You can’t teach a fish to swim, but you sure can give it a place to try. Every year the Department of Environmental Conservation releases over a million pounds of trout into more than 1,200 public streams, rivers, lakes and ponds across the state. All we have to do is go out and catch them.
How? Ask Jack Stewart of Carmel. He’s been fishing local waters for over 50 years. As a kid he would take the “Old Put” up from Yonkers, rod in hand. He still goes out 150 days a year. You'll find his hugely popular fisherman’s bible, Southern New York Fishing Directory, in most local tackle shops.
For beginners, Stewart recommends buying a spinning rod and reel. An artificial lure is easier to handle than live bait. Start with the streams. Once you’re hooked, you can try for the bigger fish in the reservoirs.
John Miller, owner of Bob’s Sport & Tackle in Katonah, explains that stream trout are typically 9 to 18 inches long so they’re easier to deal with. As the season progresses some of these “stockies” migrate to the reservoirs. The larger area gives them the opportunity to live longer, and many grow up to 12 or 14 pounds.
“We get mostly brown and rainbow trout around here,” said Miller. “Brook trout are less common but rare and beautiful. You’re lucky to catch them if you find them.”
The best fisherman around, according to Stewart, is Tony Monteiro of Mahopac. “Tony knows where the fish are better than they know themselves!” Stewart said.
Monteiro responds that he simply puts in the time. “I start very early in the morning. Or, you could say, very late at night.” The biggest fish he ever caught locally was a brown trout, weighing in at 20 pounds, 2 ounces. Ten years later he caught another, at exactly the same weight. One he ate, the other is hanging in the playroom at his house.
“Fish are cold-blooded. They take on their surrounding temperature,” Monteiro explained. Brown trout, for instance, like 58 degree water. “In the spring that’s where the sun hits, in the summer you’ll find them in the shade.”
And you need to read the water, he said, looking for rocks and pockets or areas where springs feed into streams.
Opening weekend found Mike Todaro of Peekskill casting his line at the East Branch of the Croton River. Todaro was disappointed on his first day out. “I’m shocked,” he said. “Last year at this time I was catching them back to back to back. I still have some in my freezer.”
Stewart said it still may be a bit too cold for prime fishing, and the waters are swift from the rain and run-off. Once the waters calm down, insects will hatch and the fish will look for bait.
If you want to try the sport, you ought to know some of the restrictions beforehand; they can vary from site to site. Some areas are “catch-and-release” only, others limit the number of daily catches, and still others dictate the types of usable bait. Regulations are often posted at the fishing site, or you can check them online beforehand.
Obtaining a license is also a must. You can apply online, by phone, by mail or at a license-issuing agent, such as a tackle shop or town clerk’s office. Some watershed areas also require a permit to trespass on public property.
And what’s the best way to cook your trout after you catch it? Todaro suggests an open fire. “Keep the head on. Gut 'em. Fill the cavity with lemon and butter, wrap in foil and throw it right on the coals,” he said, sharing a trick he learned camping as a kid. “Grill for a total of fifteen minutes—five to seven on each side. The meat falls right off the bone. It’s delicious. Mild but delicious.”
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