This article was recently published in Maryland Fishing and Hunting Journal
Spring means trout fishing! These scrappy, tasty, and fun fish are a wonderful way to get over a long Winter. Rainbows, Browns, Goldens, and Brookies make up the school of choice. Waters can be crowded with fishermen but join the party and have fun.
Most eastern trout fishing is thanks to stocking programs. State agencies and cooperative fish and game clubs raise and release trout into public waters. These fish fill the creels and spirits of many fishermen. They are also healthy and delicious.
Maryland only stocks Rainbows, Browns, and Golden trout. Brook trout are not stocked in Maryland. There is some reproduction and year long trout waters but most of the trout waters are seasonal. The warm summers often heat up over 70 degrees which kills off any leftover trout. Some will migrate into cooler tributaries and spring fed areas.
Pennsylvania has way more trout waters and a larger diversity of trout opportunities. They also tend to stock larger, brood, fish, along with Brook trout. There are also many Catch and Release areas that offer year around trouting. PA. also has many cooperative hatcheries that also stock local waters and offer Kid Derbies. The clubs also take pride in raising healthy, quality fish. A little bit of computer surfing, and networking can identify these wonderful fishing opportunities.
Catching Spring Trout is not too difficult. Like any fishing, it boils down to presentation. Whether you use flies, bait, lures, or other legal enticements, the offering needs to look like it is not attached to anything and floating free.
This means light line and rods. Newer Fluorocarbon monofilament lines are almost invisible. They do require knowing how to tie a proper knot. Great equipment is cheap and available. You can get a 5-foot Ultra-Light rod with a decent reel, loaded with line, for under $50. Hooks, lures, and spinners are also inexpensive. A light fishing vest or Artic Creel is also a good addition. If you plan to wade, a pair of decent hip boots or chest waders may be required. Don’t forget to wear a proper fishing hat.
The most popular trout baits are worms, corn niblets, Power Bait, Cheese Balls, and meal worms. A small #10-12 hook will do the trick. Do not be afraid to try new things. Floating Power Bait in a pond can be a difference maker if the bait is able to float above the submerged weeds.
Spinners and lures can be deadly. Look at Silver Blue Foxes, Panther Martins, Mepp’s, and Rooster Tails. Small minnow float crank baits and Rapala’s can also be good choices. You need to practice and master accurate casting, or you will lose plenty of tackle.
Do your homework. Find a Trout Mentor to show you the ropes. A few hours with an experienced fisherman can be priceless. Maybe a local derby would be an opportunity. When on the water, ask questions and be friendly to the folks catching fish. Trout Fishermen are generally very friendly and helpful, especially if you have a kid in tow.
Fly fishermen are a different breed and may not offer much support. They prefer their space, privacy, and isolation.
Even though there may be a truckful of trout stocked where you are fishing, generally, 10% of Trout fishermen catch 90% of the fish. This is because they learn and retain fishing skills. They tend to use finer 2-4 lb. test lines and better rods and reels with good drags and strength. They wear Polaroid glasses to help them see into the water. Through practice and experience, they learn where the fish are. There are many great tips and tricks that only come from time on the water.
Trout rarely stay where they are stocked. In a few days, they can quickly spread out. Generally, Brookies head upstream, Rainbows go downstream, and Browns look for cover. Golden trout or Palomino’s are easy to see at first but they to look for cover. The herons and ospreys are also good fishermen.
Just because the water has not been recently stocked, Trout can be abundant. You just need to use your skills and hunt for them. Learn to read the water. Look for undercut banks, log jams, and submerged structure. It is not uncommon for trout to migrate several miles from where they were stocked.
A good strategy is to start with a spinner. Let’s say a Mepps #1 in silver. Cast this spinner and watch for trout to be chasing it. Make sure that the hooks are always sharp. Trout are light biters. Once you locate some trout, maybe change rigs, and use a size 10 bait hook, secured with a proper Clinch knot. Add a small split shot or two 10 inches above the hook. Add a piece of corn or cheese ball. A power bait ball , about the size of a Pea is all you need. Cover the hook completely. Cast the bait upstream a couple feet above where you think the trout is. The bait needs time to sink. Allow the bait to sink and drift on its own but close the bail and feel for the bait. When you feel a bite, usually a tug, or bump, set the hook sharply enough to make a connection but not jerk the fish into the next County.
The thing about catching fish is that you need to catch fish to learn how to catch fish. Try to remember the places, methods, and situations where you were successful. Take some notes and record dates, times, baits, etc. These records can be useful. Also search for maps of watersheds to learn where fishing access is allowed. Knowing the trespass laws and other regulations is your responsibility. Know the limits, Restrictions, and regulations. Not all waters are managed and regulated the same.
If you plan to keep a limit of trout, be prepared. Fresh fish are best if put on ice. If you are on a Catch and Release area, make sure to carry forceps, a trout friendly rubber fabric net, and learn the proper way to safely secure and release some trout.
The most important Trout tips to learn are the ones you learn after you already know everything!
For more Montana Grant, catch him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.