What's to like about a long, cold winter? Well, opening day of fishing season – at least on trout streams in the Finger Lakes – is shaping up to be pretty good.
MILLPORT | What’s to like about a long, cold winter? Well, opening day of fishing season – at least on trout streams in the Finger Lakes – is shaping up to be pretty good.
A team from the state Department of Environmental Conservation spent Tuesday and Wednesday mornings sampling rainbow trout on Catharine Creek, south of Seneca Lake. In all, they shocked and netted 237 fish lurking in deeper pools near the rapids.
“That’s a lot more than we normally get,” said Brad Hammers, a DEC aquatic biologist. “The run has just started. They’re still working their way upstream.”
The cold water – around 35 degrees in Catharine Creek this week – has delayed the start of the annual spawning run, Hammers said. And although it’s expected to warm up a bit at the end of this week, the 10-day forecast is calling for more cold temperatures next week.
That means there’s a good chance there’ll still be plenty of trout in the streams on April 1, which is opening day.
“The fish should be there,” Hammers said. “It’s just up the anglers to catch them.”
The DEC crew checked out a handful of prime spots in Catharine Creek, mostly between Millport and Montour Falls along State Route 14. Wading through the stream, they carried generator packs and wands that kick off an electrical field of 150 volts or one amp, just enough to temporarily stun the fish.
As the trout splashed to the surface, the DEC staff swooped them up with nets. The trout were placed on a board and measured, then weighed on a scale. The biologists also scraped off scales with a pocketknife to determine the age of the fish. They also checked the gender of the fish, and if the females’ bellies were hard with eggs.
The DEC staff also inspects the trout for wounds or scars from parasitic sea lampreys.
“One of the main reasons we do this is to help us evaluate our sea lamprey control program out (on Seneca Lake),” Hammers said. “Based on the number of wounds and scars, we can get an approximate feel for how many lampreys are out on the lake.”
The DEC treats streams each spring with chemicals that attack the sea lamprey larvae.
The biologists were also looking for trout with clips, indicating they were released into Catharine Creek under an experimental stocking program that began three years ago to boost the rainbow trout population.
This would be the first year that the stocked trout would begin returning to Catharine Creek to spawn, and the DEC crew netted about a half-dozen fish with clips, an encouraging sign, Hammers said.
As the DEC crew worked, about a dozen curious local fishermen watched from the stream banks. One said it was “the most fish I’ve seen them pull out of here since I was a kid.”
There were some lunkers.
The biggest trout were 12.4 pounds and 12.1 pounds, respectively - nearly three feet long. There were also a few nine-pounders, Hammers said, and lots in the six- to seven-pound range.
The 12-pounders were some of the biggest fish he’d seen in his 15 years of sampling trout, Hammers said.
The DEC crew will conduct trout samples in two more locations this week.
They go to Naples Creek at the south end of Canandaigua Lake today, starting at the Route 245 bridge at the north end of the village of Naples at 9 a.m.
On Friday, they’ll go to Cold Brook at the south end of Keuka Lake, starting at the Pleasant Valley Road bridge near Mercury Aircraft in Hammondsport around 10 a.m.
The public is welcome to watch.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that fees for fishing licenses are being reduced this year, and that they can now be bought and printed online at http://licensecenter.ny.gov as part of the state’s NY Open for Hunting and Fishing initiative. Fishing licenses can also be purchased by calling (866) 933-2257.