By Robert Sadowski
No matter what type of trout fisherman you are, Connecticut has a stream or river for you.
Connecticut's Trout Management Program is the culmination of a 13-year sport-fishing project. The state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered that there were anglers who practice catch-and-release and others who like to catch and keep their fish. Some want to catch trophy-sized fish and others want to catch a lot of fish of any size. There are even anglers who prefer the fight of a wild, non-stocked trout to stocked hatchery fish. And then there are those whose quarry is sea-run trout.
The DEP stocks trout raised at its two hatcheries, filling Connecticut's streams, brooks, rivers and lakes with about 700,000 to 800,000 brook, rainbow and brown trout.Mostly brown trout are raised," said Tim Barry, the DEP's Western District fisheries biologist. "Years ago, it was decided to stock browns because browns have a higher tolerance to heat and are more likely to survive when water levels drop during the summer months. Browns are also harder to catch than brook trout and rainbow trout."
According to Barry, stocking commences in March with yearlings averaging 6 to 8 inches in length and adults that are 9 to 12 inches long. In- season stocking is 50 percent complete by opening day (the third Saturday in April). After opening day, the remaining fish stocking is finished by Memorial Day. Lightly stocked areas receive a second stocking and moderately to heavily stocked areas receive two more loads of trout.
The surveys revealed that the quality of fishing and the diversity of trout angling experiences could be enhanced.
"The creel surveys conducted on fishermen actually fishing the streams revealed that fishermen wanted a variety of products," explained Bill Hyatt, director of Inland Fisheries. "After conceiving the Trout Management Areas (TMAs) plan over a decade ago, and through the stream surveys conducted from the late 1980 to the mid-1990s, we discovered the best way to provide those products within the constraints of our resources."
In 2001, the TMAs were instituted via stream-specific harvest regulations, reduced creel limit and minimum length requirements.
Farther south in Derby, Orange, Shelton and Stratford, the Housatonic offers tidal waters with sea-run browns and no closed season.
Here's a look at some other TMA rivers and streams that offer different types of fishing experiences.
Look for trophy-sized trout from the Goodwin Dam in Hartland downstream to the Route 177 bridge in Unionville. The minimum length here is 10 inches and the daily bag limit is two fish.
At the Farmington's confluence with the Connecticut River below the Rainbow Dam in Windsor, a sea-run trout 15 inches long is a keeper and two fish is the legal limit.
This TMA is from I-84 in Vernon downstream to where I-84 crosses Laurel Marsh on the Manchester-East Hartford line. It is open to year-round catch-and-release fishing.
There is a trout park where the Blackledge and Jeremy rivers flow into the Salmon. Fishing is allowed year 'round. There are also posted sections along the Salmon River that are open to fly-fishing only.
At the junction of the Salmon and the Connecticut River, downstream from Route 151, there are tidal waters that offer sea-run trout.
In Lebanon from Barstow Road downstream on the Yantic River to the bridge at the intersection of Fitchville and Schwartz roads fly-fishing- only rules are posted. Fishing is catch-and-release only from Sept. 1 to the third Saturday in April, after which two 9-inch trout fill the daily limit.
"Trout parks have been a phenomenal success," said biologist Hyatt. "They are very popular and successful in attracting families and novice fishermen."
These waters are stocked weekly and offer plenty of open space for easy casting. Fishermen interested in trying fly-fishing for the first time might consider visiting a trout park. Open space and a long fly rod make a happy combination, and the abundant hatchery fish increase the odds of landing a trout on a fly. Spinning gear is also allowed. The creel limit is two fish per day and there is no minimum length.
Black Rock State Park's Branch Brook in Watertown is moderately stocked. The daily creel limit is two trout. Route 80 provides access.
In Killingworth in the southwestern part of the state, try the Chatfield Hollow Pond and brook in Chatfield Hollow State Park. Trout are heavily stocked here and the pond has easily accessible fishing.
In Kent Falls State Park, try Kent Falls Brook below the base of the falls. Trout fishing is good along the banks, but there are plenty of spots that are easy to fish. The area is lightly to moderately stocked.
Route 7 parallels the Housatonic River. If you care to hike and fish, a five-mile portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail skirts the Housatonic through the towns of Kent and Sharon. The trail can be accessed at North Kent Road and River Road in Kent.
Sleeping Giant State Park gets its name from a natural rock formation that resembles a reclining giant. Hatchery-raised fish are released into the Mill River, which runs through the park. The daily limit is two fish of any length.
Eightmile Brook provides easy-access fishing in Southford Falls State Park off Route 188 in Oxford.
Stratton Brook State Park offers an easy place to fill a two-fish limit. Stratton Brook in Simsbury is moderately stocked.
The Natchaug River offers a variety of angling options on one river. The trout park is in Natchaug State Forest in Eastford. The daily creel limit here is two fish with no minimum length.
The Natchaug is also a trophy trout stream.
The Salmon River Trout Park is at the junctions of the Blackledge and Jeremy rivers downstream to the Route 16 bridge. There is a posted fly-fishing-only section about midway. Anglers may keep two fish over 9 inches from the third Saturday in April until Aug. 31. Trophy trout angling is also available.
