After what seemed like a very long, cold winter, the snowdrops are blooming, most of the ice has melted, and the haunting sounds of Canada geese flying north punctuate the stillness with their …
After what seemed like a very long, cold winter, the snowdrops are blooming, most of the ice has melted, and the haunting sounds of Canada geese flying north punctuate the stillness with their plaintive honks. For trout fishers, this is typically a time of great expectations – getting out the waders and fishing gear, purchasing a fishing license. But for many of us who grew up with the anticipation of rising at dawn’s early light on April 1, the “Opening Day” of the trout fishing season this year is somewhat anti-climactic. Due to the statewide year-round Catch and Release season for inland trout streams that the NYS DEC imposed last October, many anglers have already wet a line and have been fishing on and off all year. This catch and release season ends on March 31 (from Oct 16–Mar 31) and is limited to use of artificial lures only.
Last week Bruce Hurst, DEC’s chief of the Bureau of Fisheries, met with the NYS Outdoor Writers Association to explain the newest fishing regulations and answer our questions. Bruce began his talk by explaining the reasons for the upheaval in New York’s decades-long fishing regulations – wanting to make fishing “simpler” and “fun” while stating that the fishing regulations as they had been were too complicated, and the DEC didn’t want to dissuade anyone from fishing. He spoke to those of us who are concerned about the effect that fishing during spawning season may have on our wild trout, saying that “outlaws will be outlaws” and that the DEC felt that the fishing regulations were overly complicated and needed a change.
The question was raised that since our Catskill Region was underrepresented, with DEC’s Region 3 having no Fisheries Manager – how will the streams be monitored to see if these new liberal and expanded fishing laws have a deleterious effect on the trout? The reply was that the DEC plans to conduct more stream surveys and has made a commitment to study the year-round “Catch and Release” policy to evaluate it in each region; the DEC, “might not have all the data in,” and he mentioned that although in past years there was little surveying accomplished, he said they, “are certainly going to survey and do an assessment.” All surveys will be documented on the DEC’s website.
Stocking will be less than in previous years as evidenced by the new categorizing of trout streams and the theory that many streams have enough biomass in certain ‘reaches’ or areas of the stream that do not require stocking. As of 2021, all streams are now classified as one of the following:
Stocking has already begun in the southern portions of the state and stocking schedules will be noted by week (not specific date) on the website.
A brief summary of the most notable fishing regulation changes beginning April 1:
A new statewide regulation for rainbow trout, brown trout, and splake in lakes and ponds. The season will now be open year-round, with a five-fish daily limit, any size, with a “no more than two longer than 12 inches” harvest rule
Statewide Atlantic salmon regulations will now allow for a year-round open season
The statewide sunfish daily harvest limit has been reduced from 50 to 25 fish
The statewide minimum size limit for crappie has been increased from nine inches to ten inches
New specific dates to replace floating (Saturday) dates for statewide season openers
May 1 - Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel and Tiger Muskellunge
June 1 - Muskellunge. (Note that in 2022, DEC will allow for the fishing of muskellunge beginning the last Saturday in May to accommodate previously planned fishing trips)
June 15 - Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass.
And so this Friday, April 1, will be the beginning of the regular trout fishing season where you can keep trout, but only in accordance with the new classification of streams, as noted above. The wise angler will carry along the new Fishing Regulations in the fishing vest or tackle box, although these are not yet available, but will be on April 1, to determine which ‘reach’ or area of the stream you’re fishing corresponds with one of the five new classifications – but this angler fails to see how this has “simplified” trout fishing.
Please note - On Saturday, April 2, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum will celebrate the trout fishing season from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. with casting and tying demonstrations, gift shop discounts and Agnes Van Put’s famous soup. There will be free museum entry all day, with a new Edward R. Hewitt exhibit, and guest fly tiers in the museum from 11-3.
Also the Roscoe High School gymnasium is the site for the Catskill Cane revival. Meet the Catskill rodmakers and learn about this intricate craft of building a beautiful bamboo fly rod or try one for yourself. April 2 from 9:30 – 12 noon.
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