Considering what happened late last summer, a lot of anglers are probably wondering what to expect when trout season opens in 24 days.
According to the experts, what we can expect to find, in a word, is trout.
Yes, tropical storms Irene and Lee made a real mess out of many small streams in the Catskills and Adirondacks. But apart from those streams that were dredged and channelized, it was a natural mess.
All the blown-down trees, brand-new pools and undercuts and other structure that was created by Irene will actually suit trout quite well. In fact, New York, Vermont, Trout Unlimited and other partners have put a lot of money and hard work into installing woody debris in the Battenkill River in recent years, to give young trout a place to hide from predators. Irene provided a whole bunch of that stuff for free, all over the Northeast.
Certainly, a lot of trout and aquatic insects were lost in the storm, but not all. And past experience shows the fish have a remarkable ability to repopulate after such events.
“Sure the fish are impacted, but it’s not the devastation you might expect,” said Bill Schoch, the Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries manager for the northeast corner of the state, including the Adirondack high peaks. “A lot of those fish are still there and doing fine. They probably spawned in October and will be there in the spring as in other years — maybe a little lower, but I don’t think the average angler’s going to see a huge difference.”
Spring stocking will proceed as usual, he said.
In the Catskills, “we expect fishing to be good on the wild and stocked streams throughout DEC Region 4 in 2012,” said Rick Georgeson, a spokesman for the region, which includes Greene, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Montgomery, Columbia, Rensselaer, Albany and Schenectady counties.
“We conducted trout population studies on the West and East Branches of the Delaware River following the 2006 major flood and found that trout populations on both rivers were unaffected by this event. DEC conducted invertebrate assessments on both rivers that same summer and found no obvious reductions in aquatic insect abundance or diversity.
“The Beaverkill and the Delaware River system downstream of the Pepacton and Cannonsville Reservoirs were largely unaffected by Irene and Lee,” Georgeson said. “The upper East Branch above the Pepacton Reservoir was impacted by Irene. However, channelization in these streams was very minimal.”
Stocking in the region will be slightly curtailed. The West Kill in the hard-hit Schoharie Valley, for example, won’t get its 670 yearling browns this year because exposed clay banks have made the stream too muddy. In all, stocking in Region 4 will be reduced by just under 3,000 fish, but that’s only 1.5 percent of the region’s normal allotment.
In Vermont, Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Rich Kirn reports losses of up to 50 percent of the trout in the small streams of the Green Mountains. But he too can show examples of trout populations recovering quickly from past floods.
“In 1998, the Mad River valley and surrounding areas were hit by a devastating flood resulting in severe damage to public and
private infrastructure,” Kirn said in a report on the impacts of Irene. “The wild brook trout population in Clay Brook, a tributary of the Mad River in Warren, was reduced to a fraction of its previous levels. Significant recovery was noted in 2000, and by 2001, the population was within its normal pre-flood range, where it remained for the next decade.”
TU FLEA MARKET
If you have tackle, fly-tying stuff, books, artwork or anything else you’d like to sell, the Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited has
tables available at its annual flea market March 24. A table costs $20 plus 10 percent of sales, second and third tables, $15 and 10 percent. You can also sell a few items at the chapter’s table for 10 percent of your sales. The flea market will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Best Western Sovereign Hotel, 1228 Western Ave., Albany.
There’s more information available at www.clearwatertu.org.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at email@example.com.