Fishing Seasons

Bear with me as I haven’t fully worked my thoughts out about this topic, but it is something that I’ve been thinking about lately and wanted to hear what others have to say about the topic.

Fishing seasons are something that we’ve all encountered in one way or another in the past, present, or both. As far as I understand it, most states and countries have them in one fashion or another (I’m sure someone will know something more than I to prove this statement likely wrong). I know that the times of year in which they are enforced and for which species, also varies.

The prevailing, albeit not solitary, reason for having seasons for fishing, is to protect fish during their annual spawning. The interesting thing is that the fishing season in many places actually overlap with the typical spawning time. For browns and brookies that’s in the fall and for rainbows and cutthroats it’s in the spring. I cannot speak to any other species of fish, though I do feel this equally applies.

Here in Vermont, where I live, the season goes from the second Saturday in April until the last Sunday in October. With a few exceptions, that’s it. Here’s the odd thing to me, autumn spawning can begin as early as August and spring spawning can be delayed until early June. So the fishing season overlaps most years with the spawn.

Other places don’t have seasons (although that doesn’t imply there aren’t other restrictions such as C/R) and people can fish year round. I do not understand fisheries biology well enough to know how fry survive. What I do understand from having visited a few hatcheries over the years is that fish do not rear their progeny like mammals do. This makes hunting seasons more reasonable to me, to give those animals time to care for their young enough before the difficult point of the season comes (by that I mean winter, dry season, or whatever it is in your climate).

Albeit being incomplete, this has lead to a few questions:

  • What is the point of fishing seasons if primary spawning occurs while the season is still open?
  • Do we cause harm to fish by angling during the spawn?
  • How do we know if we do or do not?
  • Why the inconsistency of the application of science in this area?
  • Should we take time off from fishing during the year to give fish a break or do few enough people fish as sport to not cause that big of an impact?

My normal faith in the incompetence of committees, government committees in particular, to write rules that make sense, would lead me to say that’s the reason for the inconsistency. However, in this case it’s probably not so much due to incompetence. As primarily due to political pressure, or pandering, take your pick, to match the fishing season as closely as possible to the dates when Daylight Saving Time is in effect. People don’t want to be told they’re not permitted to fish while the sun is still above the horizon. A bit of a compromise.


Generally speaking, where I live there are limited or no fishing season restrictions. If the water is accessible you generally can fish it. There are exceptions for certain fish species or for certain sensitive fish habitat streams.

I’m not sure if there has been proven to be impact on the fish populations, as I find that the harshness of the winter typically restricts fishing activity on a large percentage of the waters here.

There may be other behaviors that impact fish populations more than fishing seasons. The assumption that bait fishing has higher mortality than fly fishing, certain catch and release techniques being superior to others, how long to play a fish when it’s on the line, how long to hold them out of the water for a picture - if at all, water temperature when fishing, etc. There are some data that have been published regarding many of these topics but there is still a lot of controversy and a lot of conjecture based on myth and opinion.

As for me, I’m going to take advantage of the open year-round fishing season right now and head out for a couple hours.


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Excellent points @tvdavisid .

I wish I could be doing that today. Would have been a perfect day to do so. :disappointed:

I just got back. 1h10m on the water. Air 23°F. I don’t know what the water temperature was, as I didn’t have my thermometer with me. 6 browns. I used the TB36 and tungsten beadheads.

Here in NC the only trout waters that are closed are Hatchery supported waters and they are closed only in March to allow time for stocking. Wild trout waters and Catch and release waters are open year round. Delayed harvest fall under C&R part of the year and Hatchery Supported for the rest of the year.

It seems complicated I guess but I am used to it and I can fish most places year round.

That didn’t seem too entirely complicated Chris.

It is interesting how different places handle this topic. Most of the winter, almost all rivers and streams are frozen here. So, that would certainly be prohibitive for fishing. I guess the logic behind how the law is implemented here in Vermont, doesn’t fit with the stated intentions in my opinion.

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In my opinion Delayed Harvest is the best thing our fish and wildlife has ever done. No fish may be possessed from 1 Oct to 1 June. so it protects the spawning season for both browns and rainbows. Streams that used to be purely put and take stocked streams have a nice population of wild trout now. They are mostly small but native nonetheless. :smiley:

That seems like a very sensible way of doing it. Not to mention it fits in with the current scientific understanding as well.

My impression is that the restrictions may have everything to do with fisherman and nothing to do with fish.

I say this because here in ct…it makes no sense that wild and stocked c and r areas are open year round. Even with c and r…winter is a tough time for these fish…the relative mortality must be higher in the winter.

It may be a way of providing a higher quality of fishing using the available budget. Most fishermen are fair weather… thus the warmer months. Most only target that first two weeks of opening season only. It’s sort of hard to call them fisherman. Let’s call them farmers. It cracks me up every opening day. They come out of the woodwork.

I feel 90% of anglers fish for trout those first two weeks. Once that easy fishing is done so are they.