ALBANY — For 30 years, state environmental officials have followed existing guidance for managing wild and stocked trout streams, but an updated management plan is now entering the final stages of approval.
Released last month by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the final version of the Trout Stream Management Plan is ready for public review and proposed regulation changes associated with the plan are open for comments through Jan. 25.
The planning process was headed by the DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Fisheries, and involved anglers, biologists and fish experts for a plan that “embraces simplicity, encourages angler participation and recognizes the value of managing trout streams for self-sustaining populations of wild trout,” according to the DEC.
The plan was written by DEC staff in 2018 and 2019, and specifically outlines management provisions and proposed regulation changes for “publicly-accessible inland trout streams that contain wild or stocked brook, brown and rainbow trout.”
Key elements include: separate provisions for management of wild fish and stocked trout; creation of a statewide catch-and-release season; extended stocking periods in select streams; requirement for stockings to contain some fish at least 12 inches long; emphasis on stream habitat improvement; and proposed development of interactive map for stream management and fishing access points.
A 2017 series of public meetings with anglers and other stakeholders contributed to the plan development.
“The result is a balanced approach to manage these varied resources in accordance with their biological and recreational potential to meet the desired outcomes of a broad and diverse trout stream angling public,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.
Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, said the plan’s emphasis on habitat restoration “is a significant step for cold water conservation.”
Trout Unlimited, a national conservation nonprofit, and the state Conservation Council have expressed support for the plan and its implementation.
The regulatory changes associated with the plan are outlined in an amendment to state Trout Stream Sportfishing Regulations, which standardizes trout stream regulations statewide and creates a catch-and-release season from Oct. 15 to March 31.