By the time most readers view this, the opening day of trout fishing in both southeast Pennsylvania and many portions of Maryland will have come and gone, being scheduled for Saturday (March 30).
Opening day holds a special memory for many area trouters. Often more of a yearly social experience, with the chance to renew old friendships, opening days can become "opening daze." Anglers flock to myriad waters, both moving and still, to cash in on what is usually an abundance of recently stocked rainbow trout with some chances at browns, brookies and goldens in other waterways. To sweeten the pie, fisheries managers put some select trophy-class fish in other waters, here and there, to give anglers the chance for a big fish.
Although I have enjoyed some great opening day experiences from the past, I often have encountered crowded, hectic scenarios with fairly unethical behavior and conduct along the way. Trash was left, line was discarded and some tempers flared as anxious fishermen and women felt as though they had to scratch and claw their way to a limit of 10-inch rainbows. I enjoy trout fishing and look forward to it each spring, but I don't have to put up with that. I approach opening day differently.
There are several ways to avoid the shoulder-to-shoulder scene at the local put-and-take trout stream. One is to seek streams or lakes that are off the beaten path, out-of-the-way places that many will not travel to or put in the long walk that is needed to get to isolated areas from the masses. Yes, you have to be in a little bit of shape to pull this off, and it also involves some preseason scouting. With all the satellite mapping available today, isolated waters aren't really that isolated anymore.
But rather than hike for several miles, I have recently taken advantage of what is known as "In season" stocking and selecting low-volume times on the water. True, not everyone can take advantage of this like a semi-retired guy like me. But in many opening day instances, anglers are heading home with a limit of stockers within 30 minutes of the first cast. Of course, if there is a substantial rain event just prior to the opener than fishing can be real tough in high, cold or muddy waters and disoriented trout that have been relocated due to the high water dynamics.
I have encountered some very successful trout anglers who just wait several hours or go later in the evening of the magic day, when many have either caught their limit or gone home in frustration. The results are much more favorable conditions with fewer anglers and still plenty of cooperative trout.
In recent years, I have found that fishing well into the following week can not only be productive but still offers a shot at bigger fish as well. The crowds are gone, save for a few serious anglers and the rewards can be high. I check out the stocking schedules, like most folks do, and try to coordinate efforts for a predictable bite.
Is this the beautiful picture of serenity and elegance that goes with the tranquil pool and skillful fly-fisherman? Heck no! But it's not meant to be that, either. I like the hard, pounding strikes of fiesty rainbows and the way they jump completely out of the water, or the occasional big fish that will go 18 inches or more.
Put-and-take trout fishing is exactly that ...fish are stocked so that angler's can either harvest them and enjoy the sport or food they provide. Most of my trout fishing in the many put-and-take lakes, streams and ponds in our region is done with micro-light spinning gear and 2-pound test monofilament. I like small Mepps spinners in size No. 0 and No. 1 and Kastmaster Spoons from 1/12th to 1/8th of an ounce. Another dynamite lure for the hardware crowd would be the 1/10th-ounce Super Duper spoon and the Blue Fox Flash and Rattle Flash spoons in 1/16th and 1/8th ounce. Color preference can vary from day to day, but I stick with standard gold, silver and firetiger patterns for the bulk of my success.
Nope, you don't have to fight the crowds on opening day trout. Just adjust you schedule or seek isolated waters to ensure you might get those "uncrowded trout," and maybe even a trophy!