Roadside Attractions: Spring at the ‘Chu - The Fisherman

Roadside Attractions: Spring at the ‘Chu

2018 4 Spring At The Chu Fish
Located northeast of Worcester, Massachusetts, Wachusett Reservoir offers excellent fishing from the spring through late fall with lake trout being the top attraction of many anglers.

I had driven by this roadside location countless times on my way to the nearby bait and tackle shop. A scenic expanse of steely-grey water splayed out with mirrored reflections of the Wachusett hills in the distance. It appeared, more or less, a place to pull over and enjoy your lunch break or a cup of coffee before heading to your real destination. But, as it would turn out, this spot is truly worthy of being the main attraction.

Wachusett reservoir is one of two bodies of water in the state (the other being Quabbin reservoir) where anglers have a shot at catching large fish, and also fish not common to other watersheds, like lake trout and salmon. The lake is only accessible to shore-bound anglers, and it is open to fishing from April 1 through November 30, depending on ice conditions (No ice fishing is allowed.).

For years, we’d anxiously make our plans as opening day approached (the first Saturday of April) studying maps of the trails and gates that lead to what would be the hotspot for the coming expedition. And some days the planning would pay off when we were rewarded with fine catches after a long hike into this great lake. Other days, there may have been the ever-possible skunk, or a swing and a miss; where the sum of our efforts, when measured against the effort to get to these secret spots, could be best described as average.

As anglers, we’ve all experienced those days where we had expectations that reached the stars. There, on a map, was a spot worthy of the hike. Surely there would be a pot of gold at the end with huge fish anxious to engulf whatever offering we presented. Sure there are days when the reels are singing all morning, and that’s what we want. Days when you puff your chest out, proud of the extra effort to get to this honey hole. And then one day, you spy that roadside spot you didn’t pay any attention to all those times in the past. Surely the water is too shallow to be as good as the secret spot, but the ripples fading on the surface caught your eye. “Why not?” you ask yourself. Before long, you’re asking yourself a different question, “Why didn’t I check this stop sooner?”

A couple of years back, a mid-April outing to Wachusett resulted in frustration with high, icy water, and bone-chilling wind. After a few fruitless hours, it was time to make a change. Heading towards the eastern shore, I passed the aforementioned roadside pull-off when the fish gods tapped me on the shoulder almost as if to say, “Hey man, the eastern shore will be there. Give it a look here.” Cutting over to the shoulder, I hopped out, skipped the bait bucket and my tackle bag, grabbed only my medium-light spinning outfit topped with a gold perch Kastmaster, and crossed the street to the little beach.

My first cast split the lessening winds, hitting the water only a matter of yards from the cars zipping along the road. After only two turns of the handle I was tight. A decent fish was testing my gear, and after a dogged fight, the white-edged fins and spotted coloration revealed a nice lake trout. Carefully removing the hook from its maw, I released the 24-inch fish reveling in what must surely be a simple twist of good luck. Nevertheless, I had to explore further.

This proved to be a good call as a few yards down the beach, a cast into shallower water caught the interest of a 20-inch landlocked salmon, eventually doing its best “Flying Wallendas” impersonation while cartwheeling through the air. Now, with two beautiful fish released, it was clear there was more to this roadside stop than meets the eye. Forgoing the eastern shore, I capped the day with another salmon that tossed the hook during a spectacular jump, followed by a feisty 2.5-pound smallmouth.

2018 4 Spring At The Chu Catch
While the main attraction in the spring is trout, don’t be surprised if you tangle with one of the many species found at Wachusett including salmon, pickerel and smallmouth bass among others.

The interesting part about this revelation was its location, and the success it returned, but what was it about this spot that made it produce so well on this spring day? Taking a mental note, I analyzed the terrain. While at first glance the landscape would typically indicate a shallow basin with flatter lands alongside, in actuality there was quite a drop-off just off the shoreline with the far side of this cove edged with sharp ledges. It had a variety of structure that could have fish in deep, but easily accessing the shallows to trap bait. But, just as revealing was its roadside attraction. As fishermen, we typically suspect the spots easy to get to are fished out. Then you drive by and hardly see anyone ever fishing there, assuming that when someone is there, it’s because they have a few minutes during the lunch break or on the way to work or home. But some keen anglers know differently and make it their pointed destination, knowing that the fish don’t care how close they are to civilization. Roadside structure will hold fish, including some real whoppers like the 5.5-pound smallmouth I caught last year near the previously-mentioned location.

Wachusett reservoir has miles of shoreline with numerous locations offering great fishing just a short walk from the road or nearby designated parking spots, and not all of them are ignored by passersby. Some are well-known, such as the causeway on Route 140 in West Boylston. At this spot, springtime sees an influx of anglers, mostly seeking salmon. However, in the fall and especially November, the pressure drops off, but you’ll still see diehards targeting lakers. In recent years, I’ve discovered that this area is exceptional for focusing on large, holdover rainbow trout, too. Kastmasters, in-line spinners, blown-up crawlers and even PowerBait can produce fish that dwarf the freshly-stocked fish. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a double-digit ‘bow one of these years coming from this spot.

The shoreline on either edge of the causeway, with the nearby traffic rumbling by, will have fish cruising the ledges where the bait is lined up. Here I tend to fish shallower and look for the signs of bait in close, especially with an onshore breeze. Casting lures here will also give you a good shot of a by-catch of a salmon. And speaking of by-catch, this past spring while soaking shiners just off the road, opposite the old stone church (on the northwest side of the causeway) I hooked-up with a giant of a fish. The fish was mean, taxing my drag, and I had visions of a super-sized laker. Unfortunately those thoughts were soon to vanish as an enormous pickerel came into view. I know most of you don’t get excited over pickerel; but when the fish in question looks like a large northern pike, well, that is one heck of a pickerel! Unfortunately, high water and no metal leader made landing the fish a challenge without a net, and as I attempted to steer it through the sunken brush the line parted. This spot and that fish are on my list to target in the coming season.

This is particularly true for a large, undeveloped body of water Like Wachusett, which is also designated as shore-fishing only. Being mobile essentially allows you to fish it like you would a large body of water from a boat, bouncing from spot to spot looking for fish. Taking the roadside approach allows you to test a spot quickly to see if the fish are actively feeding, before moving along if there is no action. Also, if wind and weather conditions turn unfavorable, you have the advantage of being able to relocate with little effort, when compared to those remote spots that are only accessible with a lengthy hike.

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