Sunday, October 10, 2021

DEC Announces Oct. 16 Opening of State’s New Catch-and-Release Trout Season

person holding brook troutNew Season Expands Opportunities for Trout Stream Fishing Year-Round
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminded anglers that the State’s new catch-and-release trout stream season begins on Oct. 16, expanding recreational opportunities.

The new catch-and-release trout stream season is a product of DEC’s Statewide Trout Stream Management Plan, developed to improve and modernize the State’s management of its trout stream fishing resources. The new season, which runs from Oct. 1 – March 31, requires anglers to use only artificial lures and immediately release trout they catch. The catch-and-release season applies to trout streams only. Fishing for trout in lakes and ponds is prohibited after Oct. 15, unless these waters are managed under a special regulation that allows for angling. Anglers should consult DEC’s regulations guide for regulations associated with lakes and ponds that harbor trout before fishing.

This time period was traditionally closed to trout stream fishing as a precautionary measure during the reproductive period for wild trout. DEC biologists concluded that fishing during the spawning season will not result in negative fishery impacts. To provide due diligence, DEC will conduct an Angler Use and Wild Trout Young-of-Year Recruitment Study (PDF) to gauge angling pressure and young-of-year trout abundance on a statewide sample of 19 wild trout stream reaches from 2021-2024. DEC biologists will use the results of the study to evaluate the new regulation and guide future management. Anglers are reminded to use best practices when releasing fish to ensure trout are returned to the stream immediately and unharmed. Visit DEC’s website for more information on catching and releasing fish.

Anglers venturing to inland trout streams this fall should check out the DEC’s Interactive Trout Stream Fishing Map on the DECinfo Locator. The map provides anglers with a one-stop-shop for information about stocking, fishing access, season dates, and regulations. DEC encourages anglers to use this resource before hitting the water, so they are aware of all the trout stream fishing opportunities available to them both locally and afar.

For more information on freshwater fishing in New York waters, go to DEC’s Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide. Anglers interested in receiving information about fishing and fisheries management in New York can subscribe to the Fishing Line Newsletter.

Photo at top by Eileen Randall/Cornell University

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.


11 Responses

  1. LeRoy Hogan says:

    Thank you for the heads up.

  2. Al West says:

    I like this idea and it does provide additional opportunities, especially in the fall. I very much favor releasing fish in a careful manner, except if you want a couple to eat.
    My hang up is that it seems like the state is moving more and more away from stocking Adirondack ponds with brook trout, instead using brown trout. Why? Is it because they are easier or cheaper to rear.
    Years ago DEC used to stock rainbow trout in lake george, and it was a nice fishery, both in the lake as well as the tributary streams.Eventually DEC dropped that stocking, claiming it wasn’t cost effective. Instead they went with stocking land locked salmon, and that program has never done very well.

    • Scott says:

      The state is not stocking brown trout in lieu of brook trout in the ponds. Here is a link to the most recent stocking report:

      There was a practice started back in the 90s where ponds with high populations of golden shiners were stocked with both brook and brown trout but even most of those have been discontinued. Also, you will note that every year the state stocks another 10-20 ponds that were formerly acid rain dead as these lakes slowly recover. So in reality, more ponds are being stocked now with brook trout than any point in recent memory.

  3. JB says:

    Overall, DEC is going in the right direction with their fishery management–favoring science over economics…But there is still a ways to go. Sure, we need to be stocking heavily fished waters, but air-dropping hatchery raised brook trout into remote lakes that seldom see any anglers has not just been wasteful, it has potentially threatened unknown native populations. There was even the black swan of the zebra mussel infestation at the hatchery a couple of years ago–thankfully they caught that one! Again, glad to see that DEC is moving away from that kind of thing with the new focus and classification for “trout rivers”; but there is still a ways to go.

    • Scott says:

      Just because maybe you don’t go there doesn’t mean the remote lakes don’t see anglers. As one of those people, I’m seeing more pressure than ever in the backcountry as more people have recreated locally with the pandemic.

      Without the remote stocking program, there would be a fraction of the brook trout fishery that we have today. DEC is currently focusing on chemistry metric based stocking decisions where they’re looking at things like silica concentration from ground water upwelling that influence a pond’s ability to support natural reproduction. Based on those metrics, they are stocking ponds with the idea that naturally reproducing populations can be established and stocking no longer needed. Also, several ponds this past year were removed from the stocking list as they are showing sufficient natural reproduction to support the fishery.

