Black Pond’s brook trout fishery solid
You won’t find a more popular Adirondack brook trout water than Franklin County’s Black Pond.
The reason is simple: easy access. While other brook trout haunts may require a slog into the backcountry, Black Pond is located right off Keese Mill Road, and it’s not far from the campus of Paul Smiths College. In fact, while the pond is situated on private land, a cooperative agreement between the Adirondack Park Agency, DEC, and the college permits public use and DEC management of the fishery.
Perhaps because of its easy access, the pond has been heavily managed by DEC Region 5 fisheries staff. It has been reclaimed five times over the years, a process that essentially kills all fish in the pond as a precursor to stocking brook trout. The last reclamation project took place in 1997, after which the Windfall heritage strain of brook trout was established by multiple fingerling stockings over a five-year period.
Black Pond was first used as an egg source for the Windfall strain in 2009.
Like many brook trout waters in the region, anglers are prohibited from possessing or using baitfish.
Even though natural brook trout reproduction was evident, the Windfall population was augmented by supplemental stockings in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2013 through 2017.
“The amount of natural reproduction, increasing numbers of golden shiners and creek chubs, and the amount of angling pressure were all likely affecting the brook trout population in Black Pond,” DEC fisheries personnel wrote in a 2017 report.
Creek chub were first documented Black Pond in 2005 and golden shiner in 2009. Form 2014-2017, all supplemental stockings (2,800 fingerlings stocked yearly) were fin clipped to allow DEC fisheries staff to determine the level of natural reproduction. Data was also collected in 2014 through 2017 in late October or early November during the egg-collection efforts.
A 2017 netting effort captured a total of 92 brook trout, with a mean length of 10.1 inches. Lengths ranged from 5 to 16 inches.
“The condition of the brook trout was good and likely the lack of larger brook trout can be attributed to angler harvest,” DEC officials said in the survey report. “While netting effort varied by year, the relative abundance of brook trout appears reasonably stable through the period.”
In addition to creek chub and golden shiner, three brown trout were also captured in the 2017 survey, likely the product of a stocking error along the way. DEC officials don’t expect the browns to becoming established in Black Pond.
That 2017 DEC survey of Black Pond represents the first in which four fin-clipped, stocked year classes of brook trout were present. But the total contribution of stocked trout in the sample was only 12%, an obvious sign that natural reproduction is solid.
“At this level, natural spawning in Black Pond is considered adequate to sustain the population and fishery,” the survey report read. “The stocked fish are simply not contributing to the population in a significant way.”
With stocking now halted, fisheries staff think there may be some genetic advantages since there will be “no opportunity for hatchery selection to be exerted on the (Windfall) strain. The growth of the Windfall strain brook trout stocked in Black Pond as 2.5 to 3-inch spring fingerlings was truly exceptional. In 2015 and 2016, stocked brook trout averaged 11.4 inches at age 1.”
Black Pond has also been used as an egg/milt source in the past to supplement Mountain Pond as a Windfall strain brood stock source and as a source of milt to produce the experimental Windfall x Domestic strain of brook trout. But the increasing numbers of golden shiners and significant angling pressure have made it difficult to collect the required brood fish in some years. Because of that, and to avoid any hatchery influence, Long Pond was used as an alternate egg source for Windfalls in 2017. The outlet of Long Pond flows into Black Pond and a fish barrier prevents upstream fish movement from Black Pond. “It will be important to inspect and maintain this barrier to prevent golden shiner from gaining access to Long Pond,” DEC officials said in the report.
There are several primitive campsites on Black Pond, which can be accessed by a trail off Keese Mill Road.
To get to Black Pond, take Route 86 north out of Saranac Lake into Paul Smiths. Turn right onto Route 30 then left onto Keese Mill Road for 2.7 miles. Black Pond will be on your right.
Nearest town Keese Mill
Area 73 acres
Fish species present:
Brook trout, golder shiner, creek chub, brown trout
DEC Region 5 office
1115 State Route 86
P.O. Box 296
Ray Brook, NY 12977-0296