RED HOUSE — With freezing temperatures and a light dusting of snow on the ground, fishermen from across the region braved the elements April 1 in hopes of catching “the big one.”

Opening day of trout season in New York only saw a handful of anglers in Allegany State Park lining the shores of Red House Lake and the banks of Red House Brook. With temperatures in the 20s throughout much of the morning, most said the fish just weren’t biting.

Although he hadn’t caught anything as of 9:45 a.m., Michael Nelson of Depew said he and a group of friends came down Wednesday afternoon and he caught three brown trout at Quaker Lake.

“It was probably about 5:30 (p.m.) when they finally started hitting. The sun came out and the wind stopped, so it was pretty calm in areas,” he said. “Today is a little different. They might be a bit scarce today.”

Out alone on the bank of Red House Brook near the Thomas L. Kelly Covered Bridge, Nelson said he’s been coming to the park for opening day for the past 15 years. Originally from Oklahoma, Nelson said he enjoys the escape from the city and it reminds him of home.

“Last year we got canceled on,” he said. “Because of COVID, they had to cancel our cabin,” he said. “But the year before that I caught a 2 1/2-foot rainbow.”

Tony Hodara of Salamanca said he’s been coming to the park for trout fishing since he was 10 years old — more than 50 years.

“I love it up here,” he added. “You don’t have to travel to Canada to catch good fish.”

Standing on the small pier at the northwest corner of the lake off ASP Route 1, Hodara said the park has changed a lot over the years but just as many people come out for opening day.

“Over to Quaker, it was elbow to elbow,” he said. “I figured I’d come over here to check things out, and so far so good. There’s not too many guys.”

With three lines in the water, Brad Stahlman of Salamanca said he hadn’t had a bite through the morning to around 10 o’clock, but was looking forward to the weekend when the temperatures would be back in the 50s.

Set up at a picnic table on the peninsula in the northwest area of Red House Lake, Stahlman looked east over the water with a hot thermos and tackle box nearby.

“We usually try to make it up for the first day,” he said. “I like to bring my kids out, but it was just way too cold today.”

Stahlman said the biting was usually good on the first day in past years, but he wasn’t sure about Thursday. Nevertheless, he said he was glad to be out now that the restrictions from the pandemic were subsiding and people are able to gather outside again.

“This year has got to be better than last year,” he added.

Meanwhile, along the stream west of the lake’s spillway, a solo fisherman from Frewsburg who declined to give his name said he had caught and released more than 20 fish in about three hours.

“I got my limit and then some,” he said, leaning against the bridge railing, pole in hand. “They’ve been biting pretty fair, but they’ve slowed down now.”

The fisherman, who said he grew up in Salamanca, has been coming to the park his whole life. He said before construction of the Southern Tier Expressway he and friends would ride their bikes along the road from Salamanca into the park, where Exit 19 from Interstate 86 is now.

“This is a beautiful park,” he said. “I was here about 7 (a.m.) and it was just like this. I think the cold weather kept a lot of guys home.”

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at

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