Discover the Official State Fish of New York (And Where You Can Catch Them This Summer)

Written by Ella Coppola
Updated: September 9, 2023
© Davenport
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Oh, New York, New York! The state is home to many different types of fish along its coastlines and inside its rivers and lakes. From small, rarely-seen species of darters to large game fish like salmon and muskellunge, New York’s waters are home to many fish species. Over 165 fish species inhabit the state’s 7,500 lakes and ponds and 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, providing New York with one of the richest fish faunas in the nation. However, only one fish is New York’s official fish: the Brook Trout.

Brook Trout

State animal infographic for the state fish of New York, the brook trout.
Brook trout have become a symbol of clean water throughout their native range.

Scientific name: Salvelinus fontinalis

In 1975, New York designated brook trout as the official New York State Fish. Also called speckled trout, brookies, or speckles by fishermen, brook trout live only in cool, clean, and pure underwater conditions. As opportunistic feeders, these fish prefer aquatic insects (nymphs that live under the rocks and on the stream bottom, but will also eat whatever they can find. However, they primarily consume aquatic insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stone flies. These land insects fall into the water, and other small fish and minnows that are easy to catch. In addition to terrestrial insects, they eat smaller fish, crustaceans, worms, and terrestrial insects that fall into the water.

Brook trout typically grow between 8 to 12 inches and display a distinctive appearance with a dark olive-green to brownish body with a marble pattern on their back and sides with red and orange spots. How big these fish can get depends on their habitat and food availability.

These trout prefer cold, clear streams and lakes with cool, clean water. They require well-oxygenated environments to thrive and are often found in rocky bottoms with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide, like fallen logs or submerged vegetation. Although these fish prefer clean water, they can survive and tolerate slightly acidic waters.

In the fall, the trout spawn in gravelly areas of a stream or lake beds. The female trout will create a nest called a redd. The eggs hatch in early spring, and the young fish, called fry, feed on small invertebrates. These trout grow rapidly during their first year and reach sexual maturity between two to three years of age.

Where to Catch Brook Trout in New York

You can find Brook trout in brooks, lakes, and streams throughout New York. These fish have a significant meaning to New York State, being the official state fish and all and holding a special place in the state’s natural heritage.

You will find brook trout in many New York streams, lakes, and ponds. Native to various regions, including the Adirondack Mountains, Catskill Mountains, Tug Hill Plateau, and the Finger Lakes region.

Fishing Brook Trout in New York

Brook trout
Brook trout caught in a stream.


New York offers numerous fishing opportunities for brook trout enthusiasts. Popular destinations to catch brook trout are the Ausable River in the Adirondacks, Beaverkill River in the Catskills, West Canada Creek in the Mohawk Valley and many smaller streams and ponds throughout the state.

New York State has specific regulations to manage brook trout populations and protect the species. These regulations include minimum size limits, daily possession limits, and seasonal closures in some areas to preserve brook trout populations and ensure sustainable fishing. In addition, the DEC, or New York State Department of Environmental Conservation efforts works to conserve and restore brook trout habitat and populations. These efforts include habitat restoration projects, stream bank stabilization, water quality improvement, and removing barriers to fish passage.

In areas in New York where brook trout populations are scarce, the DEC will release brook trout to supplement existing populations or establish new ones. This also provides additional fishing opportunities, especially where natural reproduction is limited.

Fishing Seasons

In New York, the fishing season for brook trout depends on the specific body of water you want to fish in. The DEC regulates the fishing seasons, and in general, the season starts on April 1st and extends until October 15th. Within this season, fishermen can fish brook trout and other trout species in most new bodies of water across New York. However, some bodies of water have specific rules and laws, so it is good to look up and follow the rules of your particular body of water.

Additionally, some bodies of water in New York have special regulations to protect spawning populations and sensitive habitats. For instance, some rivers and streams where brook trout like to spawn are closed during spawning seasons. Also, certain areas designated as “wild” have regulations, like catch-and-release type practices, to protect the species.

Freshwater Fishing Regulations

The New York State Department, or DEC, also manages and protects all fish populations. So, if you’re looking to catch brook trout or any other fish, following their rules to ensure sustainable and safe fishing practices is essential.

If you are 16 years old or older, you’re required by the state of New York to have your own New York fishing license to fish in freshwater. You can get a permit through authorized license sales, but you may need a special permit to ice fish or fish for rarer species.

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About the Author

My name is Ella Coppola. I graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in Journalism and Ethics in Dallas, Texas. I'm a huge animal lover and have two dogs named Charlie and Meatball.

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