Freshwater: Opening Day Traditions - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Opening Day Traditions

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The spirit of opening day trout stays with us all season long!

The anticipation leading up to the opening day of trout season can be very much like the build-up through Christmas Eve. Just counting down the days as the excitement builds, relining our reels, organizing tackle boxes and making sure that the waders didn’t spring any leaks since last year; it’s an exciting time!

I remember hitting up the tackle shop a day or two before. I’d shop the aisles for any last minute purchases I may want to make while my father was waiting in line for bait. After all, most lures are made to catch the fisherman more than the fish.

Where I grew up in Connecticut we had several options close by to trout fish. Still though, we had our tradition to follow and a routine for the day. We’d be up early for a big breakfast, load up the truck and get to our first spot by sunrise. Sometimes “our spots” would be packed with other anglers. However, if we took the boat out on the lake we could go anywhere we wanted out there. Growing up on a trout management lake had its perks. Always stocked with fish and had tons of holdovers that got bigger and bigger every year. While stocked fish can offer nonstop action and a ton of fun, those bigger holdovers were what we really were after.

States begin stocking trout long before opening day, filling up your favorite spots with fish.   In these early days of the trout season, classic offerings for stocked fish include mealworms, Powerbait nuggets and corn. Fishing any of these off the bottom with a small bait hook and a couple of split shots 12-inch up work just fine.  It does make for a lot of fun with the kids; these bait options, as well as smaller spinners, spoons, micro soft plastics and other artificials are all effective at catching fish. However, when it comes to catching wild and/or holdover fish you’ll need to look a bit more natural.

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In these early days of the 2023 trout season give thought to deploying a hair jig for April success.

Aside from live bait, when fishing artificials the obvious intent is to mimic nature. I remember racing to the water’s edge geared up and ready to go. Though, even with a tackle box full of lures, it always started with the same one. Our opening day go-to was the hair jig; it’s still a favorite of mine for trout. In cold water, nothing looks more natural than hair. I usually change it up between marabou and fox hair, black and/or silver are my colors of choice. Other materials like bucktail and synthetics are better suited later in the spring.

Different materials for hair jigs have varying actions in differing water temps. Hair will almost always look and act more natural than soft plastics in cold water, though. Most people go with the low and slow technique that they left off with in the fall. In lakes and ponds I tend to use 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jigs. As temps steadily rise, fish become more active and it isn’t uncommon to find trout crashing the shoreline, especially along sandy and rocky areas that warm up quicker. I have found many quality trout cruising along beaches on the lake.

In rivers and streams that can change depending on flows from snow melt or spring rains may require a few adjustments. Small marabou jigs were a childhood favorite of mine, hopping them along the bottom of the river waiting for a hit. In general I usually use much lighter jigs like 1/32-ounce, especially for deeper, slower moving pools. What I love most about hair is that with little to no movement it can still produce an enticing action.

The one sad thing that comes from the opening day traditions is the unfortunate circumstance that some anglers have no regard for keeping our waterways clean. We always carry out what we carry in and make sure to pick up after others too.  In these opening days of the trout season throughout the region, particularly after the crowds have come and gone, let’s all do what we can to preserve what we have for our future generations.

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