Looking forward to a productive 2016 season.

A frozen West Branch of the Delaware, February, 2015.

A frozen West Branch of the Delaware, February, 2015.

We are officially in the “off-season” on the Delaware this time of year, starting to do other things like hunting and steelhead fishing to fill our days.  We are pretty lucky to live in a part of the world where there are many options to keep busy in the great outdoors.  It’s common this time of year to look back on the past fishing season and start to wonder what next season’s spring will bring.  With complex flow plans and countless natural variables that will affect our upcoming season it’s easy to get lost in it all.  In reality, many things could happen but here are a few points to keep in mind when looking forward to and preparing for the upcoming season. 

The 2015 season was challenging in many ways, mainly due to water flows, but nonetheless we managed to land some spectacular fish.  One positive thing we have going for us was we have a great age-class of fish over 20” roaming our waters and they’ll still be here in 2016.  This past season started out on a tough note as the season opened on April 1st following one of the coldest winters in recorded history.  Shelf ice was still around on the 1st throughout the West Branch and the mainstem was very icy in most spots.  The importance of this is that the extremely cold winter caused the river to freeze bank-to-bank and that usually isn’t the best for the bugs and the fish when compared to a more mild winter.  Only time will tell how extreme the 2016 winter will be but there’s a high probability that it will be mild compared to last year.  That should translate into better hatches for 2016 and good fish survival. 

Another positive we have to take into account is that the West Branch was pretty high and turbid/dirty from late-August well into the month of October.  How does this help the fish out?  Well, with the high and turbid water the pressure was greatly reduce on the river and the fish.  Whether you know it, or like to admit it, there’s definitely an increased mortality rate from even the most responsible fly or spin fisherman when you catch and land a fish.  Basically, the state of the river saved more fish than you may think simply by not getting caught.  So, these fish went into the spawn healthy and unbothered, which should translate into good numbers of not only young fish for the future but the larger fish as well.  The higher water during most of the spawning season also helped protect the vulnerable fish from avian predators – think eagles and osprey which kill quite a few fish when the water is low.  Especially vulnerable are these large spawning fish, which will protect their reds at all costs, even if it means dying for. 

Overall, 2016 is looking promising.  The Cannonsville reservoir could use some steady precipitation over the next few months to help fill it up.  The other NYC reservoirs are higher than normal as we approach winter.  So, when you’re at the vice this winter think positively and prepare for an excellent season.