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The official start to the open-water fishing season for many, trout fishing ramps up this month as the culmination of weeks of stocking local waters pays off.
By Toby Lapinski
Fishing at a trout-stocked lake is a great way to get kids excited about the sport.

For many anglers, “Opening Day” takes on special meaning as the official kick-off of the open-water fishing season. While Opening Day itself refers simply to trout, it means so much more for legions of anglers across the Northeast and beyond.

The draw of Opening Day and its related festivities extends beyond the fishing community. At my last job prior to joining The Fisherman, I worked in an office of about 150 people. Yes, I was a cubicle jockey for many years and I acted out a real-life version of The Office on an almost daily basis. Anyway, I was one of just a small handful of fishermen employed there yet everyone knew about Opening Day. I would get no less than 20 inquiries on the days leading up to Opening Day in my home state of Connecticut as everyone wanted to know my big plans. Did I have my license yet? How early did I plan to be on the water? Was the anticipation of the big day keeping me up at night? It felt like more people were interested in my plans to fish than congratulated me after I got married! Most of the time I just smiled, said that it didn’t do all that much for me as my true passion was in saltwater fishing and did my best to respectfully change the subject. Sure I would sneak out for a little while every year to take my nephews fishing or to join my good friend as he and his brother had a tradition of fishing at the crack of dawn on a local pond, but it was less about “Opening Day” for me than it was about just being outside.

For what seems like more years than I care to admit, my mid- to late-winter fishing opportunities have gotten smaller and smaller. Once the calendar flips to January, and show season inevitably begins, I am lucky to find a free day let alone one that coincides with fishable weather. As I write this the last angling of any sort that I participated in was way back on December 31. On that afternoon I tangled with a mess of small striped bass as they began to stage up for the winter. I made plans to see how long I could stay on that bite with goals of going 12 months straight catching striped bass, but that failed miserably as one has to actually get out and "fish" in order to "catch."

So once again my next opportunity to fish has become trout, and with opening day in Connecticut set for April 8 this year, my sights have set and plans have begun to get ironed out. Now I am not a trout purist by any means and I will likely have my tackle box packed with multi-colored tubs of PowerBait and a can of wiggly earthworms instead of exquisitely-tied nymphs and streamers packed into a fancy fly box. I’ll likely pack a small cooler for the day, but instead of arriving empty seeking to fill it with fresh fish it will show up already filled with a combination of snacks and drinks to fuel me through the outing. I’ll be an observer and likely catch-and-release angler as for me it will simply be about getting out and enjoying the fresh air with the hope of a tug on the end of my line being little more than an afterthought. Sure I’ll be happier come sunset if all of my bait has been fed to a school of hungry stockies, but regardless I will consider it a win if I am at least able to dust the cobwebs off of my casting arm!

So regardless of which camp you fall into—the fanatical purist or the fun-seeking fair-weather angler—may your Opening Day bring you all the fun and enjoyment that we all seek in this common interest of fishing.

Anglers looking to tangle with a trout in the Bay State are lucky in that there is no closed season in Massachusetts waters. You can legally target and harvest trout year-round (although some lakes have certain limitations and restrictions), and the state supports this fishery with a massive stocking program. Close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked across Massachusetts this spring from MassWildlife’s five hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague. These fish, coupled with the more than 80,000 fish stocked last fall, will provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Stocking began in the southeastern area of the state back on March 6 with other regions of the state following thereafter. Anglers can get daily stocking updates at Mass.gov/Trout, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information.

2017 spring trout stocking stats:

  • Most of the trout will be over 12 inches
  • Nearly half of the trout will be over 14 inches
  • More than 1,400 brown trout will be over 18 inches
  • More than 600 brook trout will be over 15 inches
  • More than 2000 tiger trout will be over 14 inches

Several years ago the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) began stocking special golden trout around the state to coincide with its free fishing day on the first weekend of May. They began with just a few lakes at first before expanding to the following eight lakes in 2016: Barber Pond, South Kingstown; Browning Mill Pond, Exeter; Carbuncle Pond, Coventry; Carolina Trout Pond, Richmond; Meadowbrook Pond, Richmond; Silver Spring Pond, North Kingstown; Peck Pond, Burrillville; and Upper Melville Pond, Portsmouth. For anglers lucky enough to catch one of the beautiful fish, the state even presented a special trout pin for the accomplishment.

“What is a golden trout?” you may ask. Well the golden trout is a strain of rainbow trout that have been bred from one single mutation that was discovered in a West Virginia fish hatchery back in 1955. That original specimen was then bred with other rainbow trout and ultimately the coloration and size perfected to a point where the unique variation could be stocked in local waters. The golden rainbow is a true rainbow and not a variation of the golden trout which is only found in high-altitude waters of California and is unrelated. The golden rainbow is primarily yellow/gold with a lighter yellow to whitish belly and sometimes prominent red stripe down its side.

As of this writing I have confirmed that there will be another round of stocking in Rhode Island to coincide with this year’s free fishing weekend on May 6 and 7, but the specific waterbodies have not yet been selected.

In addition to standard trout-stocked waters, special Trout Management Areas (TMAs) and Trophy Trout Waters, Connecticut has what it refers to as "Trout Parks" around the state. The state's 11 Trout Parks are located in easily accessible areas to enhance trout fishing opportunities for anglers. The frequent stockings will greatly increase an angler’s chances of catching a fish, making it a more attractive "fishing hole", particularly to children and families.

Although the Trout Parks will have more fish in them, their daily creel limit (the number of trout an angler can keep) has been reduced from five to two fish per day in order to spread the catch among a greater number of anglers.

The current list of Trout Parks includes Black Rock State Park, Watertown; Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth; Southford Falls State Park, Oxford; Stratton Brook State Park, Simsbury; Wharton Brook State Park, Wallingford; Wolfe Park, Monroe; Day Pond, Colchester; Kent Falls State Park, Kent; Natchaug River, Eastford; Spaulding Pond, Norwich; and Valley Falls Pond, Vernon.

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