Usually by this time Essex County's stocking trucks can be seen alongside area lakes and rivers, stocking a mix of 7 to 9-inch yearling trout as well as 12 to 16-inch two-year-olds.
The county hatchery, located in Crown Point and managed by Steve LaMere, began an innovative program in 1990 to raise and release the larger two-year-old trout.
The goal of the program was to increase opportunities to catch a larger stock of trout in county waters, and 30,000 such fish have been released annually since, on top of the 20,000 one-year-olds stocked by the local hatchery.
But this year anglers will have to wait a bit longer to see the fish turnup in local waters, LaMere told the county board of supervisors April 13.
That's because of a state mandate that the county hatchery test a sampling of its fish for disease carrying pathogens prior to stocking this spring.
The requirement will delay the release of fish until late in April, LaMere said.
"We contracted with a lab in Maine for the testing as soon as we were notified of the requirement to test, and they picked up the fish two days later," LaMere said. "But some of the tests require a 28-day incubation period."
LaMere said he was displeased with the mandate, both because he is ready to stock and because the state required the county to pay for the testing at a cost of $4,000 when they own labs that could do it at no cost.
He said the county has consistently come to the aid of the state when it has asked to help meet their stocking requirements.
"To ask us to pay $4,000 for testing they could do in their own lab is, frankly, offensive," LaMere said.
LaMere's facility stocks rainbow, brown and brook trout. Here is a partial rundown of waters slated to be stocked in 2009: In Crown Point; Phelps Brook, and Putnam Creek. In Moriah; Mill Brook (upstream of falls, just west of Route 22), Roe Pond (specially designated a kids fishing area), McKenzie Brook (upstream of falls on Fish & Game Club Property), Grove Brook (above first impassable fish barrier), and Ensign Pond. In Schroon Lake; Alder Meadow Brook, Rogers Brook, Schroon River, Spectacle Pond Brook, and Paradox Lake (East Basin only). In Ticonderoga; Putnam Creek, Trout Brook, Eagle Lake, LaChute River, and Five-mile Run. In Elizabethtown; the Boquet River.
Concern over alewives
Another topic discussed by the county board last week included the concern that a steady diet of alewives will eventually cause lake trout and salmon to become sterile and reduce numbers in Lake Champlain.
The concern stems from the fact that alewives are high in a chemical known as thiaminase, which, when ingested by fish in large quantities, causes a decrease in vitamin B1 - an essential dietary vitamin in lakers and salmon.
Being low in B1 can cause a number of negative side effects, from stunted growth to impaired vision to reproductive failure and mortality in fry and adult fish.
Essex Supervisor Ron Jackson asked LaMere if he had the capability of raising lake trout and salmon to supplement the stocking program in Lake Champlain, especially since Vermont is considering closing some - or all - of its state hatcheries.
LaMere said he most likely would, with renovations to the water pipes that feed the 80-year-old facility, but said the impact the hatchery might have on the 120-mile lake leaves to be seen.
"I think it's a goal worth pursuing," Jackson said.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org