I grew up fishing for trout.
The little Harrison Creek that runs by our house was a great place for trout. There were small ponds and cut banks that always contained a fish or two.
Fishing used to be best upstream where the creek flows through the forest, but that changed as the rising water turned the creek bed into several small rivers.
I have also fished Otego Creek from Laurens to Hartwick and caught dozens of brown trout, but over the years the fishing has changed as well.
The first major change occurred when the area experienced a flood in 2006. The rising water volume dramatically changed the waterways. The deep pools were filled with gravel and debris. The bottoms of the streams were completely cleaned out, killing or washing away all the insects that formed the main diet of the fish.
I fished one day just after the flood up Mount Vision. My favorite sites no longer exist. I’ve never had a bite or caught a fish. In 2011, it happened again.
Recently, there have been claims online that trout fishing will not exist in New York’s future. Articles have indicated that lakes and streams are becoming too warm for trout. Our winters have been warmer, but the cool spring-fed streams can still hold fish.
One of the main factors for the decline in trout numbers is stock shortages. Take Otego Creek for example.
The state stopped at every bridge and disposed of the fish every spring. Sure, there were people who followed the trucks and kept to their limits. With the help of Trout Unlimited and members of the Fish and Game Club, trout were carried up and down streams away from the bridges so the fish could reproduce and survive.
They stopped stocking Otego Creek several years ago because numerous beaver dams prevented trout from reaching their spawning areas.
Last year, the EPA sent letters to landowners in Otsego and Montgomery counties who had previously allowed public hunting on their property. If they do not receive a response, there will be no fish stocked in that section of the river.
The response was less than 25%. They asked people to go visit these landowners and get permission, but times have changed. New people own the land, many from outside the area. People are afraid to file a lawsuit.
Result: Those areas will not be stored. Entire streams out of storage lists.
As a result, when there are no fish to catch, the end of trout fishing is in sight. How many times have you taken your kids fishing and never gotten a bite before the kids lose interest?
I am a member of the Otsego County District 4 DEC Fish and Wildlife Board. Tuesday I was at a meeting in Utica regarding fish stocking in New York State.
Last spring, DEC sent letters to landowners who had allowed people access to their property to fish in the past. Only 23% of people responded positively to the message and 34% refused to access their belongings.
There are currently only a few streams where trout are stocked: Chenevous Creek, Elk Creek, and Wharton Creek because trout cannot be stocked without fishing access to the public.
To correct this situation, volunteers will visit landowners who previously allowed hunting on their property. We hope that many of you will reconsider your fishing accessibility.
What’s the benefit you might ask? It helps the economy. Hunters stop at local stores and spend money. It makes kids do outdoor activities instead of spending all their free time on the computer.
I’m able to go on, but you get the idea. Trout fishing has been a way of life for many of our residents. Let’s continue to enjoy nature at its best.