Trout season to open Monday, if you can find open water

A fly fisherman casts into the AuSable River in Wilmington in May 2017. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — Although winter may still be fresh in our minds, trout fishing season opens Monday across New York. And with the state planning to stock millions of fish this spring, there should be plenty of opportunities for anglers. Once the ice melts, that is.

Essex County has the most planned stocking locations of any county in the state, and Franklin County is fourth. Although the state Department of Environmental Conservation will stock fish at hundreds of locations in the North Country, much of the stocking is likely to take place after the ice is gone.

“For those who prefer a more remote setting, almost 311,000 brook trout fingerlings will be stocked in 350 backwoods lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks this spring and fall, providing unique angling opportunities for future years,” a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “New York’s protective air quality regulations have led to the recovery of ponds damaged by acid rain, allowing for the restoration of fish to these waters. Eleven of these newly recovered ponds will be stocked in 2019.”

The release said the DEC would stock 1.74 million brown trout, 433,855 rainbow trout and 157,200 brook trout.

“DEC stocks more than two million catchable size trout each year,” DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino wrote in an email last week. “DEC stocks fish of smaller sizes to provide future fishing opportunities when they grow to a larger size.

“Different species are stocked based on the suitability for a particular waterbody type and the recreational opportunity we are trying to provide. In most cases, stocking is used as a tool to supplement, expand, and restore fish populations for the purposes of providing recreational fishing opportunities.”

According to the DEC’s cold water fishing forecast, this winter had good conditions for ice to form on lakes and ponds. The department reminded anglers that in the Adirondacks, many ponds have bait fish prohibitions, but that the fishing should be good as soon as the ice is gone.

“Remote ponds in the Adirondacks are rarely ice-free until mid-April, and this spring’s ice out is likely to be similar,” the report says. “Once waters are finally ice-free and temperatures rise, surface trolling for salmon and lake trout is a good bet on the larger lakes. Brook trout pond fishing is best from ice-out through the end of May.”

The DEC maintains a list of all stocking locations on its website, including how many and which species of fish will be stocked. While some stocking locations have definitive dates, most of the local stocking locations do not, although stocking will be completed between April and June.