Apr 23, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
For many area fisherman, casting out their lines in search of trout on April 1 is an annual tradition.
“I haven’t missed an opening day in 31 years,” said Jake DeCapio, owner of The Wayfarer Company fishing outfitter in Camillus. “Fishing is one of the last activities that hasn’t become super competitive. You can take a break from all the competition of life and just relax.”
April 1 marked the beginning of trout fishing season in New York state. Though some anglers will shift their focus to lake fishing later on, many say that the trout fishing in the area, particularly Onondaga County, is something special.
Due to a unique county stocking program, naturally bountiful waters and plenty of public access areas, Onondaga County has become celebrated over the years for its trout fishing.
Onondaga County is one of only four counties in the state to operate its own hatchery and fish stocking program. Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery, located on Route 321 in Elbridge, has been supplying local waters with fish since 1938. The hatchery was originally founded and built in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a works project administration grant.
While the hatchery follows New York State Department of Environmental Conservation specifications and works in cooperation with the state, its budget is entirely local, Superintendent Eric Stanczyk said.
The hatchery has four full-time employees and will receive $280,833 in county taxpayer money in 2014, according to the county budget, available at ongov.net/finance.
The hatchery and adjacent county park are also supported by donations from The Friends of Carpenters Brook Fish Hatchery, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen.
Thanks in part to the hatchery, the county estimates fishing-oriented retail to account for $4 million of local business each year.
While the DEC operates hatcheries and stocks waters throughout the state, the only stocking they do in Onondaga County is 20,000 rainbow trout in Skaneateles Lake every year, according to their website.
Every spring, Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery stocks about 70,000 trout into 20 different streams, rivers, ponds and lakes in the county. They release a mix of one and two year old rainbow, brook and brown trout, ranging from 8 to 15 inches.
Since it operates with a small staff, the hatchery relies on volunteers to help with the actual stocking, which happens in March, April and May.
Though some will swim away from the public access areas where they are put in, most of the trout stay relatively close to where they are stocked, Stanczyk said. April and May, is thus prime for trout fishing, particularly near the stocking locations.
If the water is too muddy or too high (which has happened some this season), the hatchery will hold off on stocking to ensure that the fish go where they are supposed to and survive to be caught, Stanczyk said.
“I want people to enjoy the fish. I want people to get out and catch these fish. We work hard to raise these fish, so if the streams are real high and muddy it tends to make it more difficult for the fisherman to get to them,” he said.
Carpenter’s Brook operates a stocking hotline that is updated once a week with a message letting fishermen know what waters have been recently stocked and how many fish were put in. The number is 689-0003.
Though plenty of Onondaga County residents take advantage of the local fishing, businesses like the Wayfarer Company, located just across the street from a stretch of public access to Nine Mile Creek, rely on out-of-town business too.
While DeCapio said his business has been hurt some by big-box stores and online retailers, 25 to 40 percent of his business is still from people who live outside the county. Anglers come to Nine Mile Creek or other streams, due to the reputation that they are full of fish, and they come to his shop for supplies and tips for making the most out of their visit, he said.
Though Carpenter’s Brook and the DEC estimate that most of the stocked fish are caught and removed by July, trout season is open until Oct. 15 and there are always trout to be caught.
“Nine Mile Creek is one of the best trout streams in the state,” DeCapio said. Due to plenty of dissolved limestone in the water, Nine Mile Creek supports a lot of insect life, which in turn makes for a large population of wild trout, he said.
Camillus resident Chuck Grant said he has been fishing local waters most of his life. Though many fishermen can’t tell the difference between stocked fish and wild fish, the wild ones often present a bigger challenge, Grant said recently while fishing on Nine Mile Creek.
“The natural fish are a bit harder to get. They’re more selective with what they eat,” he said.
Another angler out on Nine Mile Creek, Gary Stevenson, of Pennellville, N.Y., said that his favorite fishing is in central Pennsylvania, but he still makes a few trips to the Marcellus area each year where he has had success fishing for trout.
“I just love catching fish; matching wits with the fish,” he said.
Fishermen, who have fishing licenses issued by the state, have plenty of options of locations to fish in the county and throughout the region. In addition to local, county and state parks, the state has secured miles of public fishing rights along trout streams.
Public fishing rights are when fishermen are allowed legal access to private land surrounding a stream through an easement. The easements typically extend 33 feet on one, or both, sides of a stream, according to the DEC.
All the streams stocked by Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery have public access. Some have relatively small access areas while others stretch for miles. Notably, Nine Mile Creek has 4.3 miles of public access in Marcellus and Camillus, Butternut Creek in DeWitt, Lafayette and Fabuis has 8.3 miles of access and Chittenango Creek, which is stocked with brown trout by the state, has 2.9 miles of access.
To find public access areas or other information about fishing rules and regulations in New York, visit dec.ny.gov.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.