With most sports on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, trout season opened in New York on Wednesday, April 1, and local anglers said they are hoping to capitalize on spreading the sport’s popularity at a time when other sports are on hold.
“Everybody is hunkering down like they tell us to do, but there is currently no directive telling us we can’t go fishing,” said Tom Trelease, president of Oneonta’s chapter of Trout Unlimited, a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s cold-water fisheries and watersheds.
“General consensus is that everybody has cabin fever, and they’re going to want to get out a little,” he continued.
While Washington governor Jay Inslee included a recreational fishing ban in his “stay home, stay healthy” order last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed Monday, March 30, its plans to open trout season on time.
The DEC will post flyers at fishing locations throughout the state, reminding sportsmen to respect social distancing guidelines, fish close to home if possible and postpone trips if you are more than 70 years of age or have a compromised immune system.
Trelease echoed the DEC’s guidelines, encouraging anglers to fish alone, and to walk to their fishing hole if possible.
“I’m a little concerned we might see crowds on the holes, and that wouldn’t be good for social distancing,” Trelease said, noting that more people, including kids typically in school when the season opens, are home instead. “Don’t get five guys together in your car and go fishing. Go by yourself if you go.”
Counteracting a surge in local anglers could be a decrease in anglers visiting the area. A travel advisory against visitors to Schoharie, Delaware and Otsego counties could limit visitors, particularly in Delaware County, a renowned destination for trout fishing.
“People from far off should not come,” Jeff Skelding, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River said. “But for people who consider the Delaware River their home waters, going out and fishing is mentally healthy and they should do that. You just need to fish in your own waters.
“It’s meditative,” Skelding continued. “It’s not about catching fish, it’s about art. Fly fishing in many ways is meant to be done by yourself, it’s not about crowds and big places.”
Trelease noted increased turnout could eliminate some of the solidarity he said he and others enjoy while fishing. Still, the opportunity to grow the sport’s popularity, particularly in younger demographics, is appealing.
He mentioned a school program called “Trout in the Classroom” that Trout Unlimited runs in conjunction with handful of area school districts, as well as other youth outreach efforts by the group.
“Our average age is going down, but not as much as we want,” Trelease said. “We’re really encouraging people to get involved in the sport.”
The DEC website lists locations in Chenango, Schoharie, Otsego and Delaware counties as fish-stocking locations. More information, including how to get a fishing license, can be found online at dec.ny.gov.