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Summertime in the Catskill Mountains

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 7/6/20

These precious weeks of July and August are much-anticipated, bringing the prospect of weekly picnics and barbecues; where children chase frogs by day and fireflies at night; and families spend more …

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Summertime in the Catskill Mountains

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These precious weeks of July and August are much-anticipated, bringing the prospect of weekly picnics and barbecues; where children chase frogs by day and fireflies at night; and families spend more time together in the great outdoors.

How fortunate we are to live in an area known for its pure air and sparkling clean water, the source of the drinking supply for millions of urban-dwellers a few hours' drive south. For those who love coldwater fishing, there is a wealth of opportunity to be found.

From the earliest days of settlement in the early 1800s, those who first traveled to Sullivan County found rivers and streams teeming with trout. Today the area offers a wide variety of sport for trout fishers - from the small but colorful brook trout that thrive in the coldest, cleanest and most highly oxygenated waters of our smaller streams, to the strong and feisty rainbows of the Delaware River system, to the big and powerful brown trout that inhabit the waters of our Catskill reservoirs. And there are many opportunities for exciting warmwater fishing as well - from beautiful bluegills, perch, pickerel, to feisty crappies and bass.

At this writing, Sunday afternoon July 5, it's a beautiful warm summer day - mid-80s with a nice breeze. Except for tailwater fishing (below the reservoirs in the Neversink, East and West Branches of the Delaware) many rivers are low; the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls registered around 78 degrees for the past four afternoons - too warm to fish. As we drove along the Willowemoc and Beaverkill we noticed a number of cars along the river - not trout fishers, but swimmers.

The Beaverkill campsite was chock-full with cars parked all the way up the hill from the campsite/day use area for as far as the eye could see. And with the pandemic still going strong, many who would normally be traveling over the holiday weekend stayed close to home, with out of town visitors choosing day trips to the mountains for some outdoor recreation - picnicking, swimming and boating, as evidenced by the number of kayaks, canoes and rowboats out on some of the nearby lakes and ponds.

With the warmer temperatures and thoughts of alternative places to fish, I found myself reminiscing back to my childhood, and remembered having spent many a pleasant summer day with my Dad in a rowboat, fishing in local bodies of water such as Mongaup Pond, Little Pond, Waneta Lake and the Bashakill. There are a number of beautiful lakes and ponds in our area that can be fished from shore, as well as from a rowboat or canoe.

Many of Sullivan County's lakes and ponds do contain trout, such as Crystal Lake, Lake Huntington, Loch Sheldrake, Long Pond, Mongaup Falls Reservoir, Mongaup Pond, Rio Reservoir, Swinging Bridge Reservoir, and White Lake. Here are just a few to choose from, along with information on species of fish, rules and regulations, taken from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's website:

White Lake is stocked every spring with 4,000 Brown Trout and 1,600 Lake Trout. It's a large lake, of 280 acres, and has a maximum depth of 85 feet. Three Lake Trout, of a minimum size of 15 inches, may be taken per day; there is no minimum size limit on Brown Trout, which has a five fish per day limit. Fishing is year-round, and trout can be taken through the ice. Access to the DEC hard surface boat launch is off Route 17B, west of the City of Monticello, Town of Bethel, 1 mile north on White Lake Road (County Route 55) in the Hamlet of White Lake. There is parking space for 24 cars.

Loch Sheldrake is located right off Route 52 with parking availability for 20 cars and a hand launch, located in the Hamlet of Loch Sheldrake, Town of Fallsburg, Junction of Route 52 and Hasbrouck Rd. It offers good fishing and easy access, with a small fishing pier and picnic tables. This 64-acre lake is stocked every spring with 800 Brown Trout. Additional species include Brown Bullhead, Sunfish, Yellow Perch and Largemouth Bass. Five trout of any size may be taken. Loch Sheldrake is open year-round, and trout can be fished for through the ice.

Mongaup Pond is a 122-acre lake located in the Town of Rockland, and offers great fishing for Brook trout, Chain Pickerel, Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Yellow Perch and Smallmouth Bass. It is a popular family destination, with a campsite and recreational area, boat and canoe rentals, and is located just up the road past the Catskill Fish Hatchery.

Access is the NYS DEC carry down off of Mongaup Pond Rd. three miles north of Debruce, with parking for 20 cars. There are no gas motors allowed. Trout may be fished for in Mongaup Pond year-round, as well as through the ice; and five trout of any size may be taken per day.

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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