Trout anglers in Hamilton County aren't as lucky as some of their counterparts further south, since streams here in the North Country normally receive their first plantings of DEC trout a bit later, usually in the month of May. Winter leaves the North Country reluctantly and normally very slowly, forcing inveterate stream anglers to head a few counties south for better fishing conditions.
Ditto for the county's hike-in, more remote and higher elevation trout ponds. For the most part it'll be at least the better part of a month before they're ready to welcome trout anglers. First, it could be tough to get into many of them, and when you do they may still be at least partially frozen. However, if conditions are okay, some streams may offer a chance for some holdover trout.
When the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation stocking begins Benedict Creek in Inlet is scheduled for 300 8- to 9-inch brookies; the Cedar River Flow, Indian Lake, will get 730 8- to 9-inch browns; the Jessup River in Lake Pleasant will get 440 8- to 9-inch browns and 1,100 8- to 9-inch brookies; the Moose River in Inlet, Morehouse and Arietta is scheduled for 1,700 8- to 9-inch brookies; Otter Brook in Morehouse will get 800 8- to 9-inch brookies; the Sacandaga River in Wells will receive 2,340 8- to 9-inch browns; the South Branch of West Canada Creek in Hoffmeister and Morehouseville is slated for 2,000 8- to 9-inch brookies and 250 12- to 15-inch browns; and Sumner Stream in Inlet will get 300 8- to 9-inch brookies.
There are other streams due for trout releases in May, as well as number of ponds and lakes; the preceding is meant only as a rough guide to help you get started on your Hamilton County trout fishing adventures. For a more complete list of those waters on the DEC's anticipated trout stocking list by county and township you're invited to visit the agency's website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor; type "spring trout stocking" into the subject box. That should bring you right to it. You'll note on that site that DEC also reminds anglers that fish are stocked with help from the Hamilton County Federation of Sportsmen.
The best trout fishing may be a month or so away, but the statewide walleye and northern pike seasons open May 4. Barring unforeseen weather conditions, that fishing should be fairly good when the seasons open.
Pike are already beginning to "stage" and will be spawning soon, if not already in some waters, in areas where there is substantially flooded shoreline, though perhaps by the time you read this that will have improved and spawning runs will be more pronounced. In any event, it doesn't all happen at once.
Pike will stay in the shallows for several weeks or more, as long as water temperatures remain cool, water levels remain high, and boat traffic doesn't disturb them. Both northerns and walleye will remain in those shallower areas even when the water temperature approaches the upper 60s, as long as the other conditions remain favorable.
Walleyes are definitely a colder water species -- that's why you normally have to fish deep for them during the summer months -- but when they're making their annual spawning runs in mid- to late-April and early May they'll run up flooded creeks to lay their eggs. Again, those spawning activities generally rely on higher water levels and cooler water temperatures to attract walleyes. I guess that's nature's way of attracting spawning fish during spring runoffs and spring rains. However, some walleyes will remain in the lakes, preferring instead to spawn on gravel bars and similar structure.
SPRUCE GROUSE IN TROUBLE
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted a Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan to enhance and restore spruce grouse populations in the State of New York. The final Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan is now available on DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/.
Spruce grouse were first listed as a threatened species in New York in 1983. They were moved to the endangered species list in 1999 as a result of continued declines in the population. Conservation of spruce grouse and their habitat is important to preserving New York's biodiversity and unique character.
DEC biologists will now develop specific steps to implement the Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan, beginning with an evaluation of the feasibility of moving a small number of healthy spruce grouse from Canada to an experimental site in northern New York.
Admittedly, despite my years of wandering around New York state's North Country, I've never seen a spruce grouse (that I know of). I've seen plenty of them in Ontario and Quebec on my Canadian hunts but not here in NYS, even though we have the boreal forest they prefer.
They're often referred to as "fool hen" in Canada because of their propensity for letting a predator get within a few feet before taking flight. They're very curious and will approach a human very closely before feeling threatened. On one particular deer hunt in Quebec I recall a spruce grouse wandering in to within three feet of me and just standing there for at least half an hour trying to figure out who or what I was. It eventually tired of that game and just walked away.