Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Battenkill Access

The Battenkill is a tremendous river, rich in both history and opportunity for the intrepid bug chucker. In its Vermont headwaters, the character of the 'Kill is much like that of a spring creek: slow, marshy, rich in aquatic life, and blessed with abundant brook trout and many large browns (many anglers will tell you these fish don't exist). A few miles downstream the river changes, and becomes a classic freestone stream. She continues on that way for many miles, changing again only when the river reaches the areas just upstream of the town of Greenwich. Here, the river again slows as it prepares for its descent into the Hudson.

There is very little water on the Battenkill that isn't fishable. As is the case with most any trout stream, however, some stretches are better than others. I'll leave it to you to figure out which sections those are, but believe me when I tell you that there are plenty of large, wild fish to be had. They won't come easily to hand, but with time and a few miles under your belt, they will come. Don't be afraid to walk a mile or two, or to try across the borders of New York and Vermont (purchase a New York license here - Vermont licenses may be purchased here).

What may be best about the Battenkill is access. Much of the river - in both New York and Vermont - is readily accessible by the fishing public. In Vermont, most of the land surrounding the Battenkill is private, but landowners there are generally willing to allow bug chuckers the right of passage. Don't be afraid to knock on a door, and respectfully ask permission. It's unlikely you'll be denied. Landowners aside, there are several public access sites maintained by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. As long as an angler has gained legal access to the water through a public site or landowner permission then he or she is allowed walk the shoreline along the high water mark on any navigable water. Navigable water is defined by Vermont as any water that a log - 48 inches long by six inches in diameter - can float down at least one week out of the year. This regulation covers nearly every square inch of the Battenkill from its headwaters to the point where it meanders into New York.

Here in New York, the regulations are much more stringent than in the Green Mountain state (landowners legally hold title to both the shoreline and the riverbed), but mile after mile of the river is available via state easement. An easement is a lease - usually purchased in perpetuity - by which the state gains for anglers the right of access to private property. When the state purchases an easement from a landowner, anglers are generally allowed to access the shoreline ( from any area designated as a public access point) up to the high water mark, which is roughly 15 to 30 feet from the stream during normal summertime flows. While the areas under easement are generally marked with public fishing signage ...

... it is the angler's responsibility to know where the easements begin and end. Not only does knowledge ensure that the angler is in compliance with the law, but it also arms the angler against unscrupulous landowners who may attempt to force a bug chucker off of public water (this has happened more than once in recent years ... email me for specifics). The maps below illustrate all the public water along the entire length of the river as it runs through New York. The blue and red lines follow state easements, with the blue line marking the right bank as one looks downstream and the red line marking the left. Again, these easements may be accessed from any designated, public-fishing parking area or roadway/train bridge.

Vermont / New York border to Eagleville (the first 20" brown I ever saw came out of Camden Brook)
Eagleville to Shushan (buy a canoe)
Shushan to Rexleigh (hint ... follow the train tracks)
Rexleigh to Fitch Point (no fish down here ... don't bother)

No comments: