By Rich Davenport, published 11/13/2021
Many changes occurred in early 2021 in New York, as the NYSDEC adopted their Inland Trout Stream Management Plan, which truly reflects much hard work, study and is considered to be one of the finest trout management plans in the Nation. Focusing solely upon inland streams, cold water fisheries managers and biologists moved away from the straight “put and take” view of streams, and relative stocking, taking a habitat-quality and reproductive potential examination, delivering different classifications for each stream to base stocking and protection decisions upon.
Although the official season for inland trout remains April 1 through October 15, across all inland streams, lakes and ponds (Great Lakes and Finger Lakes waters seasons differ), the traditional “closed” season, especially on the inland streams and creeks, has been replaced with a catch and release (C&R) fishing opportunities, using artificial-only lures and flies, live bait use is not permitted in the streams. I stress this is for the streams, as the management plan does not encompass inland ponds and lakes, that plan will be coming soon, and many of these waters that offer ice fishing has trout open year-round. In these waters, live bait is permitted (live bait definition includes the use of egg sacs and even products like Berkley Trout Bait, or Mike’s Salmon Eggs, salted minnows and even dried meal worms, live grubs, minnows, worms, etc.), so be sure you are familiar with the freshwater fishing regulations governing the body of water you will be fishing – a good idea regardless.
For those anglers that enjoy the experience of working a small stream, creek or brook, late fall and winter can offer some of the best trout fishing of the year, as trout love cold, oxygenated water, and during winter, fishing pressure on these streams is very low.
The catch and release, artificial only “season” runs from October 16 through March 31 on inland streams, with few exceptions. If donning the waders and working the holes in any given stream is what you love, but due to the season closure you couldn’t enjoy the experience, that condition is now corrected, so make some plans and enjoy this new opportunity. While others are busy hunting, you can literally have the streams to yourself. Just be aware that hunters may be in the vicinity, so donning some safety orange while any hunting season is open is always a good idea.