Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making A Great Place Better

It's no secret that the West Branch of the Farmington River is among the very top trout fishing destinations in the Northeast.  The quantity of quality fish living within its banks is unmatched in southern New England. The ever increasing number of Connecticut and out-of-state anglers lining its pools is a testament to that. There are many reasons why this river, particularly the upper portion, consistently produces high-caliber trout.  One of them is because of its year-round catch and release Trout Management Areas (TMA).

Established in 1988, the upper TMA encompasses a magnificent 3.6-mile stretch of river from the Route 219 Bridge in New Hartford to the power lines that run through People's State Forest in Pleasant Valley. With sufficient food, great habitat, cold, clean water, and fish-friendly regulations, there is a strong population of holdover trout, and an increasingly impressive number of wild fish as well.  For several years, there has been a growing movement to expand the TMA to improve and protect this amazing fishery even more. A proposed expansion in the works would increase the upper TMA upstream to the old bridge abutments in the tail of Whittemore Pool.  This would be a big win for trout by providing more catch and release sanctuary and for anglers by providing more room to breathe year-round. 

In addition, the proposed expansion would make the rest of the river from the Goodwin Dam all the way down to the Route 177 bridge a seasonal TMA.  This would mean that from September 1 until Opening Day, the entire 21-mile stretch of river from the Dam to Unionville would be a strictly catch and release area.  And from Opening Day until September 1, there would be a 2 fish, 12-inch limit in areas outside of the TMA.  However, in an attempt to make regulations more consistent throughout the entire stretch of river, the mandatory barbless hook regulation would be taken out if these changes go through in their current form. No doubt that by increasing the river's catch and release areas the trout fishing on the Farmington River would benefit immensely, yet reinstating barbed hooks into the TMA is looked at by many to be a step in the wrong direction.   

A public hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 16 at 6:30 PM, at the DEP HQ in Hartford. This is the last chance to voice your opinion on the matter in person.  Based on public comment, the proposed regulations may be adjusted.  For supporters of expanding the TMA that cannot make it to Hartford, the Farmington River Anglers Association (FRAA) has drafted a letter (below), which you can tweak to make your own.  Written comments should be submitted no later than 4:30 PM on March 30 to Bill Foreman (see address/fax/email below).

Bill Foreman
CT DEP Inland Fisheries Division
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
Fax: (860) 424-4070

Dear Mr. Foreman:

I am writing this letter to show my support for the proposed changes in the Farmington River Trout Management Area. The expansion of the Trout Management Area to the bridge abutments at the tail out of the Whittemore pool, and the changes to the other areas of the river down to the Route 177 Bridge in Unionville are well thought out, and long over due.

However, there is one change in the proposed regulations which I DO NOT support. All three sections of the new proposals relating to the Farmington River require that the fish be released “without avoidable injury”. And yet the regulations requiring the use of barbless hooks has been eliminated from the proposal. Barbless hooks allow for reduced handling and a faster release of the fish, thus reducing unwanted injury. To eliminate this requirement makes no sense. Barbless hooks in the Trout Management Area have been required since its inception, and to remove this provision at this time would be counter productive to releasing the fish without avoidable injury. Please consider reinstating the barbless hook requirement in the TMA, and if you wish to standardize the regulations, make barbless hooks required for the entire section of the river in the proposal. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


[Insert your name here]


  1. way to keep everyone who reads your blog aware. it is a good proposal. more immediately.....will the river be down to normal cc's for this friday? i have a day off and have sunrise in mind......the annual fish/basketball binge friday. one of the greatest days of the work year.

  2. As of Thursday morning, the river is at 1500 CFS and dropping. I think you will be able to pluck some nice fish, just stick to the banks where the trout should be hugging. Although you'll be alone at sunrise, try sticking it out until it warms up more for your best chance. Good luck!

  3. Should fish fine. What Kierran said about where to fish and you'll be fine. We netted 13 the other day, the fish are there, just fish the slower seams and you will produce.