By Jeff Murray
With two weeks to go until opening day of trout fishing in New York, the icy waters of Catharine Creek are teeming with spawning rainbows.
A team from the state Department of Environmental Conservation conducted its annual "shocking" of the legendary Seneca Lake tributary Monday, starting in Montour Falls before working their way south toward Millport.
Early each spring, rainbow trout that grow big in the nutrient-rich environment of Seneca Lake swim upstream into Catharine Creek and other tributaries to lay thousands of eggs that will become the next generation of potential trophy fish.
That mass migration also attracts an army of anglers hoping to hook a giant rainbow before it performs its biological imperative and heads back to the lake.
Most of the female trout sampled Monday were "hard," meaning they hadn't laid their eggs yet.
That indicates the fish are probably right in the middle of the spawning run, said DEC regional fish biologist Brad Hammers.
"The females are just swimming up the creek. We aren't seeing many males yet," Hammers said. "We've had reports from people there were fish in the creek two weeks ago. There should still be fish in the creek (opening day). If it gets warm, they will spawn and head back."
There are too many variables to predict how fishing will go opening day, but there should definitely still be some decent trout in the stream, Hammers said.
Many of the trout netted Monday also had the round scars left by parasitic lamprey eels.
The DEC conducted a lamprey eradication program last year and plans to treat the creek with lampricide again in two years, Hammers said.
Trout fishing opens April 1 on most waters. The promise of a giant rainbow draws anglers from hundreds of miles away to the banks of Catharine Creek each year.
For more information on trout fishing, go to dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.html.