Tag Archives: trout

The Connetquot River Is Coming Back

Early on in my fly fishing pursuits I found myself releasing my 14th trout in two hours of fishing the Connetquot River. I felt good about this until a man walked by claiming to have caught 50. He’d grown bored, he said, and was going home early. Adding insult, he scooped a dip from his lower lip and flicked it into the water, where a trout rose to meet it.

The Connetquot River has been described as Long Island’s blue ribbon trout stream, a once private fishing club turned into a pristine State Park with an on-site hatchery that stocked it with kamloops rainbows, brooks and browns. Some of the fish held over and reproduced, creating a small wild population, and some below the dam attained sea run status, heading out beyond where the river dumps into the Great South Bay.

brook trout spring 08

It worked via a beat system–a valid NY fishing license and $20 reserved the opportunity to fish an assigned stretch of river (choice of spots given by the order of sign in) for a four hour segment.

Fishing there always made you feel like a better fly angler than you really were; the deck was stacked in your favor like Kim Jong Il on the golf course. It fished that way until 2008, when an outbreak of Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis forced the State to shut down the hatchery.

The park opened early in the winter of 2009 and started a cull-fest, encouraging anglers to keep every fish they caught in order to rid the river of contaminated fish. I went one day; most stretches of water had been picked clean but I witnessed one young angler konk an old kyped brown trout and stuff it in a plastic bag.

In its heyday the park always had detractors for obvious reasons, and I’ve felt conflicted about it, but mostly enjoyed my times there. My friends and I learned a lot about fly fishing making pre-dawn pilgrimages from Hoboken and New York City.  The fish were stocked, but some of them held over and the browns in particular could prove as challenging and rewarding as any fish anywhere.

Winter Brown

Fishing at the park itself was steeped in ethics. It was one of the first places to ban felt sole, making rubber-soled hip waders mandatory in all wading spots. (One justification for the hip-waders–you couldn’t wade out too far and degrade the river bed with your footwork.) Barbless hooks were mandatory, egg patterns were banned, and general assholery not tolerated. Gil the riverkeeper walked the trails along the banks making sure your gear was copacetic, that you were respecting others’ space or to gently explain how your clumsy wading was ruining it for every angler downstream. Violations resulted in banishment.

Trout Unlimited and the Boy Scouts and other local conservation groups kept the waters and trails clean and practiced stream restoration.

These types of things carry over.

So I was thrilled this week to read in Newsday that the Friends of the Connetquot organization raised the necessary funding to get the hatchery back on track. The river is an amazing resource and, according to the article, the fly fishing brings in $300,000 of much-needed revenue annually to the park.

Thanks to Friends of the Connetquot for making this happen.

RODS: Horrocks-Ibbotson Info?

brown on the mohawk

Last year I liberated my dad’s old Horrocks-Ibbotson fiberglass fly rod from a dusty corner of the boat shed. [I'd say "borrowed" but that implies the intent to return it.] Since then it has become my favorite stick for trout fishing. I’m pretty sure it was a low end rod in its day, but it just has a great feel to it for trouting applications. Plus, at only 7 1/2 feet, it’s much easier to wield on the small brush lined streams I frequent before the stripers show up.

I’m having a hard time finding quality information about the manufacturer, though. So far this is the most relevent link I’ve found. If anyone knows more about the company and its rods, shoot me an email or leave a comment.

Feral Trout

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UPDATE: The Caddis Fly has an post about stocking and Oregon steelhead. And Fly Talk has an article on breeding and stocking whirling resistant rainbows.

If I want to fish for trout within an hour’s drive of my house, I have to fish stocked waters. Actually, almost every accessible stream within reason is stocked at some point in the season. It’s a fact of life.

It’s usually easy to tell how long a trout has been in the stream by how it reacts to a fly. If it’s fresh out of the hatchery it typically blasts just about anything that drifts or swims by it, regardless of presentation. When it is hooked, it doesn’t know what to do at first, probably thinking along the lines of, “that pellet I just ate seems to be pulling me in a direction I do not wish to go. This is disconcerting.”

But as the season goes on and they survive day after day of being pummeled by catch-and-release fly anglers, they start to take on a more wary persona. They become feral like domesticated animals such as cats or pigs when left to their own devices. They start acting like, well, trout.

The whole stocked vs. wild trout debate is interesting to someone like me who primarily fishes salt and warm water. But some guys get pretty fired up about it. I once read an article by a wild trout advocate who said (paraphrasing) that the fact there is stocking at all represents a colossal failure of trout management policies.

I checked out a couple of Trout Unlimited articles on the subject and came away with the following passage:

“In those streams where water quality is exceptional, TU advocates sustainability. Those streams have qualities that enable them to withstand fishing pressure without the need for stocking. Those streams have large numbers of all sizes of fish. But TU also recognizes that most streams fail to meet the quality standards that enable native populations to be sustained. This is especially true for streams that reside within the reach of large population centers.”

And here’s a link to an article from a Pennsylvannia paper on stocked vs. wild trout. 

My questions are, if trout survive the season and then the winter as holdovers, are they then considered wild? Does their wildness then progress by degree with each subsequent season and winter?  Should it be an accepted reality that in order to have sustainable trout angling, stocking must be done, or is it, as the one guy wrote, representative of a fishery management failure?

TROUT: A Return to the Connetquot River

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I took a late afternoon trip to the Connetquot River on Long Island yesterday. The rules have changed since they discovered a virus at the hatchery this winter. For one, the use of chest waders and felt-bottomed boots is prohibited. There is limited wading on the river below the hatchery, but only in hip waders. (Very few people can wear hip waders without looking ridiculous, and odds are you are not one of them.) I’ll put up the official new rules in a future post.

What else has changed? The days of retarted meat slab fishing (or hero fishing, depending on your perspective) appear–at least for the time being–to be over. The park is still stocking the river, but you can no longer approach a hole, cast a piece of yarn on a size 16, and expect a stocked brook trout to assault it. The trout are still numerous, but in each of my visits to the river this season they’ve behaved like, well, trout. They spook if you approach the river without caution, they don’t forgive you if you flub a cast, and they hightail it somewhere else if you brazenly false cast over their heads. Where it used to be normal to catch upwards of 20 trout, with days of over 40 (then it could rightly be called stupid fishing), this year I’ve averaged around four a trip. Yesterday I worked hard to catch a couple of wary browns and a chunky brook, and connected with a reel-zinging rainbow of serious proportions that would have qualified for Slab of the Month status had it not straightened out the hook. But no one wants to read about almosts, so I’ll end it there.