      • JB says:

        Scott, you seem very knowledgeable on the subject. I read religiously almost everything that the DEC publishes, but is there anything that I’m missing that is available for the public to see?

        Even bushwhacking for a few days, I have not even come close reaching some of the ponds that they are stocking. Maybe people do visit them, but my point is that angler harvest cannot be far above zero for all intensive purposes (how would you even begin to conduct a creel survey out there?). It makes more sense if I consider that DEC is trying to re-establish brook trout populations, but I’m not going to ignore the fact that the subject of introducing hatchery-reared fish, even if derived from “native strains”, is increasingly controversial, not the least among freshwater ecologists. Yet, DEC has picked a side and they are sticking with it–at least for now–despite a known faction of the public that is opposed. Maybe the introduction of a Wild Trout Stream classification system and a C&R season is a prelude to a larger shift in management (it seems a bit like one).

        There are so many holes in our understanding of Adirondack freshwater ecosystems, even considering all data that DEC could possibly have accumulated since the 1970s. Firstly, from a genetics perspective: There have been confirmed cases of hatchery-genetics finding their way into known Adirondack heritage-strain populations, and new heritage trout strains may very well remain to be discovered. It is also important to realize that even heritage strains propagated through hatcheries will ultimately diverge behaviorally and genetically from their progenitors. Secondly, ecology: Even in acidified lakes, there are still ecosystems. Invertebrates certainly, and often an assemblage any of the hundreds of native fish species that are oft overlooked, remain to be impacted by our stocking practices. Introducing hundreds or thousands of hatchery trout per year, even if natural mortality is exceptionally high, will effect the long-term invertebrate and vertebrate ecology of any watershed. And the ultimate question remains: Even if we think that we know that there are no existing native brook trout populations in some waters, how do we even know that brook trout ever existed there in the first place (acid rain is only part of the story)? Third, we really should be considering contamination: On a philosophical level, with so much focus on eliminating and preventing invasives, we are now putting our own “invasives” into some of the most (actually, most of the most) pristine waters in the Northeast, and we run the very real risk of introducing the kind of bona-fide invasive invertebrates and plants whose devastating effects we are hearing so much about, as new ones continue to emerge and they spread to an increasing number of waters (some of which we could end up taking breeding stock from!). Also, disease spread from hatchery-reared fish is a real thing that has happened before, for example in Colorado. And what about the chemicals used in hatchery production, from pesticides, PCBs, or mercury in feed, to biocides, pH buffers, ionic salts and other additives in water, to antibiotics, anesthetics and other veterinary drugs that are administered, to unknown ubiquitous contaminants such as PFAS-compounds, whose biomagnification, environmental persistence and toxicity are only now becoming publicly acknowledged. And finally, just as we know now about the harmful effects of our previous management practices, it is foolish to assume that we will not learn more in the future about the harms our current ones. And, after all, whether we agree or not, isn’t that part of the underlying “forever wild” preservation ethic of the Forest Preserve to begin with–that we need to allow some ecosystems to remain as untouched by man as prudence allows?

        I’m not arguing against stocking the hundreds of motorized waters around which entire communities and economies have been built; I am simply expressing that I, for one, would have a much cleaner conscience if I knew that the most pristine headwater ponds in our State are indeed “forever wild”, acidified or not, and that nature will take its course and continue to rebound in the same manner that is continually surprising us, even if that process takes much longer than some would like. If irreparable damage has been done… Mez quant ja est la chose fecte, ne puet pas bien estre desfecte–what is done, is done.

        • Scott says:

          I’ll try to answer as best I can.

          -What have you missed? This should give you a general idea about chemistry targets for restoring wild populations:

          -As for opposition to pond stocking: I don’t see it at all amongst the fishing community I associate with (pond flyfishers). I think you are right with respect to streams and I’m 100% behind the latest reg changes and also not stocking over pre-existing wild fish. Maybe we’re comparing apples to oranges here.

          -Holes in understanding: There are numerous disparate, but fairly complete when taken in aggregate, sources of historical information on fish populations dating back to the post civil war period. DEC has this information and have a good idea of what ponds had trout back in the day. They have also been working with a geneticist to catalog wild populations in ponds. I’ve seen some of the results and believe it or not the wild strains of fish are quite resistant to admixing with the stocked Temiscamie x domestic hybrid in some very recent studies. And yes, there will likely be at some point new announcements of previously ‘undiscovered’ strains of brook trout in both ponds and streams. I think they’re holding some of that info back to protect some fragile resources. Personally, I think they have a better handle than you think but that’s of course my own opinion and they could certainly have more information.