"Our Trophy Trout Areas are also very popular," said biologist Hyatt. "More people catch fish in these areas thanks to the creel and size limits and catch-and-release areas. On the Farmington River, for example, the size limit was 10 inches, but in 2003 that has been increased to 11 inches."
The DEP stocks larger trout in these spots. Minimum lengths depend on the stream or river. The daily creel limit is two trout.
From the Goodwin Dam in Hartford downstream to the Route 177 bridge in Unionville, two trout fills the daily limit on the Farmington River. In the West Branch Farmington, about a mile upstream of the Route 138 bridge downstream to the Route 219 bridge, anglers must use only barbless hooks while catch-and-release fishing. Expect larger trout from the confluences of the Naugatuck River's east and west branches to the Kinneytown Dam in Seymour. The daily limit is two fish.
In Trumbull, find the Whitney Avenue bridge and follow the Pequonnock River through Trumbull Basin State Park to the bridge on Daniels Farm Road. The DEP stocks the Pequonnock with a mix of large and small fish.
The Pomperaug River from Woodbury and Southbury is heavily stocked. The bigger fish are between Route 47 and the junctions of the Pomperaug and Lake Zoar.
The entire Natchaug River from Eastford through Chaplin to Windam is trophy fish water. The river is heavily stocked, and the creel limit is two trout per day.
From Colchester, East Haddam and East Hampton, the Salmon River is open to trophy trout angling. Except for the trout park, which is clearly posted, the daily limit is two fish at least 9 inches long.
Trout are heavily stocked on the Shetucket River from Windham through Scotland and Sprague to Norwich. Expect this river to hold larger trout. From the Scotland Dam to the Norwich Dam in Occum, the DEP releases surplus brood stock Atlantic salmon each fall. Salmon fishing is catch-and-release only during specific times of the year, and anglers may keep salmon caught on a fly or lure with a single hook.
Hyatt said that more research is needed on the types of fish to stock as well as what size and when to stock them.
"The migration factor is a part of the process that can't be controlled, but initial findings are very good and anglers can expect more sea-run fishing in the near future."
For a chance at migrating trout in western Connecticut, try the Farm River and the Hammonasset River above and below I-95, the Mianus River upstream of Mianus Pond Dam in Greenwich-Stamford, and the Saugatuck River downstream of Wood Dam.
In the eastern part of the state, try downstream of the I-95 bridge on Oil Mill Brook and Latimer Brook, downstream of the Route 184 bridge on Whitfords Brook, Devil's Hopyard State Park and sections below to Hamburg Cove on Eightmile River.
"WTMAs do not attract mass anglers like the trout parks do," Hyatt said, "and they are not designed to. These areas are mostly comprised of smaller streams with limited access."
The WTMAs are broken into three classes. Class 1 offers abundant wild trout with no stocking of hatchery-raised trout. There is no closed season and it is catch-and-release fishing only using barbless, single-hook lures or flies. Class 2 features some wild trout and stocked trout with a creel limit of two fish and a minimum length of 12 inches. Class 3 streams also have a mix of wild and stocked trout, with creel limits of five fish, and a minimum length of 9 inches.
Class 1 WTMAs in western Connecticut offering wild browns include Eightmile River in Southington. In Easton, the Mill River holds browns, and the Quinnipiac River in Southington and Cheshire also is home to native fish.
Look for wild brookies in Hawley's Brook in Easton and Weston. Both brookies and browns can be found in the Wachocastinook River in Salisbury downstream of South Pond within the Mt. Riga Corporation property.
In the eastern part of the state, expect Class 1 WTMAs to hold both wild brookies and browns. The Tankerhoosen River in Vernon, Deep Brook in Newtown and Beaver Brook from Route 14 to Merrick Brook are good bets.
Furnace Brook in the town of Cornwall Bridge contains the Heather Reaves Class 2 WTMA. Expect to catch native browns in this western-region hotspot.
The Salmon Brook Class 2 WTMA is home to native brookies and browns along its entire length in Glastonbury downstream of Addison Pond.
Three brooks categorized as Class 3 WTMAs in the west offer both wild browns lightly supplemented with stocked hatchery fish. These include Beacon Hill Brook from Route 63 in the town of Naugatuck downstream to the Naugatuck River, Morgan Brook in Barkhamsted, and Salmon Brook from Route 20 in Granby to the Farmington River. More heavily stocked rivers and streams that also hold native browns include the East Branch Naugatuck River from Newfield Road in Torrington to the West Branch Naugatuck River, Farm River in North Branford from Mill Road downstream to the Route I-95 bridge in East Haven, the Norwalk River in Wilton and Ridgefield upstream of Wolf Pit Road, and the confluence of both the Blackberry River from the Whiting River and the East Aspetuck River from Lake Waramaug to the Housatonic River.
For more information on Nutmeg State trout-fishing opportunities, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, 79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106-5127; or call the Inland Fisheries central office at (860) 424-FISH (3474). Anglers may also visit the DEP's Web site at www.dep.state.ct.us.