Hook, line and sinker: March 27, 2013

Opening Day Outlook
The opening day of the trout season in New York, April 1, will feel more like a traditional early-spring day as compared to the balmy 75-degree weather we experienced in 2012. The past month of March seemed more like February, with a bit of snow falling almost every day; evening temperatures in the teens and single digits, and days barely reaching into the 40s.

The repeat of a relatively mild winter, with fewer snowstorms and less residual accumulation, left minimal snowpack for the rivers and reservoirs; at this writing, the Pepacton Reservoir registers at 88.6 percent capacity. The average rainfall from January, February, and March is about half what the historic levels are. In January we received 1.56 inches of rain as opposed to the historic amount of 3.11 inches; in February 1.71 inches versus 2.69 inches, and in March 1.85 inches as compared to the historic average of 3.56 inches.

Water levels are down
River levels are also down. On the afternoon of March 25, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at 384 cubic feet per second (cfs). The average flow on this date over 99 years of record keeping was 910 cfs, about two and one-half times higher. The highest flow recorded was 7,400 in 1974. The lowest flow to be recorded was just 111 cfs back in the drought of 1960.

The East Branch of the Delaware at Fishs Eddy was also down below average, measuring 781 cfs, less than half its average flow of 1,600 cfs. The highest recorded flow on this date was 9,710 in 1988; the lowest flow was again in that drought year of 1960, with a reading of 200 cfs.

Easy wading for opener
This should allow for easy wading on opening day although anglers should take care when entering the water for the first time, as even in familiar beats, stream bottoms may have changed over the long winter, with new obstacles or deeper pools and runs than in the past.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced a few changes to the trout fishing regulations. Mike Flaherty, Region 3 fisheries manager, revealed that there will be a new stocking of yearling brook trout in the tailwater section of the Neversink from South Fallsburgh to Hasbrouck. In the past, brown trout that had been stocked there were reported not to have been doing well, possibly due to the cold water temperatures in that section. Brook trout thrive in colder water; and so in April, the lower Neversink will receive 1,300 brook trout, with another 850 to follow in May. The brook trout will replace the brown trout in the same numbers and sizes (eight to nine-inch yearlings) that had been stocked there in the past.

Another change by the DEC will affect the Esopus - a selective bag limit: there will still be a five fish per day bag limit, however no more than two trout over 12 inches may be taken per day. This regulation will be in effect from the portal downstream to the reservoir. The reason for this new regulation is “to protect these larger fish shortly after being stocked; to spread out the taking of the larger fish throughout the season and to give them a chance to be dispersed throughout the stream for a longer period of time.”

And while the numbers of fish stocked in the Esopus will remain about the same, statewide stocking numbers will be a bit lower.

As we look forward to the opening of the season, it’s a good time to examine your fishing gear. Check your waders by using a flashlight to look for holes or tears. Get out your fishing rod and look for loose or worn guides that might need repair or replacing; make sure your reel operates smoothly. Look for weak spots in your line, and be sure to have a new leader and enough tippet material. Take out your tackle box and replace rusty hooks. Fly fishers will want to stock up on nymphs and early-season flies. It’s a good time to wash your fishing vest if you have not done so already, and see that you have fly repellent, sunscreen, sun glasses, clippers, etc. and anything else you may need in the pockets. Check your net to be sure the net bag is secure and not coming undone, and to make sure there is no damage to the mesh.

Information provided by the DEC states that anyone 16 years of age and older who desires to fish in New York must have a New York State fishing license, available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS.  Fishing licenses can also be purchased from the 1,500 license-issuing agents located throughout the state (town and county clerks, some major discount stores and many tackle and sporting goods stores).  An interactive map providing the locations of these agents is now available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html. By law, every dollar spent on a fishing license helps fund the DEC fish stocking program and other programs conducted by the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.  When buying a license, consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp to help fund important access and habitat projects. For more information on the Habitat/Access Stamp Program, go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html.
Reservoir fishermen will need a NYC DEP permit. Reservoir licenses may obtained online and printed out. Visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/recreation_rules.shtml. Scroll down and click on “Access Permit.”