On May 27 DEC announced its Draft Fisheries Management Plan for Inland Trout Streams in NYS is now open for public comment. The comment period closes on June 25, 2020.
The stated purpose of the plan is “…to guide the efforts and resources of the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) toward managing New York’s trout stream fisheries according to their ecological and recreational potential.
The plan was written to communicate what outcomes the DEC will strive to achieve while managing for a diversity of fishing experiences, and provide anglers with the means to find those experiences.”
The draft plan relies heavily, and builds upon information in the top desired outcomes expressed by the angling public in sixteen public meetings held statewide in 2017.
Plan objectives and strategies address the management of both wild and stocked trout, habitat enhancement and protection, public access, and outreach.
The scope of the plan is limited to publicly accessible inland trout streams that contain wild or stocked brook, brown and rainbow trout. Areas outside its scope include trout or salmon other than the three species identified above, lakes and ponds, tidal stream reaches and stream reaches where the recreational fishery is dependent on migratory rather than resident trout and includes tributary streams to the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain from their mouths to the first impassable barrier.
Specific actions planned include habitat enhancement and protection, new strategies for fish culture and trout stocking, angling regulation changes, and public access, information and outreach. The plan stresses the critical nature of improving trout stream habitat and its role in trout stream angling.
The last guidance DEC issued on the topic is over thirty years old and based heavily upon catch rate of trout per hour.
The plan considers the range of outcomes desired by trout stream anglers and the relative importance of those outcomes to angler satisfaction gleaned from the 16 public meetings held in 2017.
Those top five desired outcomes are:
• high quality stream habitat as a means to better fishing and as a desired outcome in its own right is important
• 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 should be made available
• management success should be based on more than just catch of trout per hour.
These findings demonstrated the need for the new current approach.
Trout stream reaches will be managed with a clear distinction between wild trout and stocked trout management. Wild trout can be present in a stocked reach, but hatchery trout will not be stocked in a reach managed for wild trout.
Guiding principles include:
• Striving for self-sustaining populations with an emphasis toward native trout (brook trout).
• Stocked fish will be used judiciously to achieve specific management outcomes.
• Domestic trout strains will be stocked to support a fishery, not to establish new self-sustaining populations.
• Management decisions will consider a stream reach’s recreational potential.
• Management will be directed toward stream reaches that are publicly accessible. Any management actions taken on private land must yield clear recreational benefits for the public.
• Expanding and maintaining public access is a key component of trout stream management.
The draft plan provides extended fishing opportunities to catch stocked trout using a strategy of frequent stockings and a reduced daily limit.
The Stocking Strategies section of the plan includes stocking yearlings at 9 inches and that 10% of the total number stocked in each planting will be trout 12 inches long or larger. The plan states,
“… frequent stocking is the most reliable means of satisfying the desire expressed by trout anglers for a longer period of good fishing for stocked trout.”
Five independent categories of trout stream management are included in the plan to address trout anglers’ expressed desire to be able to find and access a diverse array of distinct trout stream fishing experiences.
The five categories fall under streams designated for management as either “wild” or “stocked” as follows:
Wild Trout Management
Stocked Trout Management
I encourage you to read the full draft plan for the details of the five categories which include region by region, water body specific “Initial Stream Reach Category Assignment Charts.”
It breaks down classification of sections of streams and the new proposed regulations for them.
To give you an idea of the stream category criteria, it’s worth mentioning the Stocked-Extended Category stream is described as lacking the habitat needed to consistently support an abundant wild trout population. However, they typically support some wild trout.
Compared to reaches in the Stocked category, Stocked-Extended reaches can support stocked trout later in the season. These reaches can also handle higher fishing pressure as a function of their size and more extensive public access.
The plan notes that in combination, the habitat, angler use, and access characteristics of these reaches make them the most promising candidates in which to provide an extended fishing opportunity to catch stocked trout using a strategy of frequent stockings and a reduced daily limit.
Proposed Angling Regulation Changes:
The same angling seasons are proposed for all five management categories.
• April 1 - October 15 : Regular Season (daily harvest limits according to category)
• October 16 - March 31: Catch and Release Season (artificial lures only)
Harvest regulations for trout stream management categories apply from April 1 through October 15.
A daily limit of 5 trout, no more than 2 trout over 12” applies statewide to all trout streams lacking public access or otherwise excluded from this plan or another DEC fisheries management plan.
Stream Category Daily Limit
Wild - 5 trout, no more than 2 trout over 12”
Wild-Quality - 3 trout, no more than 1 trout over 12”
Wild-Premier - 1 trout, any size
Stocked - 5 trout, no more than 2 trout over 12”
Stocked-Extended - 3 trout, no more than 1 trout over 12”
Catch and Release Regulations
Nearly all reaches already managed under a catch and release regulation will be grandfathered into this plan under a year-round catch and release, artificial lures only regulation with no further evaluation required
These proposed changes are tentatively scheduled to go into effect on April 1st 2021.
DEC’s Anticipated Timeline: 2020
• Address Draft Plan public comments and finalize plan
• Conduct resurveys of stream reaches ranked as HIGH priority for resurvey
• Begin rulemaking process to adopt trout stream regulations proposed in Plan
• Update 2021 stocking policies to reflect Plan adjustments
• Begin adjustments to fish culture operations needed to meet objectives for Stocked and Stocked-Extended reaches
• Develop interactive map of publicly accessible trout stream reaches identified by management category; • develop new sign standard for management categories; • adopt standard guidance for early season fishing effort estimation on Stocked reaches;
• New angling regulations take effect April 1st 2021
• New stocking policies take effect
• Interactive trout stream reach map available online
• Wytheville strain rainbow trout fully replaced by Arlee strain rainbow trout in hatchery system
• Secure fluvial geomorphology expertise
• Complete resurveys of stream reaches ranked as HIGH priority for resurvey;
There is a lot of good information contained in the draft plan and I strongly recommend you view the full report which details its many important features. This will enable you to provide input with an informed comment and have your voice heard by DEC’s fisheries managers and policy makers.
To comment on the plan, send an e-mail with the subject line “Trout Stream Plan” or send written comments to the contact listed below.
Contact: Fred Henson, Coldwater Fisheries Unit Leader, NYSDEC-Division of Fish and Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753
NYS DEC will accept public comments on the draft plan until June 25, 2020.
Get your comments in asap, the June 25th deadline will be here before you know it.
Happy Hunting, Fishing and Trapping until next time.
News and Notes
Statewide Muskellunge Opener: Anglers seeking the ultimate trophy fish don’t have to wait much longer. The fishing season for muskellunge, New York’s largest freshwater sportfish, opens on May 30 across much of the state.
In New York’s Great Lakes waters (Lake Erie, Upper Niagara River, Lower Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River) the season opens on June 20th.
The 2020 Spring Turkey Season Ends at Noon on May 31.
Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.
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