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Spawning time

Judy Van Put
Posted 10/4/22

Autumn has arrived right on schedule with a chill in the air and light frosts in the higher elevations; in many houses wisps of smoke from chimneys and furnaces were visible in the early dawning …

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Spawning time


Autumn has arrived right on schedule with a chill in the air and light frosts in the higher elevations; in many houses wisps of smoke from chimneys and furnaces were visible in the early dawning hours. And after the rains that have added replenishing water to our rivers and streams, anglers have been seen fishing in their favorite beats from the Willowemoc  down to the East Branch Delaware River. Water levels remain above average, but water temperatures have headed down into the 50s and will continue to lower as the season grows progressively colder.  Hatches may be sporadic, with the prospect of small caddis flies, smaller blue-winged olives and perhaps a few terrestrials apparent on the water in sunny stretches. Streamers should work for those fishing the catch-and-release areas of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, as they imitate minnows that are now abundant. Anglers will be seeking those precious sunny afternoons to cast their lines as days grow increasingly shorter, and the river’s music is punctuated by the haunting cry of migrating geese. 

Recently I received an email from a non-fishing friend, asking if I knew when the fishing season ended. I replied that it was not a simple answer, and that trout fishers need to read the DEC’s fishing syllabus or  check the season dates online for each body of water they fish, as the rules for trout fishing have vastly changed.  For many years, the fishing season in New York State officially ended on September 30. But today in some waters, such as the Rondout Reservoir, you may fish for trout until November 30; in others, such as Alder Lake and Hodge Pond, the fishing season closed on September 30; yet rivers such as the Delaware and West Branch Delaware end their regular fishing season October 15; but in many waters across the state the new Catch-and-Release season opens October 16 and runs through March 31. During this special season, only artificial lures may be used and all fish must be returned immediately to the water. 

This “special season” also coincides with spawning time for our brook trout and brown trout. Brook trout live in the coldest, purest waters and do not migrate to spawn as brown trout do, but are dependent on clean gravel areas near where they reside in the headwaters for spawning. Brookies have already started to build their redds, or nests, in which to lay their eggs as of mid September, and brown trout will be starting their migration upstream to spawn this month; which is why many of us who fish for trout are very concerned about the new regulations that allow fishing during the spawning season, and the toll it may take especially on our wild brook trout population.  

We’ve conducted spawning checks along some of our upper trout waters and have noticed a number of redds, which look like cleared areas on the bottom or bed of the stream, where the female trout have hollowed out areas in the gravel with their tails to make their nests in which to deposit their eggs for the male trout to fertilize. After the eggs have been deposited and fertilized, the nests are left unguarded, and are vulnerable to predation, high waters and stream bottom disturbances - such as anglers unwittingly walking through and disturbing the redds, stepping on and crushing the eggs that have already been deposited and fertilized in the gravel. Some of these eggs may survive, but it’s obvious that not all will if anglers are allowed to enter and walk through the very places where these  spawning beds are located.

Originally, the purpose of stocking hatchery-raised trout was due to  fishing pressure, and the realization that wild trout were not producing enough fish to satisfy the demands of trout fishers. 

 One has to wonder about the thought process that led to the decision to allow fishing during spawning season (despite the fact that the trout, like other species, need a rest during this critical period in their life cycle) and the deleterious effects this may have on the wild trout population.


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