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That's all she wrote!

Posted on October 15 2018

With the wind howling and the rain coming down too hard too make sitting in a tree the least bit appealing, I found time today to sit down and compare 2018 with the previous 27 years for which I have kept records of my of fishing on the Delaware River system.  The results aren't pretty. 

The season started off with high water and cold temps which delayed the may fly hatches and made wading difficult/ impossible. By May 14th I had caught but 14 fish. Then things turned around.  The water dropped and there were bugs, all kinds of them.  Hendricksons were still hatching when the Green Drakes were on.  For six weeks (May 15th  - June 30th) the fishing was as good as it ever gets.

In early July we had a series of heat waves and things slowed down.  Fished retreated to thermal refuges and the fishable water shrank from 90 to 30 miles. The Beaverkill, Big East Branch and the Big River were too warm to fish for most of July.  There were bugs and fish but there were lots of anglers crowded into a relatively few miles of water and you earned every fish.

In late July things changed.  The rains came.  Over six inches in July, over nine inches in August and over eight in September.  With the reservoirs rapidly refilling and spilling, NYC maxed out the releases. This coupled with robust flows from the tributaries made wade fishing difficult to impossible. Often times the entire system was too muddy to fish.  Water temps dropped and fish found their way back to their home waters but most of the river system remained unwadeable.

Drift boaters had the year of their lives.  No wade fishermen to row around and the entire river system available to them.  How's they do?  I'm really not sure.  Going by the " fish of the day" pictures in other blogs, I'd have to say not that well. The deep fast water made for fewer risers and the big browns soon learned the difference between a tasty small trout and a streamer. With the high water nymph fishing was also more difficult as the fish were more spread out and places where fish congregated were harder to find. 

How was my year? As I said above it started slow.  Had the six very good weeks (everyone was catching fish) in late May and June.  Then fair to good fishing in the three weeks of July before the rains.  Neither  August nor Septembers monthly totals equaled one of the weeks of late May or June.  In fact I had to go back to 2006  (the big flood year) to find poorer catch numbers.  Overall my total number of fish was just 60% of last years.

How is the fish population?  Well because of the high water my "sampling" was more limited this year but here is what I found.
     The Big River - has fewer big rainbows (over 17 inches) but very robust classes of 1.5 and 2.5 year olds.  There is also a reasonably stable population of browns.  The outlook for the next couple of years should be very good.
     The West Branch - seemed to have a good mix of fish of all age groups.  There were a few areas that held a large number of 1.5 year old fish and just a small number of fish over 17 inches but most sections of the river had good numbers of both browns and rainbows of all sizes.
     The Upper East Branch (above the junction with the Beaverkill)  had a good mix of year classes of browns although the big brown numbers (at least for me ) appear to still be lower than they were two years ago.  Although the stream has traditionally been a "brown trout" stream I caught a good number of 1.5 year old rainbows from Harvard down this year.

The Big East Branch -  Again I found the population in the upper portion of the river way below historic norms.  This has been the case for at least four years and I consider it a cause for concern.  I have seen people regularly taking fish and perhaps more protection of the fish is required.  Late in June I did have good fishing in the lower portion of the river.  I don't know if the fish were migrating out and were concentrated in those pools or if they were there all year.

The Beaverkill -  I basically fish the Beaverkill from the lower "no kill" section down to it's junction with the East Branch.  For years it supported a modest population of big wild browns.  In the last fifteen years the wild rainbows increased in numbers and provided some of the best fishing in the entire system.  Unfortunately the more than generous five fish limit has attracted a group of fishermen who systematically catch and kill almost all the wild trout in the lower Beaverkill.  They float the river in pontoon boats each spring  and do not quit until the river population of wild trout is decimated.

This has been my fourth year writing the "Angler 119" report,  As I did last year, I am asking you who read the reports for suggestions that would make it more informative and enjoyable.  I would also welcome readers comments that offer different observations than those posted here.

 With the continuing high water I doubt I'll be on the river again this year but look forward to seeing you streamside next year.


  • Fred Zaiko: November 10, 2018

    Thank you for your informative and humorous reports. It’s the first thing I do when i think of the West Branch!

  • TC: October 23, 2018

    Thanks for another season of these highly informative reports. It’s a lot of effort that helps many others I’m sure. These are “must reads” for anyone fishing the Delaware. There is never any acknowledgement I see that New York officials at least read and consider the valuable insight you offer regarding river fish populations. There are stories and rumors circulating about fish surveys. But no communication I’ve seen from state about the health of Delaware. If the state is doing or considering something they should communicate that to Angler 119 and the others who write regular reports. Thanks again.

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