Schenectady County

Capital Region trout anglers face a challenge today

A tough winter and today’s predicted spring snowstorm are expected to present difficult conditions f

A tough winter and today’s predicted spring snowstorm are expected to present difficult conditions for those eager to take advantage of the opening day of trout season.

But according to one expert, there’s no doubt the fish are in the water.

Last year’s opening day was chilly but otherwise tranquil. This year, early morning anglers are likely to be trudging through slushy snow on their way to fast-moving, cold streams.

Today marks the first day in 2011 licensed anglers will be able to fish for all varieties of trout, including brook, brown, rainbow, hybrids and splake.

April Fool’s Day this year also ushers in the season for lake trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon and kokanee — the sockeye salmon.

But unlike opening day for black bass on the third Saturday in June, sunshine and warmth will be scarce today.

“After a long, cold and snowy winter, we know that anglers are anxious to hit the water,” DEC commissioner Joe Martens said in a March 21 release.

“Unfortunately, a good portion of the state remains covered with snow, which may restrict access to streams and cause very high stream flows making early season angling difficult.”

Fish are sluggish

Students at SUNY-Cobleskill didn’t have any trouble finding trout to tag in local creeks and streams last week, according to professor John R. Foster, chairman of the college’s fisheries and wildlife department.

“Often, everybody’s excited about the first day of trout season, and often, those conditions aren’t the very best,” Foster said.

But today’s weather might impact humans more than the fish.

“They’re cold-water fish, to begin with,” Foster said.

If the water temperature is below 2.5 degrees centigrade, or 37 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish will appear “fairly lethargic” to anglers, he said.

If the water warms up just a little, it will trigger the fish to start feeding, he said.

Despite the DEC’s warnings, Foster said he and the students didn’t find the waters they plied to be overly fast.

“Right now the water levels aren’t so terribly bad,” Foster said Wednesday.

Last week and again this past Monday, fisheries and wildlife students were out on creeks gathering fish to tag as part of their annual surveys.

“The trout were there,” Foster said.

He declined to identify the specific streams and creeks where the students were having success. Doing so might disrupt their study and leave anglers with a bunch of tagged fish.

Bait shop quiet

By early afternoon Thursday, Missy Ross said Ross’s Bait Shop in the town of Amsterdam saw only a few customers — the “diehards” that go out anyway.

“You get a few that will go no matter what,” Ross said.

The bait shop, in business for more than 40 years, is open year-round to cater to people going ice fishing or fishing in the Mohawk River.

Ross said she expects more customers will start coming in as soon as the weather gets better. She, like others, is eager for that to happen.

“I can’t wait to get out of the house either,” Ross said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting snow up until 1 p.m. today followed by rain and snow, with a high temperature close to 35.

Winds from the north will be blowing at between 11 and 15 mph with gusts as high as 25 mph. Snow should total 3 to 6 inches, depending on location.

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