopac-Croton Falls Road (Route 34). The coldwater release from Croton Falls Reservoir makes this a good bet for July angling. Long runs and pools of shallow to moderate depth characterize the stream, and the banks are heavily shaded, another factor which keeps the summer waters cool.

The longest open stretch of the main Croton River flows from New Croton Reservoir all the way to the Hudson River. This 3.1-mile section under general angling regulations is in Cortland in Westchester County.

This stretch receives an annual stocking of 900 yearling rainbow trout, 100 2-year-old brown trout and 200 brown trout yearlings. Stocking is done in the first mile of the stream.

Access to the upper part of the stream near the reservoir dam is along Croton Dam Road and Route 139. Because of the dam releases, this section is wide and often strong flowing. South of the dam, the stream has moderately deep pools and a slower current.

As noted, a public access permit is required to fish city watershed property in Westchester and Putnam counties, but not the New Croton Reservoir Outlet.


According to the DEC, summer water temperatures throughout the West Branch are generally favorable for trout because of coldwater releases from Cannonsville Reservoir, including the River Master-directed releases during dry periods.

Typically, the water being released is around 45 degrees, but may warm up to the high 60s by the time it merges with the East Branch some 17 miles downriver.

Brown trout are the mainstay of the West Branch, but as the DEC's radio-telemetry study shows, rainbow trout from the Delaware's main stem often move up the West Branch. Brown trout also like to make the trip from the main steam to the West Branch, particularly in the Junction Pool.

Brown trout in the West Branch must like their cool-water home because in two years only one of the monitored brownies moved out of the West Branch. All this should interest the angler looking for July trout.

The West Branch does not offer the public easements found in other streams in the watershed, but there is some parking available on Route 17, south of Deposit, and at Hancock.

The best public access to the West Branch Delaware River is on the Pennsylvania side. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has a parking lot and ramp at Shehawkin at the junction of routes 191 and 370, and another at Balls Eddy north of Route 191. In addition, State Game Lands 299 offers several miles of access to the river along a bumpy dirt road. There are two Game Commission parking areas on the road within a five-minute walk to the riverbank.


If the thought of catching trout from a canoe interests you, look to the Saranac River through Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties. If drift-fishing is not your pleasure, the Saranac River still offers plenty of places to wade.

There are numerous hydroelectric dams on the Saranac's main stem, and these tailwaters generally offer good summer fishing for brown trout. Of particular note are the tailwaters below Kent Falls.

Route 3 borders the main Saranac River along most of its length. Parking areas along Route 3 are plentiful.

A good section to fish lies between the villages of Claysburg and Saranac, flowing for about six miles through Redford and Moffitsville, all on Route 3. This is a wide, often shallow section of the river full of mid-stream pockets and eddies. Frankly, it is not the easiest place to wade, but the fishing is worthwhile.

One of the best tailwater sections to fish on the Saranac River lies between Kent Falls and Morrisonville. Again, this is a wide section of the Saranac with strong currents. The substrate is highly rocky and wading can be tricky. Releases from the dam could overpower an angler in seconds, but when the flows are reduced, there is good fishing for trout closer to the banks. The cool flows make fishing somewhat difficult, but they also contribute to the general stability of the trout population.


Applications for free permits for New York City Watershed property waters may be obtained by visiting the agency's Internet Web site at

For more fishing information, contact the DEC's central office in Albany at (518) 457-4480.

For camping reservations, call (800) 456-CAMP or go online at

For other tourist information, call (800) ILOVENY.

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