MONTOUR FALLS | The long and cold winters of the past few years have led to a few pretty good seasons for rainbow trout anglers.
That may not be the case this year with temperatures passing 70 degrees recently.
“With the mild winter we’ve had this year, the fish are running a little bit earlier,” DEC aquatic biologist Brad Hammers said.
DEC teams spent Wednesday morning analyzing rainbow trout in Catharine Creek, a popular site for trout fishing to the south of Seneca Lake, to obtain some data in anticipation of the coming trout season.
The DEC used electric wands to stun the fish and then scoop them up in a net, a method known as electrofishing. The fish were then taken to the shore where they were measured and weighed. Scale samples were taken to measure the fish's’ age and growth rate, while gender and female spawning conditions were determined, as well.
The teams collected around 20 fish in a roughly 50-yard section of the creek.
One of the major things the DEC is looking for are lamprey scars, which would indicate the fish have been attacked by sea lampreys.
An invasive parasitic species, the sea lamprey population has been controlled in Seneca and Keuka Lake by the DEC since 1982.
This year, the fish looked to be pretty bitten up.
“There’s a lot of lamprey scars on this fish, which is somewhat concerning to us,” Hammers said. “We have to look at that a little more.”
Despite the lamprey scars, the fish looked to be healthy overall, Hammers said.
However, what’s really important to anglers about the DEC’s measurements is how far the trout are along their run ahead of opening day, which is April 1.
Normally, the cold weather this time of year would mean the fish haven’t made it that far upstream yet. This year was different due to the anomaly of warm weather in recent months.
“Based on what I’ve heard and what we’ve seen, I think a significant portion of the run has already occurred,” Hammers said. “Come April 1 there probably won’t be as many fish in the creek as there had been the last two years.”
“We’ve heard they’re all the way up to Pine Valley,” he added.
Anglers shouldn’t be discouraged though. Although there may not be as many fish in the creek unless there’s a cold spell that holds more of them a little longer, Hammers said there will still be fish in the creek come opening day.
“There’s going to be fish here April 1,” Hammers said. “Definitely, there’ll be fish in the creek for people to catch.”
The DEC will take similar measurements at Naples Creek at 9 a.m. March 24, at the Route 245 bridge just north of the Village of Naples, and at Cold Brook (Keuka Inlet) at 10 a.m. March 25, in the hamlet of Pleasant Valley.