Opening Day Brings Some To New Depths

The Hartford Courant

Water levels were high and pre-dawn temperatures were low at most rivers and streams in the state, but it could have been worse Saturday.

If Opening Day for the trout season had been three days earlier, many rivers and streams would have been unfishable after last week's heavy rain.

Some levels were so high, they even receded as anglers fished. Fishermen who camped Friday night on the banks of the Hammonasset River Trout Management Area in Madison said the river had receded some by the time they crawled from their tents Saturday morning.

Still, many streams and rivers remained high.

One of two handicapped ramps in the Trout Management Area of the Salmon River in East Hampton was six inches under water. Fly fishermen there needed a half-dozen split shot weights to get their lines deep against the strong pull of the current.

``It's horrible,'' said Middlefield's Dave Lowry, who fished downstream near the Comstock Covered Bridge. ``The fish are there. You just can't get down to them.''

Lowry and nine friends have fished in the same spot on Opening Day the past 19 years. Seldom was the water this high.

``I caught three fish and let them all go,'' Lowry said. ``That's a lot of work for three fish.

``Watch. The guys catching fish are getting them close to shore where the people are standing, slowing down the water. If you cast into the channel, you won't catch anything. The water is running too fast to get your line down.''

Four hours after the season opened, the largest fish brought to the East Hampton Lions' weigh station at the Salmon River was John Valli's 22-inch, 3.7-pound brown trout.

``It was good,'' said Valli later in the day. ``We already cooked and ate it.''

When Valli, of East Hampton, left to go fishing, he told his boss he would bring home lunch.

``The water was wicked,'' Valli said. ``I had to use an ounce of lead shots to get to the bottom.''

By noon, the big brown was on the grill.

``The river was not as crowded as usual,'' said Joe Palmisano of New Britain, who caught three trout. ``The water is too high.''

Levels were more normal at the Jeremy River in Colchester. ``It's not average height but it's average for Opening Day,'' said Bert Greene, owner of B.G. Sports Fish Shop. ``We always seem to have rain just before Opening Day.''

One angler brought a 7-pound rainbow into Greene's shop but did not register for the Opening Day tournament and was not eligible for the trophy.

The cold water temperatures and the silt stirred up after last week's rain also affected the success rate in many areas.

It didn't seem to hurt Gregory Peterson's luck. The Meriden angler weighed in two fish with Vennie Mangiaracina at the Fishin Factory in Southington -- a 4-pound brown trout and a 2-pound rainbow that he caught in Cornwall.

``It's rough because of the high water,'' said Phil Mangiaracina, Vennie's brother, at the Fishin Factory III in Middletown. ``Trout fishing is not like other years.

``But the guys are catching stripers in the [Connecticut] River. There are schoolies all over. They're catching them up to 24 inches, 30 at a time.''

A lot of anglers in the Bristol and Torrington area had to do some extra driving before they fished. Many bait and tackle shops didn't receive their normal allotment of licenses from the state.

``We ran out Friday night,'' said Terry Wakeling of Skipper's Bait Shop in Bristol. ``So did Wal-Mart. We got a call from Wal-Mart in Torrington, too.''

One fisherman at Cedar Lake in Chester arrived at the launch ramp at 6:15 a.m. -- 15 minutes after the season opened -- and literally missed the boat. His friends left without him.

He fished a little from shore but two hours later, he still waited for a ride.

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