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Inland trout changes abound this year

Mother Nature had her April Fool’s joke with our area after almost a week of spring-like weather. There were a lot of confused robins walking around shivering in the cold and snow. April 1 used to be one of the most anticipated sporting days on the outdoors person’s calendar, with the opening of in-land trout season. I dare say that enthusiasm has lessened over the years, at least locally.

There have been a number of changes, with in-land trout, especially this year. For starters, the size of the trout being stocked has changed. Randolph fish hatchery manager Rich Borner commented that the average size of the trout that are being released this year will be at least 9 inches in length compared to 8 inches. This is a new policy requirement. In addition 10% of the fish stocked in each increment will be 12 inches or longer. Those larger fish will be brown trout raised at the Caledonia hatchery. There has been an issue with zebra mussels in the Rome fish hatchery, which has not yet been resolved, so for 2021 all the brown trout raised at Rome will only be stocked in waters that already have zebra mussels, mainly the Great Lakes and some of the Finger Lakes.

In response to the mussel issue, Region 9 will be stocking yearling rainbow trout in some of our waters instead of brown tout. In the future, the DEC will be working to potentially raise larger-sized fish at other hatcheries, including rainbow trout. The DEC’s new Inland Trout Management Plan is in place and the regulations went into effect on April 1. The new trout stream regulations will allow year-round angling for all in-land trout streams state wide. The period of October 16 to March 31 will be limited to to catch-and-release, with only the use of artificial lures permitted during that time. To read more on the Inland Trout Management Plan go online at dec.ny.gov/outdoor/111015.html. Note that these regulation changes are for inland trout streams, not lakes and ponds or Great Lakes tributaries, and the plan is geared mainly towards streams with public access — either public fishing easements or publicly owned lands. Check out the DEC website at dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7917.html.

Another new change was the elimination of volunteers to assist with this year’s stocking program. This was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To avoid the potential for mass gatherings at the release sites, specific times and sites were not released to the public. Before the pandemic , it was not uncommon for volunteers from Trout Unlimited, BOCES and various science project students to show up. Once the green light is given, the DEC looks forward to re-engaging with the helpful dedicated volunteers.

The Randolph Fish Hatchery raises and stocks brook, brown and rainbow trout into the waters of Allegany State Park, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chautauqua and Wyoming counties. All three species of the broodstock are released into area streams in late October. The Randolph hatchery also transfers trout to other hatcheries to stock in other areas and the Great Lakes. The Randolph hatchery will raise and handle about 220,000 nine-inch fish that will be stocked this spring. The NYSDEC operates 12 fish hatcheries where numerous fish species are reared for stocking in more than 1,200 public waters across the state. Because of COVID, all of the state hatcheries have been closed to the public. For an update on streams that have been stocked, call the stocking hotline at the Randolph hatchery at 358-2050. The Lake Erie and Western NY Fishing Hotline is 716-855- 3474. A tip of the hat goes to Rich Borner and Megan Gollwitzer of the Office of Communications for Region 9.

The DEC also recently announced that the muzzleloader and late-season archery/bow season will be extended this year in the Southern Zone. The holiday deer hunt will run from Dec, 26 to Jan. 1, in the NYS Southern Zone. According to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, this will allow students who are on Christmas vacation, and family and friends who are visiting for the holiday to participate in hunting. Hunters must purchase a muzzle loading or bow hunting privilege to participate in the late bow or muzzle loading seasons and may use all deer carcass tags valid during those seasons. This expanded season will apply to the Southern Zone only. The DEC requested a public comment on this extended hunt back in September and received more than 3,000 replies in favor of the extended season. Using only the primitive weapons, the DEC biologists do not anticipate a significant effect on the deer harvest or local deer populations.

The colder temperatures and strong winds slowed down much of the fishing action locally. Look for the action to pick up again this coming week with the return of warmer weather. No fooling!

CALENDAR

There will be a new walleye tournament coming to the area this year based out of the Barcelona area. It will be a main event on Saturday, June 15 with a big-fish Friday on June 14. Details later.

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