The crew — consisting mainly of Trout Unlimited members — dropped 100 rainbow trout between 16 and 19 inches into the water and 600 that were each about a foot long.
The trout were from the Essex County Fish Hatchery, which stocks about 60,000 trout every spring. The hatchery is especially known for raising and stocking the large rainbow trout.
Fish hatchery driver Donald Thatcher said this is the second time they’ve put fish in the West Branch of the AuSable River. They were also able to put fish in before the flooding. Overall, though, he said the stocking has gone on as normal.
“It slowed us up here and there,” Thatcher said. “We had to postpone a couple times ... because roads were washed out, like Moriah they were totally shut down.”
Thatcher and the volunteers were putting the trout into the water at a time when the river looked like it might start to become easier to fish. High waters have kept many anglers away all spring, although it did recede enough last week for the annual Two-Fly Challenge to take place.
“The fishing is just starting to get very good,” Jones Outfitters’ guide Ken Calil said Tuesday. “Hopefully, this week we see some of the fish start taking the bugs if the water stays low enough. We are starting to see some trout food flying around in the air, so hopefully that gets some fish coming up toward the end of the week if the water levels stay a little lower than they’ve been.”
Calil said this will be an interesting year for anglers on area rivers because the flooding has altered them. Banks have eroded, large boulders have moved and slow-moving sections have been loaded with silt.
“Rocks that were embedded in the side of the river are now eroded off the bank,” Calil said. “Every bend is a new surprise. It’s been real interesting after learning the river, spending a lot of years learning it. You’re learning a whole new game, so I’m really excited to have a lot of new surprises around every bend.”
On the other hand, pond fishing this spring has seen less of an impact from high water because of the lack of moving water. Tom Graham, a guide for Wiley’s Flies in Rainbow Lake, said he has had good luck on the ponds.
“I’ve caught brookies in every pond I’ve fished so far,” Graham said. “They are pounding the streamers right now.”
Graham, who is known in fishing circles for landing a 19-pound lake trout last year, said he’s been fishing 10 feet or more from the edges of the ponds. There is a lot of structure for trout in those locations because the water has risen over the banks in some cases.
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Sue Becherer-Fik unloads a bucket of trout into the West Branch of the AuSable.