Trout kickoff starts without ‘stockies’

Staff report

Albany – Opening Day trout anglers are a combination of
anticipation and low expectations.

That April 1 kickoff is a tradition they want to be a part of,
regardless of weather, water levels and temperatures, and even
whether there have been trout stocked in their favorite water
before the season opener.

In many cases, the fish aren’t there.

“I would say only about 10 percent of our waters have trout
stocked before Opening Day,” DEC Bureau of Fisheries Director Doug
Stang said. “But that’s by design; we know water temperatures are
almost always very cold, and the survival of stocked fish drops
dramatically if the water temperature is less than 40 degrees.”

That’s why Stang suggests looking for waters with holdover
and-or wild trout if you’re looking to do more than just test your
equipment and make a few ceremonial casts on April 1.

“We stock some trout pre-season on Long Island and in
southeastern New York, but the bulk of our stocking efforts begin
around the second or third week in April and from May 1 through the
end of the month.”

That said, Stang said anglers looking for trout across New York
State should be able to find some. In addition to major tributaries
of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes that provide spring
runs of trout, countless waters hold both holdover and wild
fish.

“There’s no reason you can’t find fish,” he said. “There should
be holdover or wild fish – or both – in waters not far from your
home, no matter where you live in the state.”

About the only part of the state that won’t see a lot of angling
activity on April 1 will be the northern Adirondacks, where folks
don’t get too excited about Opening Day since there’s usually still
plenty of ice on the water.

New York’s varied trout fishery is generally regarded as the
best in the Northeast, with the famed waters of the Catskills, the
outstanding lake and lake-run offerings, and superb rivers and
remote ponds in the Adirondacks. The Beaverkill, Delaware, Ausable
and West Canada rank high on most fly-fisher’s lists.

DEC each year supplements the wild trout fishery by stocking
nearly 2.4 million brook, brown and rainbow trout in about 300
lakes and ponds and 3,000 miles of streams. The trout are catchable
size, and over 90,000 will be two-year-old browns ranging from
12-15 inches.

Another two million lake trout, steelhead, landlocked salmon,
splake and coho salmon are stocked each spring, as well as about
350,000 fingerling brook trout – some of which are stocked from the
air – in remote areas of the state, primarily the Adirondacks.

Stang said March can always bring in some weather that can
change the pre-season outlook, but right now “streams are looking
really good. There’s not a lot of snowpack. We did get some heavy
rains, and the Tug Hill area got some snow like it always does, and
a lot could happen in March. But we had a good water year last
year, and conditions look very good right now.”

DEC officials were buoyed earlier this year by the news that
Gov. George Pataki’s budget proposal includes $5 million for
repairs to the state’s aging fish hatchery system. Work has been
prioritized and has been targeted for the Rome, Randolph and Salmon
River hatcheries.

Stang called the selection of hatchery projects “a triage
approach,” since most need at least some work and the total price
tag is likely around $20 million.

For a complete list of stocked trout waters in the state, as
well as a list of Public Fishing Rights easements, go to the DEC
Web site at www.dec.state.ny.us.

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