Outdoors by Rick Brockway: Give fish a break in dog days of summer

I spend a lot of time driving the backroads of Otsego and neighboring counties. It’s amazing what I see.

Earlier this week, I was mostly in Delaware County and the sights were fantastic. On Monday, I saw a coyote with two pups out in a mowed field catching mice and moles. They’re always fun to watch. Mom heard or spotted one and jumped up in the air to pounce on it. One of the pups jumped up just like her mom for the heck of it. When a coyote catches one of those little critters, they usually throw it up in the air and catch it before eating it. In this case, she tore it apart for her youngsters.

Tuesday was interesting as well. I saw a doe deer with her twin fawns. They stood in a hedge row not far from the road. The fawns were both nursing. Later in the morning, two bucks crossed the road in front of me. One of them will be a real slammer come fall. His antlers were out well beyond his ears, and he had six points already. Then a bald eagle sat in a tree just outside of Davenport right next to the road.

On Wednesday, I saw at least 30 turkey vultures in one group circling around on the upward air currents. I wondered if they were waiting for some lone hiker to die of heat exhaustion or lack of water. Probably not, but there may have been something below to attract them.

As I drove down a narrow valley, following the brook, I saw something that made me stop. A young lad was walking up through the meadow towards me. He had a fishing pole in one hand and two nice trout hanging from his fingers in the other. I noticed a big smile on his face, as he approached me.

“Nice fish,” I told him.

Each of the brook trout were about a foot long. He told me that he spotted them in a pool and caught them both.

I congratulated him but couldn’t resist telling him about those fish and the small stream he was fishing. Even though we have had plenty of rain, things are really dry. I told him that with the creeks so low, the trout are forced in the deeper pools in order to survive. These fish were native trout. They were breeders that kept the population of fish available in the future. My conversation continued when I told him about stressing fish during these hot summer days.

This is a good point for all of us. I’ve planned to go over on the Delaware and fly fish one of these mornings, but with the water being so low, I decided to wait a while. The DEC put out a bulletin last year about fish stressed by hot weather. They had three suggestions,

Avoid catch-and-release fishing for heat-stressed trout on hot days. A trout that is already stressed by the warm water is at risk of death no matter how we handle them.

Don’t disturb trout where they have gathered in unusually high numbers. It is likely that these fish are recovering in a pocket of cool water.

Fish early in the day. Stream temperatures are at their coolest in the early morning hours.

I used to go and fish downstream of Deposit. That tailwater below the Cannonsville Reservoir is cool because water is released from the bottom of the reservoir, but it warms quite quickly as it flows over the rocks in the shallower water.

So let’s all do our share and remember a sign I saw on the Au Sable many years ago. “Limit your kill, don’t kill your limit.” Have fun, be safe, and remember, things will get better.

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