The fictional fur trapper “Bear Claw” Chris Lapp, says “March is a green, muddy month down below. Some folks like it — farmers mostly.” I thought of this quote recently when we hiked into our deer camp in the Adirondacks, where the last bits of winter are hanging on. As we made our way back to the truck on a Sunday, I thought of what was next to come.
Spring has sprung down here “on the flat” (another Bear Claw phrase I have come to love). It’s 70 degrees in Geneva as I write this, and outdoor adventure awaits! Yellow perch fishing is my favorite April pursuit, but our state offers a great variety of fishing throughout the spring.
Stream trout fishing is a staple for many New Yorkers. A rich history of trout fishing in the Adirondacks, Catskills and Finger Lakes region has inspired many anglers, dozens of flies and lures, several books and a handful of brewery and restaurant names along the way. The culture and lore of trout fishing is intoxicating, and opportunity is abundant from Plattsburgh to Long Island, Albany to Buffalo, and everywhere in between. Be careful, you could get addicted!
Last week, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the finalization of new trout stream regulations that took effect on April 1, opening day of the NYS trout fishing season. Seggos said these changes aim to increase opportunity, balance the desires of anglers throughout the state, and allow for successful management of New York’s natural resources.
Key changes are as follows:
• Daily creel limit of five trout per day with no more than two longer than 12 inches statewide for reaches categorized as Wild or Stocked in effect from April 1 through Oct. 15.
• Daily creel limit of three trout per day with no more than one longer than 12 inches for reaches designated as Wild-Quality or Stocked-Extended in effect from April 1 through Oct. 15.
• Daily creel limit of one trout per day, any size, for reaches designated as Wild-Premier in effect from April 1 through Oct. 15.
• Creation of a statewide catch-and-release trout season in effect from Oct. 16 to March 31. During this period anglers are restricted to artificial lures only and must promptly release all trout caught.
DEC also released a new interactive trout stream fishing map and user guide, which is effective in identifying the stream designations mentioned above. The map provides regulation information as well as key points related to stocking, season dates and fishing access. All anglers are encouraged to explore the map and user guide, and to take full advantage of this resource as it grows and improves.
Steve Hurst, DEC’s chief of fisheries, says with confidence that the new regulation changes reflect direct conversations with anglers, and will address expectations and outcomes.
“It was about dialogue,” he said, describing the initial efforts by DEC to meet with anglers across the state and gain important input and insight to assess the existing fisheries management goals and make plans for the future.
Hurst remarked that things have changed. The previous regulations were based solely on scientific data and catch rates, and lacked proper input from trout anglers regarding their expectations and desires. Thus, DEC set out to make changes and develop the guiding principles that make up the foundation of the new management plan.
What did they find? More people are releasing their catch, harvest is not as highly valued as it once was, and there is an increased focus on the importance of trout habitat and habitat improvement.
“I fish for spots”, one angler told the DEC, describing that when fishing for brook trout in the Adirondacks, he’s more interested in wild places and healthy streams than anything else.
And so, DEC collected angler input and put together a new management plan, aiming to keep things simple and let guiding principles lead the way. The goal is to address angler desires, and balance DEC efforts with what the resource can provide.
“The plan will be adaptable in the future, but it gives us a foundation to learn and work from,” Hurst said.
As with any change, this will take some time to adapt to, and DEC will work on their end to iron out any kinks that should arise. It seems to me that in the long run, the new plan will be good for trout, good for anglers, and good for our state fish and wildlife management system. If you have feedback, don’t set it aside. The DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries welcomes you to reach out!
How fortunate are we? To live in a state with wild trout that provide encounters with wild and wonderful country, and stocked populations that provide abundant opportunity. Get out and explore this spring. Read through the new management plan and the regulations guide. Join or support a conservation group like Trout Unlimited, Trout Power or Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Don’t be afraid to try new things or ask questions and enjoy the changing seasons from the edge of a trout stream!
Nate Kennedy is a Liverpool resident who works in Waterloo. An Ogdensburg native, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who holds a master's degree in environmental communication from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. Kennedy loves to write about and share his outdoor pursuits and his column appears monthly in The Citizen.