Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Early-season trout can be hit-and-miss

New York’s trout season opens April 1. This may pose a problem because April 1 is also Easter Sunday. Nevertheless, there are bound to be those diehards who will find a way to get out on the water.

Early-season anglers are likely to find streams running high, but they can improve their chance of success by fishing deep and slow. Where permitted, natural baits such as worms and minnows are the baits of choice, but knowledgable fly-fishing enthusiasts use weighted nymphs and large, flashy streamers, possibly coupled with a sink-tip line. In the past when I fished for early-season trout I enjoyed moderate to good success using a weighted Hare’s Ear nymph or Woolly Bugger drifted as close to the bottom as possible.

Later this month, some ponds and lakes holding trout may see a blackfly hatch and the trout will abandon all other foods in order to gorge on the emerging flies. I fish a small local lake and don’t have boat access. This means I fish from shore where I have permission and I often find the rising trout are quite a ways out in the lake, so an ordinary fly rod won’t cut it. As a result I’ve learned to adapt.

When the trout are dimpling the surface, my favorite way of fishing the rising trout is to tie a No. 12 or 14 blackfly on to a seven-foot tapered leader with no more than a two-pound tippet end. The heavier end of the leader is tied to a small plastic “torpedo” bobber, which allows me to cast it a long distance into the lake using my spinning rod.

I’ve found that unless there is a chop in the water, fishing success will be minimal. I can only assume the fish can see even the lightest of leaders if the lake surface is calm. If the fish are rising and there is a chop on the water, be prepared for some real action. The nice part is that almost all trout that take the fly are hooked in the jaw and are easily released to fight another day.

Pond fishing is often best immediately after the winter ice melts, but even in the Southern Tier where I live, April 1 may still see ice on some local lakes or ponds. Friends in the North Country tell me most Adirondack and Catskill ponds are likely to remain frozen for the April 1 opener, so it would be wise to scout out areas beforehand where the possibility of frozen waters may exist.

Prime areas to fish are those that warm the earliest, including tributary mouths and near surface and shallow shoreline areas. It should also be noted that ice fishing is prohibited in trout waters, except as noted in the Fishing Regulations Guide.

According to the DEC, spring trout stocking begins in March and runs through early June. The actual number of fish and stocking times may vary depending on fish availability and weather conditions. Unlike Pennsylvania, which stocks most streams and lakes prior to the season opener, not all New York streams see a stocking truck until after the April 1 kickoff.

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