North Salem, N.Y. - Ten minutes into staking a spot on the banks of the Titicus River in North Salem, Jack Newman felt a tug on his line.
It was unexpected, for sure, as trout season in New York State kicked off on April 1 to, yep, more snow.
Even so, Paul Newman was excited to take his son, 10-year-old son Jack, and his friend, Matt Fogel, 10, out to the river.
When Jack felt the pull, he called out to Matt, who had never reeled in a catch, to help him pull the 18-inch trout the rest of the way.
“We do a lot of trout fishing, me and my son,” Newman said. “It’s an annual thing, but we fish all the time in these streams from April 1 and we’re constantly fishing at the streams around North Salem. We’ll do some of the ponds around here and we’ll fish salt water.”
Though the calendar says its spring, the morning Newman took the kids fishing he had to shovel snow first to get worms for bait.
Plus, when it’s so cold, the trout stay near the bottom to stay warm and are sluggish, so to get even one bite was a surprise.
From the markings, Newman said he believed the trout was native to the river and not one of the 30,000 fish stocked in and around Westchester and Putnam counties last week.
At the end of March and into the first week of April, the state Department of Environmental Conservation drove trucks full of rainbow and brown trout around the state, pouring out thousands of 8-inch and 9-inch iridescent, floppy fish into the rivers and brooks.
The fish in this area come from the Catskill Hatchery in Sullivan County. The state depends on the hatcheries to enhance recreational fishing and also to restore native species.
In Somers, the Amawalk Reservoir was stocked with more than 2,000 brown trout. In North Salem, the Titicus Reservoir was stocked with more than 7,000 brown and rainbow trout. In neighboring Putnam County, Croton Falls Reservoir was stocked with more than 6,000 brown and rainbow trout in Southeast and Carmel and another 5,000 or so trout were added to Lake Gilead in Carmel.
George Knoechel, a Carmel resident, has been volunteering to help with stocking the trout for 37 years. The DEC depends on local residents like Knoechel to lead the trucks around to local rivers and brooks.
“It’s two-year-old fish we’re putting in the stream,” Knoechel said. “We’ll be finished at the end of May and then we’ll be trout stocking in Lake Oneida and salmon in the West Branch Reservoir and then later on we’ll be putting in tiger muskies in Middle Branch, so it’s not just the trout, there’s other fish, too.”
The fish ready for catching now are two years old.
“I love fish and I love fishing,” Knoechel said.
Trout play an important role in the area, not only for recreation, but for the health of the waterways, said Fred Henson, cold water fisheries unit leader for the DEC. The more native trout, the better the water quality, Henson said.
“The best would be if you have trout that are naturally reproducing,” Henson said. “If we go do a biological survey and find baby trout that we did not stock, that’s top notch.”
This year, because of the nor’easters that blanketed New York in snow for most of March, the DEC and hatcheries are about a week behind in stocking the trout.
For them, the beginning of trout season is the culmination of their year of work.
“These guys do a lot of fairly unglamorous things most of the year to raise these fish, and when they get out in the field to put them out there, that is what they work toward all year round,” Henson said. “They get to interact with people at the hatcheries, but when they’re out on the road and putting the fish in the water is when they get a burst of positive energy from the people that see them.”
Newman said most people have better luck catching trout when it warms up because the trout start to move around more.
“When its warm, you can have better luck with your flies and lures that are more on the surface and when it’s cold, you have better luck with nymphs and worms more toward the bottom” with lines that have more weight on them, Newman said.
And when it’s time for dinner, Newman recommends just a little olive oil, butter and salt in a pan.
“That’s the best way to cook trout, I think,” Newman said. “I’m shocked we even did this well and got the fish because the April snow definitely made the water very cold and made it more difficult to catch a fish.”
For a full listing of where and when to go trout fishing and what permits and licenses are necessary, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/index.html.