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Dry Conditions May Hamper Fishing in Westport

WESTPORT, Conn. – If warm and dry conditions continue, anglers in Westport and other parts of Fairfield County might find it hard to land a fish as fishing season opens this Saturday.

Experienced fly-fisherman Jeff Yates of Wilton, who has been fishing since he was 3, said a lack of rainfall this spring has led to a significant drought. As a result, he said, increasingly low water levels will be one of the biggest challenges anglers face this season.

“River levels are far below normal flows,” said Yates, who also is a part-time fly-fishing guide. “The Saugatuck River, for example, is flowing at 20 percent of what it normally would be this time of year. In essence, water levels are similar to what you’d see in mid-August.”

Yates, 31, said low water levels put stress on fish for a number of reasons. Oxygen levels decrease while water temperature increases, which are two factors that threaten fish survival.

Additionally, Yates said less water makes it harder for people to “sneak up” on fish. Also, it means fishermen will have to compete with predators, such as osprey, for the fish as these animals have easier access when there’s less water, he added.

In some ways, anglers might find it easier to make a catch when water levels are low because fish will be forced to move into deeper pools of water. This means they won’t be spread out.

Outside of drier than normal conditions, Yates said anglers will be happy with the number of and size of fish out there this season.

“The state has done an incredible job of raising fish this year,” he said. “They’re about 20 percent larger, on average, than they were last year.”

So far, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has released 376,000 trout throughout the state, Yates said. About 40,000 trout were stocked in Fairfield County alone.

Yates, president of the Mianus Chapter of Trout Unlimited , wrote the recently released book, “Fly Fishing Fairfield County: Secrets of Suburban Streams." This season, he’s encouraging residents to explore the 20 trout streams in Fairfield County.

“So many people I’ve spoken to are so unfamiliar with the rivers and streams in their own back yards,” he said. “Explore your local streams — you’ll be surprised how great the fishing can be.”

Yates' book can be purchased online and in local fishing shops, including Westport Outfitters.

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