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AUSABLE WATER WISE: It may be time to refine your Adirondack fishing experience

Hoping to improve your fishing experiences this year? Two new digital tools released by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will help. (Photo provided — Liz Kamb)

Over the past year, the Ausable River and waterways across New York State experienced an increase in the number of recreational anglers. With more people getting outside and recreating locally, there was a surge of returning, new, and renewed anglers. New York State reported record-breaking fishing and hunting license sales in 2020, and the trends for this year appear to be headed in the same direction.

There’s no doubt that angling offers an opportunity to practice an outdoors sport that appeals to all ages and skill levels and a chance to experience rivers and streams at their best. Here are some tips for navigating new state regulations, acquiring permits, reducing your impact, and maximizing your enjoyment of New York streams.

Two new digital tools released by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will help anglers get out on the New York’s rivers and lakes. First, in late spring 2020, the department released the DEC Automated Licensing System, or DECALS to allow for online purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. This was a boon when many outdoor stores were closed or working at limited capacity. Licenses can now be purchased online or from your favorite local outfitter. Remember that a large portion of license sales benefit DEC-funded and led projects to conserve and improve wildlife habitats as well as improving access to recreational fishing and hunting lands.

After you get your license, review all fishing regulations to understand new regulations at your favorite place. And look for updated tips on catch and release areas and limits or consumption guidelines for various waters. New this year is a fresh approach to trout stream management across New York State. Now all trout streams and rivers are sorted into those with wild reproduction and those that are supplemented with fish stocking. Each classification has separate regulations regarding daily limits and catch and release seasons. First, in the supplemented category, there are Stocked waters and Stocked-Extended waters. In Stocked waters, fish are stocked once at the beginning of the fishing season. But in Stocked-Extended streams, due to good habitat and popularity of fishing, stocking will be spread throughout the season. The idea is that strategic use of hatchery resources in the state can augment fishing opportunities for anglers in these streams.

In the three wild trout stream classifications that have been established this year, wild reproduction of trout has been documented and, as a result, no fish will be stocked. The wild stream category includes Wild-Premier, Wild-Quality, and Wild. Wild-Premier streams have extensive trout habitat and access with excellent fishing in terms of quality and quantity of fish. Wild-Quality and Wild streams have less access, habitat, or fewer wild fish. The plan focuses on funding habitat improvements to enhance fishing in these wild-designated trout streams across the state.

To help anglers identify and understand how to use these wild waters, DEC this month launched a web-based interactive Trout Stream Fishing Map as part of their DECinfo Locator. If you turn on the Trout Stream data layer, the map shows color-coded management classifications. Choose a stream segment of interest, click on it, and you will get stocking dates and numbers, species, and regulations for this particular area. Add the Trout Stream Fishing Access data layer to see parking areas and locations where DEC has secured public fishing rights from private landowners.

Use the map to help choose your next fishing location. Within the Ausable River watershed, for example, there are Stocked, Stocked-Extended, and Wild streams. On the West Branch Ausable River, the stretch from the Ski Jumps to Holcomb Pond Outlet is Stocked, receiving only one spring stocking. From Holcomb Pond outlet to Ausable Forks, however, the river is now designated as a Stocked-Extended stream. The two historic catch and release areas on the West Branch are still in effect, as shown on the new map.

Remember to avoid trout fishing during thermally stressful periods and consider moving to colder water or fishing for different species. And, as you refine your local fishing experience, please remember to Check, Clean, and Dry your fishing equipment to prevent the spread of invasive and nuisance species. You can protect our incredible streams, their trout, and other wildlife by using these three steps. CHECK for and remove all mud, plants, and animals from waders, boots, and fishing poles. CLEAN everything that came into contact with water using salt solution, detergent, or bleach. DRY your gear completely for at least 48 hours when cleaning is not possible. The Ausable River Association provides wader wash stations along the Ausable River where you can clean your boots before moving between waterbodies.

Chat with our river steward, who you might run into while fishing the Ausable River, to learn more about ways to protect the river while fishing. Visit our website, ausableriver.org, for blogs about the best flies and fly rods to use on the Ausable River and Ausable watershed-specific fishing information.

(Carrianne Pershyn is the biodiversity research manager at the Ausable River Association, based in Wilmington.)