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Fisheries Investigation Plan for the Delaware Tailwaters

Problem Statement

The information on the biological and angler use characteristics of the wild trout fishery of the Delaware tailwaters available to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PAFBC) biologists is outdated. It predates significant changes in the fishery, including current flow management and fishing pressure. The existing information is inadequate to support a scientific evaluation of whether declines in the quality of the fishery have occurred and whether changes in management objectives and strategies are warranted in response to current patterns of angler use and trout population dynamics.

Need Statement

A new trout management plan addressing both the current trout populations supported by enhanced flows since 2010 and current angling pressure and pattern is needed. In the Fisheries Investigation Plan for the Delaware Tailwaters, NYSDEC and PAFBC identify the information most urgently needed to develop a new trout management plan and the strategies necessary to obtain that information over the next three years. While a robust information base is essential to all phases of the management process, it is particularly critical to the development of an effective management plan in which actions can be evaluated relative to explicitly stated goals and objectives. The development of this information base is the subject matter of this investigation plan.

Fisheries Investigation Plan for the Delaware Tailwaters 2018-2020

Fisheries Investigation Plan for the Delaware Tailwaters (PDF)

Sub-plans for the Fisheries Investigation Plan for the Delaware Tailwaters

2018 Progress Reports

Highlights from 2018 field work

Fishery-independent Biological Data Collection

Night-time boat electrofishing (4 sites)

  • 2017 - 30 independent samples. 830 brown trout and 45 rainbow trout captured
  • 2018 - 36 independent samples. 1221 brown trout and 147 rainbow trout captured

Day-time backpack electrofishing (15 sites)

  • 2017 - 42 independent samples. 1571 brown trout and 1119 rainbow trout captured
  • 2018 - 38 independent samples. 1932 brown trout and 452 rainbow trout captured

PIT Tagging

  • 2017 - 852 trout PIT tagged: 794 brown trout and 58 rainbow trout
  • 2018 - 1218 trout PIT tagged: 1046 brown trout and 172 rainbow trout

Tag retention was excellent; only 7% of recaptures were missing tags in 2018

Redd Counts

  • 2017: 1076 brown trout redds recorded in West Branch Delaware River.
    • No counts occurred in East Branch or any tributaries
  • 2018: 82 rainbow trout redds counted by volunteers in the spring
    • 29 in West Branch tributaries
    • 36 in East Branch tributaries
    • 17 in Delaware River tributaries
  • 2018 Brown trout redd counts canceled due to high autumn flows

Fishery-dependent Data Collection

2018 Creel Survey

  • 3,851 angler trips Delaware Tailwaters documented per angler interviews
    • 2,782 (72.2 %) in West Branch
  • Strong participation by both boat and wade anglers, many of whom are non-local anglers
    • 1,563 (40.6 %) boat anglers vs. 2,278 (59.1 %) wade anglers
    • 3,325 (86.3 %) anglers are non-local, based on origin by zip code
  • Relatively few trips were guided. Nearly all guided trips are boat angling. Considerable participation by non-local guides was documented.
    • 545 (14.1 %) guided trips vs. 3,229 (83.8 %) non-guided trips
    • 248 (45 %) guided trip by local guides vs. 248 (45 %) guided trip by non-local guides
  • Based on the 2018 creel data, the recreational fishery is focused almost entirely on trout, fly fishing is the predominant technique, and catch and release is widely practiced.
    • 2,947 (76.5 %) fly tackle
    • 3,649 (94.7 %) specifically targeting trout
    • Reported Brown Trout catch, (interview data)
      • Total catch 2,645 trout of which 67 (2.5 %) were harvested
      • Overall catch rate was 0.25 trout/hour or 1 trout per 4 hours spent fishing
    • Reported Rainbow Trout catch, (interview data)
      • Total catch 700 trout of which 9 (1.3 %) were harvested
      • Overall catch rate was 0.06 trout/hour or 1 trout per 16.6 hours spent fishing
  • 77% of anglers described themselves as "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their fishing experience over the last three years
  • 3% of anglers were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied."
  • Angler satisfaction was not singularly attributable to catching many trout (26.8 %), catching large trout (36.6 %), or catching at least one trout over 20-inches (26.0 %).
  • Harvest of trout is important to a relatively small (3.1 %) component of fishery participants.