          -Accidently stocking invasives: I don’t see it as a unique or particularly dangerous problem in that the threat is equal no matter where fish are stocked. Rome Lab has protocols in place and thus far they have been successful. Nothing is infallible but I think the risk is low here.

          Chemicals: Again, I think low risk. The vast majority of fish stocked into the backcountry are fall fingerlings from eggs collected in ADK ponds. These fish are only in the hatchery from April to September, hardly enough time to bioaccumulate the things you’re talking about in significant amounts.

          Forever wild: Personally, I think the brook trout is a symbol of the wilderness and belongs in it after being beaten up relentlessly by acid rain, invasives, overfishing, deforestation, and development. By my count there are 524 publicly accessible brook trout ponds with fishable populations left in the park. Of those, 125 have 100% wild self sustaining populations. So that’s 125 out of the 3000 odd ponds and lakes in the park where before settlement there were likely brook trout in almost all of them. Those 125 are mostly small so if you think in terms of total water volume the loss of brook trout populations has been staggering. With this perspective, I’m ok with the DEC throwing a couple hundred fish a year into a remote pond to see if they take or at least live and provide a fishery. If climate predictions come to fruition, the small high elevation ponds the DEC is trial stocking will become the last refuges for lacustrine brook trout in the state and the possibly the entire northeast US. As for your ‘let it be’ philosophy, there have been very few ‘returns’ of wild fish to previously acid rain dead ponds. A couple have been well publicized, others not. I say help out where fish can’t find a way back in.

          • JB says:

            Thank you for taking the time to write a very helpful and informative response! (You did essentially cover everything on my exhaustive list.) From the outside, it looks to me like DEC is changing many long-standing practices for the better in a very measured and thoughtful manner, and I don’t want to take away from that point. And we could talk about any one of these issues for a very long time, so I will try to keep my remaining thoughts brief.

            Maybe, instead of “holes in our understanding of freshwater ecosystems”, I should have said that we have a whole lot of conflicting results–at least, that is what I have learned from my forays into freshwater ecology. For example, I believe you when you mention the interbreeding resistance studies–I have seen a few myself–but I have also seen contradictory results (e.g., the Trout Unlimited discovery of Lost Brook heritage brook trout with gene introgression from stocked fish); the same goes for ecology, or historic water conditions. We are indeed unabashedly splitting hairs, but that is what ecology and systems science is all about.

            There are big differences as we go from talking about stocking non-native species, to stocking non-native strains (“Domestic” brook trout), and to stocking native strains collected in situ, and as that spectrum narrows, the numbers of the public opposition becomes vanishingly small–but there are still more than a few of us. Maybe when I am a tired old man, my perspective will have changed (I have become better informed even on this very day). But I hope that, by then, DEC will have stopped the most remote reaches of its high-altitude pond stocking program–be it either because they have succeeded with their goals, or they have not. Because when we are dealing with small headwater ponds that will never support large populations, of fish or anglers (human subsistence fishing is out of the question), any action that we take is essentially philosophical rather than practical. And that philosophical gap cannot be bridged with any amount of empiricism. To some, rewilding means human intervention reciprocal with human damage; to others, the enduring mystery of wilderness necessitates faith and its absurdity necessitates patience. Most of us, though, love and cherish wilderness just the same, and understand at heart that wilderness is so much more than just the sum of its parts…And that will require us to have patience, above all, with each other; we are not doing so badly at least at that.

            Thanks again,

  4. nathan says:

    What trout?? most streams are lifeless! no trout, crayfish or even frogs! they stock very few streams, ponds and yet demand more fees.. if something is stocked its posted on web and fished out in weeks or die off, maybe both…Stocking fish is total failure!!!

    • Dan says:

      Although I understand your frustration, I disagree that stocking is a “total” failure. There are so many ponds and streams that are stocked, or managed, that have trout and this plan seeks to improve, and even move on from previous stocking and management models.

      It takes leg-work to find good trout fishing. And, trout can be a challenge to catch and that makes fishing all the more rewarding. I commend DEC fisheries staff for their diligence on this plan and coming in line with other states on C&R opportunities, especially in the fall. The trout stream management plan is a step in the right direct, and I suggest that all with a serious interest in stream fishing read it front to back.

  5. Boreas says:

    Give brook trout a fighting chance – STOP stocking non-native brown and rainbow trout within the Blue Line!

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