New York State Freshwater Fish
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With 18,000 lakes and ponds. Trout, salmon, bass, pickerel, walleye, pike, muskellunge, sturgeon, shad, various panfish, and several imported species have long brought anglers to New York State.
For much of the state’s history, it’s been hard to distinguish certainly recreational angling from fishing for subsistence, a pleasurable requirement of rural life. New York City residents made Long Island a facility for trout fishing by the late colonial period. British army officers were seen fly fishing in the mouth of the Saranac River in the 1780s, and Oneida Lake was noticed for fishing by the 1790s.
Though there isn’t any single birthplace for American fly fishing, Catskill trout streams like the Beaver Kill, Willowemoc Creek, and Neversink River were early centres. Anglers arrived by stagecoach and horse in the early 1800s, and railways drastically increased their numbers by mid-century. This had a tremendous effect on fish populations. Anglers fished vigorously for amount, as well as a party of four travelling house with over 1,700 brook trout was remarkable but not exceptional. Private clubs were created on a lot of the finest streams, and James Spencer Van Cleef, who’d write the state’s first general fish and game laws in 1895, saw these clubs as the sole hope of sustaining trout populations.
Fishing in the Catskills and Adirondacks was greatly marketed by the American Turf Register (182944) and William Trotter Porter’s Spirit of the Times (183161). Ausable River and Saranac and Raquette Lakes were favoured Adirondack fishing areas before the Civil War, as well as the publication of William H. H. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness (1869), joined with improved transport, triggered a rush of sportsmen.
Other marketing during the 19th century came from writers including George LaBranche, Thaddeus Norris, Edward R. Hewitt, and George Washington Bethune, and John J. Brown, a New York City tackle retailer, made The American Angler’s Guide in 1845, the first novel-length fishing guide printed in the United States. Writers and anglers Ray Bergman, Art Flick, and Lee Wulff continued this promotion in the 20th century.
Innumerable other places provide excellent angling opportunities. The freshwater bass, pike, and muskellunge fishing of the Cape Vincent-Thousand Islands region was understood by the 1840s. Oneida Lake is among the top walleye lakes in the country, the Batten Kill is a famous trout stream, as well as the Niagara River is a great bass, walleye, and muskellunge fishery. Chautauqua Lake is famous for muskellunge, the Finger Lakes for lake trout, and Otsego Lake for lake whitefish, known as “Otsego bass.” Most of the state’s little rivers, creeks, ponds, and lakes are full of trout, bass, and panfish.
Settlement, urbanisation, and industrialisation have changed the state’s fishery throughout its history. In the 19th century logging as well as the clearing of property had negative impacts, and milldams cut off trout and salmon from spawning grounds. One treatment was propagation and stocking.
In 1864 Seth Green created one of the very first fish hatcheries in the country in Caledonia (Livingston Co), as well as the state Fisheries Commission (1868) helped enlarge and create hatcheries statewide. Green imported rainbow trout from California, which were released statewide in 1878, and by 1881 the state was carrying over 1 million annually. As tourism increased, railways found healthy fisheries as critical to their success, and conductors would cease express trains at streams to release infant trout.
In 1883 Fred Mather imported brown trout eggs from Germany to Cold Spring Harbor (Suffolk Co) and sent many of them to Green’s hatchery. Brown trout were hardier than native species, but these “cannibals” also ate infant brook trout and rapidly became the dominant trout species. Other efforts to change fish populations were fatal. In the Adirondacks just introduced freshwater bass devoured infant trout in enormous amounts, and when yellow perch were introduced, they ate both trout and bass.
By the 1950s there were four times as many yellow perch as trout in the Adirondacks. Many ponds have been “recovered,” where the fish are killed off and the ponds are stocked with trout. The salmonid plan, began in 1968, has been more successful. Pacific salmon and steelhead trout were introduced to Lakes Erie and Ontario, and these new species, which grew to over 40 pounds (18 kg), created a large sport-fishing sector in the area.
The software also reestablished lake trout and landlocked salmon, which had virtually vanished from many waters. In 1983 the state started carrying Atlantic salmon in Lake Ontario, where once abundant supplies were wiped out by overfishing, dams, and development by the start of the 20th century. At the start of the 21st century a dozen hatcheries make several million fish per annum, mostly trout but in addition muskellunge, walleye, and salmon.
The growth of New York City’s water supply also had a tremendous impact, and also the formation of the Ashokan Reservoir (1912) forever changed the Catskill fishery. When the Barge Canal (1918) and the St. Lawrence Seaway (1959) were built, exotic species such as sea lampreys and zebra mussels entered state waters and have done significant damage to native fish populations, especially in the Great Lakes.
Fishing has been further damage by PCB and mercury contaminants. Fish from more than 70 bodies of water in New York State include contaminant levels that exceed national standards, and contamination from chemicals and pesticides has resulted in state health advisories and curtailed fishing on some waters. Acid rain, brought on by industrial emissions, has impoverished the biology of several Adirondack ponds and lakes.
Declining fish populations in the early 19th century caused statewide limitations on the usage of seine nets in 1813, and in 1857 the state legislature limited sportfishing to hook and line only. In 1895 the Fisheries Commission united with associated groups to form the Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission, which evolved to become the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1970.
By the 1880s some counties had created catch and release laws to protect endangered waters. New York was among the first states to designate “no-kill” waters in an endeavor to provide anglers quality encounters with big, cautious fish. Over 1,300 miles (2,090 kilometers) of state-owned trout waters are designated as fishing places.
To finance fishery protection attempts, fishing licenses were required for men 16 and older in 1925 and for girls starting in 1949. In the 1999-2000 season, 868,015 fishing licenses were issued to state residents and 173,636 to nonresidents. The state continues in several attempts to help trouble fisheries regain, and angling and relevant tourism play a vital function in the state’s market.
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