By ADAM BENSON
NORWICH, Conn. (AP) _ A month after Norwich leaders urged regulators to lengthen trout fishing season by up to two weeks, top state officials say the idea is gaining support and could become a reality as soon as 2014.
“I am personally in favor of it and want it to happen,” Pete Aarrestad, director of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s inland fisheries division, told The Bulletin. “We’re very serious about it. But we really need to look at how we do this on a statewide basis.”
The City Council today will receive a letter from DEEP that says it’s exploring the idea of a longer fishing season, but no decision has been made yet.
The DEEP’s stance comes a month after receiving a letter from the Norwich City Council urging it to re-examine its traditional third Saturday in April launch for trout fishing, which is weeks after opening dates in surrounding states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We know that people leave Connecticut on its western and northern borders to fish in New York and Massachusetts. That’s revenue lost to our area,” said Norwich alderman Charlie Jaskiewicz, who sponsored the resolution asking for a longer fishing season. “Let’s open our waters to be consistent with other states and get some of that revenue.”
In addition to money spent at local restaurants, gas stations, lodging and businesses, proponents say a longer fishing season means more profits from licenses that are sold.
Inland fishing licenses range from $28 to $55 per person.
Aarrestad said a revised regulations package addressing the plan has yet to leave his agency, and officials expect to gather public input on the proposal, he said. Regulators say forcing through a change to the season so soon before opening day would be “unfair” to businesses, organizations and other entities that have planned around the April 20, 2013, start state.
Ultimately, the General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee would have to approve the change.
William Hyatt, chief of the state’s natural resources, said in a letter to Norwich leaders one of the biggest hurdles in changing opening day is ensuring that all locations are fully stocked before fishing season begins.
Typically, trout stocking begins around March 1 and continues through opening day.
“Obviously, moving opening day two weeks earlier as opposed to one week earlier will increase the chance that not all sites will be stocked,” Hyatt wrote to City Manager Alan Bergren on Sept. 14. “The risk will be greater in years that are unusually cold and wet, since those conditions would require more frequent cancellations of stocking runs, with limited time to reschedule.”
But Hyatt acknowledged altering the calendar would “clearly provide a greater opportunity for all anglers. An earlier opening would also allow for more youth to take advantage of fishing opportunities during their April vacations.”
State Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, and vice-chairman of the Environment Committee, supports Norwich’s efforts.
“It seems to me we’re missing out on capturing some revenue. We’ve got one of the largest fish hatcheries in the Northeastern United States in Plainfield, and it’s sort of silly we’re the last out of the gate in the contiguous surrounding states,” he said.
The state began its autumn trout program on Sept. 26. About 29,000 trophy and adult-sized fish are stocked in 60 waterways across Connecticut, including the Moosup, Shetucket, Willimantic and Yantic rivers, Gardner Lake, Black Pond in Woodstock and Spaulding Pond at Mohegan Park in Norwich.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)