In September 2017, I attended one of the very first of 16 meetings that would be held statewide to get a solid consensus of input across various locales.
The purpose of this meeting series on trout stream management was to understand the range of outcomes desired by trout stream anglers and the relative importance of those outcomes in contributing to a satisfactory angling experience. The acquisition of this information was undertaken as the first step in developing a new statewide trout stream management plan. Last week’s mention of the trout stream draft and email up for public comment, which ended Thursday, directly deals with this report.
The meeting series was based upon revamping the current Catch Rate Oriented Trout Stocking (CROTS) system of trout stocking, which has been in place and implemented for more than 30 years.
Way back when, almost everyone was overly gung-ho on keeping every single fish caught (within legal limits, of course). In a nutshell, the NYSDEC considered any trout stocked and not caught a loss of revenue to the state. Yes, I know that sounds crazy.
Times are changing, and so is the overall demographic of anglers. Catch and release is becoming more and more prevalent, as is the realization for the real need of habitat protection and importance of true wild fish.
Over the years, the study has found that what is defined as fishing “satisfaction” has gradually been changing from being solely based upon the number of trout caught to more of the “experience” of catching larger fish in quality environments and being able to catch those fish all season long.
The current plan has been in place since 1990, and the goal catch rate per angler has been 1/2 trout caught per angler per hour and one trout caught per angler per hour in special regulation catch and release areas. Many key notes were discussed about individual streams with emphasis being on carrying capacity. Chemical fertility, competition of non-trout species, and habitat also play a vital role in determining the stocking efforts of said stream. The accountability of wild trout are also factored into the carrying capacity.
Based on sign-in sheets, 318 people (excluding any DEC staff) participated in the meetings, with attendance ranging from seven to 42. The Ballston Spa meeting had the most people in attendance of any given meeting statewide with 42 people. A total of 33% of participants reported no organizational affiliation, 36% reported Trout Unlimited membership and 12% reported membership in other organizations focused on outdoor recreation and conservation.
After the final meeting, frequently expressed desired outcomes were categorized and their relative prevalence was analyzed to provide a picture of the most important needs identified by anglers who participated in the meetings.
The set of desired outcomes expressed was quite diverse but, based on prevalence, it was possible to identify a “top five” list of take home messages from the public comment.
Those messages were that anglers value:
- High quality stream habitat as a means to better fishing and as a desired outcome in its own right.
- The opportunity to catch wild trout and to a lesser extent stocked trout that have been in the stream longer than freshly stocked trout.
- Extended availability of trout stocked in streams.
- A diversity of distinct stream fishing experiences (stocked trout, wild trout, easy vs. challenging, etc.) and the information necessary to find them.
- Management success to be based on more than just catch rate of trout per hour.
As the next step in rethinking trout stream management in New York State, the DEC will use the top five desired outcomes identified during these meetings to begin crafting a plan that incorporates the expectations and desires of the trout stream angling public.
FREE FISHING WEEKEND
This weekend is one of free fishing days that occur statewide every year here in New York. Perhaps you have out of state family visiting, a friend that wants to go but does not want to pull the trigger on buying a license, there are many scenarios where the public can capitalize on the no license requirement.
Every year, six days are designated in New York that allow people to fish without a fishing license. It is a great time of year for those to try it for the first time or introduce someone new to the sport. (All other general fishing regulations still apply.)
Future free fishing days are Sept. 26, Nov. 11 and Feb. 13-14, 2021.
RECORD ROCK BASS
Albeit not the species of fish one thinks about for a state record, indeed it along with 44 other species can qualify for New York state records.
A new rock bass record was reeled in by one lucky young angler. Usually, we catch rock bass inadvertently while fishing for other species here and there, mostly in the 6-to-8 inch range and certainly less than a pound.
While fishing off the dock at his family’s cottage on Port Bay (Lake Ontario) on May 24, Jason Leusch caught a 14 1/2-inch, 2-pound rock bass using a live shiner. It edged the previous state record caught from the Ramapo River in 1984 by just 1 ounce, enough to qualify as a new state record. Now that is a darn big rock bass!