A chance at fall spawners
For anglers living in central and western New York, fall is the time to fish tributaries of the Finger Lakes and the Great Lakes. This is the time of year when runs a pacific salmon, brown trout and land-locked Atlantic salmon begin their spawning migrations. So fisherman, including fly fisherman, have the opportunity to fish for and catch large trout and salmon on the fly.
Sadly, those of us that live in the Catskill region don’t have much of an opportunity to fish for fall spawners, despite the fact that all the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reservoirs in the Catskills have populations of brown trout, and in some cases, land-locked Atlantic salmon. Migration of these species into tributaries begins in early fall, depending on water levels and stream flow. Spawning takes place in mid to late November. And unlike Great Lakes tributaries, the streams that feed Catskill reservoirs—with the exception of the Esopus Creek—are closed to fishing at the end of September!
As an all-around angler and fly fisherman, it is disappointing to me that this is the case, in that it prevents me and others from fishing the spawning runs and from having the opportunity to hook a really large fish on a fly.
Frankly I fail to understand why fisheries managers have not changed angling regulations to allow fall fishing. Here are the waters in question and a little about them: Neversink Reservoir, 1,471 acres fed by the Neversink River; Rondout Reservoir, 2,052 acres fed by the Rondout Creek; Pepacton Reservoir, 5,700 acres fed by the East Branch of Delaware, Trempers Kill and Mill Brook; Cannonsville Reservoir, 4,700 acres, fed by the West Branch of the Delaware. Each of these reservoirs is stocked with brown trout and the Neversink with landlocked Atlantic salmon. Each also has populations of wild stocks of these species, recruited from natural reproduction from the tributaries. Each reservoir also has either alewives or smelts as a forage base and grows fish into the 10-pound range, even larger. And each one of tributaries supports a fall spawning run of browns or salmon.
My question is: who as fishermen are using the vast resources of these reservoirs? We are talking over 12,000 acres of prime trout habit here. During my travels to Downsville, I have the opportunity to pass the Pepacton Reservoir at least once per week from late April into mid October. Know what I see, or perhaps the better question, what I don’t see? Fishermen! From where the East Branch joins, the Pepacton stretches some 20 miles to Downsville. In that distance, if I see six boats, and 10 cars, that’s a lot.
What’s the problem then? There are several. All of these reservoirs have limited access and anglers can’t use motors. As a result, fishing pressure is extremely light. So my next question is: with all of this underused resource available, who are we managing these reservoirs for? The fish or fishermen?
In recent weeks, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced a series of informational meeting across the state, to discuss with and take input from fishermen about trout-stream management. The schedule can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/111015.html. My recommendation to the Region 3 and 4 fisheries mangers will be to open the tributaries of all four reservoirs to fall fishing until the end of October. There could be size and bag limits, or no-kill regulations. But at least we’d have a shot of hooking a 10-pound trout on a fly. We can hope!