Yes, it is upon us, that time of year known as "trout fishing season."
There are many waters in central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania that have been stocked with hatchery raised rainbows and golden trout. Most of these fish are from 10 to 12 inches long, but some ponds and selected waters get a few giants that exceed the 20-inch mark. With an apparent early spring and other fishing options available, put and take trout fishing is about as good as it gets right now along the Mason Dixon area in both states.
One of the more reliable options for anglers battling cabin fever is the early season and pre-season stocking of hatchery trout to a number of our local small lakes and streams. Every year, I try to get out at least once, if not a few times, to cash in on a 5-fish limit of 10 to 14 inch rainbow trout that are stocked annually and frequently in our local waters. Last year, I spent a little time in southern Pennsylvania and was rewarded with a personal best trout of 23 inches on 2-pound test line — what a fight!
But more often, I'll fish the Patapsco, Beaver Run, Farm Museum Pond, Roberts Mill Pond, Woodsboro Pond, Rainbow Lake or Cunningham Falls Lake for the stockers. All will have been loaded with plenty of fish and the action can, at times, be quick and exciting.
My favorite method to catch these fish is to toss small spinners and spoons to provoke aggressive strikes on ultra-light spinning gear. Over the years, my favorite spoons have been gold and silver/blue Kastmasters, #3 Hammered Finished Swedish Pimples, Blue Fox Rattle Flash Spoons and Super Dupers. These spoons run from 1/12 to 1/8th of an ounce, and cast well with the light line. Favored spinners are Panther Martins in black and green and #1 and #0 Mepps Spinners of various colors and finishes. A small cross-lock snap swivel is good for changing lures quickly and help to eliminate line twist from the rotating blades from the spinners.
Stocked trout are usually pretty aggressive, and that is why tossing hardware works well. Sometimes, though, the trout will feed on a hatch of insects that have come off the water as a result of warming weather and calm conditions. In southern Pa., many trout guys use a small Adjust-A-Bubble float to launch tiny midges and bead-head flies to trout that are surface feeding a distance from the bank. It seems as though the "splash down" of the plastic bubble doesn't scare the trout, who are accustomed to feeding on food pellets at a hatchery environment. Other lures, such as small jigs from 1/80 to 1/32 of an ounce also work.
And the live bait options of meal worms, wax worms and plain ol' garden worms have been catching their share of stocked trout for decades. Dedicated fly fishing enthusiasts traditionally avoid opening day and early season crowds, preferring to catch them with the long pole once the fervor is over and the waters are less crowded. This is also a good ploy for the spin fisherman, as there are still plenty of fish out there well past the opening day onslaught.
As the spring progresses and the waters warm, different tactics will shine at different situations. Everything from Power Bait on the bottom to fine deliveries with the fly rod will be successful, depending on local conditions. One of the oft-forgotten baits remains the old reliable earth worm. Available to all of us for the digging, worms may produce when nothing else will. Such was the case for Taneytown resident Alvie Sickle and I at a Frederick County venue recently.
We had worms, and that was just what the trout wanted and we both filled our limit in shot order once the fish were located. For some reason, the trout ignored standard issue options of spinners and spoons, favoring the real McCoy to the hardware.
Check the Maryland DNR website for the latest trout stocking schedules and closing/opening dates for certain waters, as they vary greatly statewide. Make sure you purchase your trout stamp when you get your. license and get in on the action of hard fighting rainbow trout this spring.
With many thousands of fish being stocked each spring, it seems almost foolish to ignore this annual form of angling. No, it's not the "wild trout in a secluded setting" that many of us would prefer, but it is indeed fun and fruitful.