A long and prolific winter left many lakes and ponds covered under ice through last week and a thick snow pack has made for high and cold water on area streams.
“We’re off to a slow start,” said Jim Pinheiro, an aquatic biologist with the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation. “Most rivers are at the phase where the ice is just giving way.”
Early season trout fishing is largely dependent on water temperature and depth. Fish tend to be more lethargic when the water levels are high and cold. As temperatures warm up and water levels drop, the fish tend to become more active.
“The big thing is water temperature. Right now we’re in the 30s and until we get closer to 40 degrees the fish won’t be as active,” Pinheiro said.
Those temperatures have compelled DEC to hold off on stocking local rivers. Trout can suffer when they are transferred from the warmer waters of a hatchery to the cold waters of streams and ponds so biologists try to hold off stocking until water temperatures rise above 40 degrees.
Normally water temperature are at or near that level this time of year, but this season has been different.
Pinheiro said most local streams, including the Mettawee River, were set to be stocked in early April (locations in Granville were scheduled to be stocked April 9) but that schedule has been pushed back to the end of the month, with the exception of areas in the southern-most part of Washington County. Officials in Warren County have pushed back their stocking schedule as well.
When stocking finally does commence, officials plan to stock 2.3 million catchable-size brook, brown and rainbow trout in 307 lakes and ponds and roughly 3,000 miles of streams across the state.
Locally, the Mettawee River in Whitehall will be stocked with 4,370 brown trout and another 3,470 rainbow trout. The Poultney River in Hampton will see a total of 830 trout stocked this spring and the west branch of the Black Creek in Hebron will see an infusion of 300 fish. The Indian River in Granville will be see an influx of 530 fish when stocking begins later this year.
Fortunately, most native fish populations should be healthy when fishing does resume. Pinheiro said the movement of ice jams can create mobility problems for fish and a higher winter mortality is possible, but the low waters that affected fishing the past two springs should not be a problem this year.
“The potential for this trout season is good, it’s just off to a slow start,” Pinheiro said.