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April 12, 2013

Fishing is a lot different these days

The Daily Star

---- — Opening day of trout season passed and I didn’t even realize it.

It’s different today than it was many years ago.

I was always ready to fish on April 1. When winter finally thawed into spring, I was on the local streams even if there was snow on the ground and ice on the creeks.

I remember heading up the creek by my house and having to break ice to get a worm into the frigid water. I’ve caught many nice brookies that way, despite the weather.

One opening day, an old friend of mine and I started at the Hartwick Rod and Gun Club and fished down to the South Hartwick bridge. Every pool had a trout or two. Steve and I caught a number of nice browns and brook trout that morning and none of them were stocked the day before. Each of us easily could have limited out that morning.

But again, it’s different today. Fish aren’t in the creeks like they were in the past.

I talked to a fellow who lives on the Otsdawa Creek the other day. He and his son had fished a section behind their house. Over the years, there were always trout in the creek, but not anymore. They fished for a couple of hours and never got a bite. He asked for my opinion on the subject.

I feel there are several reasons for the demise of trout in our local streams. The main problem is food.

Since we’ve had two major floods in recent years, the creek bottoms have been severely scoured and their levels have dropped dramatically.

Harrison Creek, which runs along Route 23 in front of my house, is several feet lower than the adjacent ground than it was when I grew up.

When you have raging water that will roll half-ton boulders, the entire ecosystem changes. If gravel is washed down stream for several miles, so are the fish and everything else. There has been little, if any, insect life and no minnows for the trout to eat for several years. The pools are gone, and so are the trout.

Sure the DEC stocks trout every spring, but as the stocking truck makes its rounds, so do a number of fishermen. As soon as the fish are dumped off the bridges, a number of people fish them out as quickly as possible.

I have to give a big hand to the County Federation of Sportsmen. They volunteer their time to help with the stocking and carry as many fish as possible up and down the creek a ways to reduce the immediate overfishing. It helps, but it’s not the total solution.

I always have felt that stocking should be done several weeks before the season or after the season in the fall. Many of the fish would move to different waters and maybe even spawn, creating more fish for the future. Our streams lack the natural spawning that existed in the past.

I also understand that fish are stocked so people can go out and catch something. How many times will you go fishing if you don’t catch a fish every once in a while?

As I think about it, more than the streams have changed. There’s no way I could fish down a large section of the Otego Creek anymore. Much of the land is posted and off limits to fisherman. Sure there are conservation easements on many sections of the streams, but there are also a lot of posted signs.

Times have changed.

So I guess I’ll wait. As the water warms, the flies will hatch on other streams and I’ll wade the streams in search of trout. It’s not that I quit fishing. I’m just starting a little later.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at