- April 25, 2018
To be honest, I haven’t fished the opening day of trout season for many years. It wasn’t always that way though; when I was a young fellow in the 60s, I wouldn’t have missed the first day for anything. Most of my first days were spent on Sinnemahoning Creek using Mike’s Lucky Seven salmon eggs. The guy who taught me was an expert salmon egg fisherman, and I paid close attention to his techniques. It wasn’t at all unusual to catch and release 50 or more trout on the first couple of days of the new trout season. As long as the water stayed at decent levels, we would have a pretty high catch and release rate for several more weeks.
Eventually, I discovered fly-fishing, and now almost all of my trout fishing is done with the fly rod — that’s not to say that you can’t catch trout with other techniques, however. Bait fishing is still a highly successful way to catch trout, and today we have far more types of “bait” than ever before. Salmon eggs are still great producers, but the huge array of Berkley Power Baits have probably surpassed salmon egg users. One of the big problems with salmon eggs was that they came off the hook fairly easy. We always put two eggs on the shank of a #12 wet fly hook and only enough split shot to get a natural drift on the bottom. The other big key to using eggs successfully was to keep the rod high and keep a tight line. We set the hook at the slightest bump or tap on the tight line. By the way, this same presentation is used in fly fishing when presenting a nymph; fly fishermen call it “high sticking.” Because of my past experience with salmon eggs and a spinning rod, I was able to make a quick and easy change to fishing nymphs with a fly rod.
Of course, worms and other live baits are also good producers — especially in the higher, sometimes slightly discolored water of early season. I fished worms in the same manner as I did salmon eggs and had great success — especially after heavy rains.
Another great live bait and outstanding trout producer is live minnows. I have known several outstanding minnow fishermen over the years, and there’s no question live minnows, fished properly, catch fish — especially big fish. My guess is that more large fish are caught on minnows than any other live bait.
Something that I think is important in fishing bait is not allowing a trout to swallow the bait; that’s seldom a problem when fishing live minnows that are being worked through the fishes’ lair, but that’s not always the case with other baits. Keep a tight line and be ready to set the hook as soon as you detect a hit — that reduces the chances of a fish swallowing the bait. In addition, if you plan to release the fish, try to keep it in the water and release it carefully keeping it away from clothing.
Of course, any artificial lures that imitate live baits can also be very effective for early season trout. Without a doubt, an inline spinner is still a good choice. I have seen a number of trout caught on a spinner on the Artificial Lures Catch and Release Only streams sections already this year. Another good choice would be a Rapala type lure or other artificial minnow imitation. Try to keep your minnow lures at about three to four inches in length — maybe even smaller.
Good luck on opening day — I’ll probably be on a lake somewhere fishing for crappies — I probably won’t have much competition either.