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Trout season extended, as NY state parks see record attendance in 2020

Trout Unlimited

The uncertainty of everything last year meant there were a lot of anglers out, looking to relax and test the ability of a fish to avoid a hook in Western New York’s inland streams. The beginning of trout season isn’t very far away, except state rules are changing.

The biggest change is that fishing allowed year-round. However, you can only keep the fish from April 1-Oct. 15. The rest of the time it is catch and release.

"This will apply to all those five management categories: statewide, all streams," saidNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries biologist Scott Cornett. "So now you don’t have to wonder, 'Is this stream open in the fall to fish?' Or, 'Is that stream, is it open? Isn’t it open?' Basically, this simplifies what’s open. Basically, everything’s open."

Cornett spoke Monday evening to about 50 people at the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. He explained other changes, as well, like stocking fish.

Credit New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Trout fishing in Cattaraugus County's Zoar Valley.

"95+ % of our streams that we stock with trout will fall under the stock management category and they will be stocked once each spring," Cornett said, "and then the stock-extended streams which are going to be many fewer. They tend to be our large, high-use streams. They’re going to be stocked four times each spring. So every other week, usually starting in March or early April."

Cornett said another big change will be more larger fish stocked in more streams. He says state budget woes mean it’s not clear what his department will be doing this year on the waterways, like last year’s tree planting on Wiscoy Creek to stabilize the banks of the creek.

"We really don’t know what our funding is going to be, what we’re going to have for seasonal staff and how COVID will play into that," he said. "Right now, I think it’s going to be difficult to get much of our spring work done, at least anything involving a crew, and maybe that’s going to affect early summer, as well."

Overall, New York's state parks, historic sites, campgrounds and trails welcomed a record-setting 78 million visits in 2020, as people used nature to relax and unwind from the COVID-19 pandemic. The state said the milestone marks nine years of steady visitor growth and an overall increase of 34%, or more than 20 million visitors, since 2011.

"As other park systems were closing at the start of the pandemic, our state parks and open spaces proved to be true sanctuaries for people to escape inactivity and isolation during this difficult year," said Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Monday.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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