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Stocking Trout Tales

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 5/10/21

We finally received some much-needed rain. Last Wednesday the Beaverkill crested at just about 2000 cubic feet per second and has remained above the average flow all week. A check with the USGS …

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Stocking Trout Tales

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We finally received some much-needed rain. Last Wednesday the Beaverkill crested at just about 2000 cubic feet per second and has remained above the average flow all week. A check with the USGS website on Monday morning showed that the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was rising, at 1700 cubic feet per second, which is above the average flow of 828 cfs on this date over 106 years of record-keeping.

The middle of May is such a beautiful and prolific time here in the Catskills - for those who forage, there are plenty of wild leeks (ramps) and fiddleheads (ferns) to be gathered. Asparagus (both wild and in our garden) have been pushing up their shoots as are dandelions and other wild greens. Turkey hunting season is open and trout fishing has been productive. A variety of flies should be hatching, from the last of the Hendricksons/Red Quill mayflies to various caddis and stoneflies.

Hatchery trucks have been seen along the rivers and streams since the end of April. We are fortunate to have, in many streams, the expectations of catching three kinds of trout -brown and rainbow trout, in addition to the native brook trout- thanks to many years of propagating and stocking fish. But in the early days of pioneer settlers in our area, only the wild brook trout were found in our rivers and streams.

The very first stocking of trout to occur in the Beaverkill watershed dated back to 1833, when the Misner brothers, Benjamin and Jacob, caught brook trout in Hankins Creek, Pease Brook and other nearby streams, carried and released them into the waters of Tennanah Lake - then known as Long Pond. And for many years afterward, even into the 1880s, Long Pond was known for its large brook trout, originating from the efforts of the Misner brothers, some reaching weights of more than four pounds.

As trout fishing became a popular pasttime, a Board of Commissioners of Fisheries in New York State was formed in 1868 for the purpose of managing the trout fishery and its resources. Among the three founding members was pioneer fish culturist Seth Green, who had established the very first fish hatchery in Caledonia, New York, in 1864.

The first hatchery-raised trout that were stocked in the Beaverkill were 20,000 brook trout fry (fry are baby trout that have just absorbed their yolk sac) released in 1876 into the waters of the Beaverkill Association, now the Beaverkill Trout Club. The Fish Commission advertised to the public that trout fry could be obtained free of charge simply by placing an order with Seth Green at the Caledonia hatchery. Trout fishing continued to grow in popularity and by 1886, 900,000 hatchery-raised brook trout were placed in streams in that one year alone.

To keep up with the demand for trout in our New York State waters, Seth Green imported eggs of rainbow trout from California (called “California mountain trout”) and eggs of brown trout (known as European brook trout) from Germany. Rainbow trout fry raised from these eggs were placed in the waters of the Beaverkill in 1881; in 1887, thousands of “German trout” fry (brown trout) were stocked into the Beaverkill. It is interesting to realize that even the wild (born in the stream) brown and rainbow trout you catch today in our Catskill waters, thanks to the work of forward-thinking fisheries scientists, are descended from these original strains from California and Germany stocked so many years ago.

Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.

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