Monday night seemed like a perfect night to get onto a trout stream. Warm day, stream levels had dropped and bugs were everywhere.
So I drove up to one of my favorite spots on the Schroon River off Schroon River Road, a spot that is tough to get to unless you have chest waders. But I have had good luck there, both with numbers of fish and size of fish.
As I approached this hole, I saw a number of fish surfacing, eating mayflies that were all over the surface. One nice silvery rainbow trout jumped clear out of the river as I slowly waded to within casting distance.
The first cast yielded a hit. The second yielded a nice rainbow of about 10 inches.
Within a minute or two, the fish got bigger. A rainbow of about 15 inches made its way to my net. Then another a bit bigger. In a few minutes, one approaching 18 inches fought like a beast before I got him close enough to unhook it.
In a span of a half-hour, I caught 7 or 8 fish, four of them over 15 inches, one almost 18. (All were released without leaving the water.)
Eventually the trout in this spot figured out something was up, and it slowed down.
This was one of the best nights I have had on the Schroon in years. Typically, rainbow trout that big in the Schroon are going to be holdovers or wild fish, but these were almost too easy to catch, which made me think they were recently in a hatchery. Hatchery trout aren't known for their wild instincts or intelligence.
But who is stocking 18-inch rainbows here? Warren County's hatchery stocks some solid 12-inch fish, and will sometimes put some big ones in ponds for kids fishing derbies, but could these bigger trout have been stockies from this spring?
I emailed Warren County hatchery manager Jeff Inglee, and quickly got a response. He said the hatchery does stock hundreds of two-year-old rainbows, and with the hatchery's growth rates, some of these trout are 18 inches or so.
The state stocks two-year-old brown trout that are generally 13- to 15-inch fish, but these rainbows that Warren County stocked (if they weren't holdovers) were significantly bigger than the state two-year-olds.
Inglee relayed another interesting bit of stocking news that was good to hear. The DEC has allowed the county to amend its stocking permit, and stock some bigger fish this fall. These will be 1.5-year-old rainbows that will likely run 13 to 15 inches; the Schroon and Hudson rivers, both of which are open to fishing year-round, will get up to 300 apiece, while Glen Lake will also get some.
Stocking in the fall increase the chances that they make it to next spring and avoid summer heat or predation mortality.
"Not everyone hunts in the fall. There are still some people who are fishing," Inglee said.
Those of us who fish and/or live in Warren County are lucky to have a hatchery staff that not only does such a god job not only producing tens of thousands of trout, but coming up with new ways to make sure anglers get the most from what the hatchery does.
There's a reason the state counts on Warren County's hatchery to help with salmon and brook trout-raising projects, the facility has a long history of putting out quality fish.
-- Don Lehman