March 29 - Opening Day Outlook

The official opening of the trout season in New York State is just 3 days away….and for those of us who live in the Catskills, it can’t arrive soon enough! We’ve had a relatively mild winter – as evidenced by the lack of any significant snowpack in the woods and on the hillsides, but there have been many cold and gray days, with snow flurries occurring almost every day this past month.

A drive along the Willowemoc, Beaverkill, East and West Branches of the Delaware this morning showed rivers surprisingly low for this time of year – but in excellent shape for fishing on Monday morning, unlike the typical high waters that are so difficult to wade through during the early season.

The Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at a paltry 347 cubic feet per second on Friday afternoon – about 1/3 the average flow of 1020 cfs based on 99 years of record-keeping.  The highest flow recorded on March 29 was 8570 cfs in 2005; the lowest flow recorded on this date was in 1981 when just 196 cubic feet per second flowed past the gauging station.

This should allow for easy wading on Opening Day – although anglers should take care when entering the water for the first time, as even in familiar beats, stream bottoms may have changed over the long winter, with new obstacles or deeper pools and runs than in the past.

Reports of some early season black stoneflies were hatching on a pool on the upper Willowemoc the other day – and surely if we get some bright sunshine for any length of time, more fly activity might be spurred on.

Fly fishers will want to keep a supply of nymphs on hand, as is traditional during these opening weeks of the trout season when water temperatures are very cold; however, for those with an optimistic outlook, you might have some Quill Gordons, Blue Quills and Caddis flies in sizes #16 and #18s on hand.

As we look forward to the opening of the season, it’s a good time to examine your fishing gear - check your waders by using a flashlight to look for holes or tears. Get out your fishing rod and look for loose or worn guides that might need repair or replacing; make sure your reel operates smoothly. Look for weak spots in your line, and be sure to have a new leader and enough tippet material. It’s a good time to wash your fishing vest if you have not done so already, and see that you have fly repellent, sunscreen, sun glasses, clippers, etc. and anything else you may need in the pockets. Check your net to be sure the net bag is secure and not coming undone, and to make sure there is no damage to the mesh.

Information provided by the DEC states that anyone 16 years of age and older who desires to fish in New York must have a New York State fishing license, available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS.  Fishing licenses can also be purchased from the 1,500 license issuing agents located throughout the state (town and county clerks, some major discount stores and many tackle and sporting goods stores).  An interactive map providing the locations of these agents is now available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html. By law, every dollar spent on a fishing license helps fund the DEC fish stocking program and other programs conducted by the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.  When buying a license, consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp to help fund important access and habitat projects. For more information on the Habitat/Access Stamp Program, go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html.