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5 Surefire Keys to Success as Anxious Anglers Get Ready for Trout Season 2013

by and on April 07, 2013 9:39 AM

The opening day of trout season is an event long-awaited by many anglers, including this writer.

Come cold or warm, rain or snow, I will be fishing on a county stream on that special Saturday morning — sharing the day with my daughter and her husband. I have only missed one opening day in over 50 years and I can blame that on Uncle Sam and the U.S. Army.

Stream conditions are nearly perfect as I write this, but experience has taught me that anything goes in early April. Anglers may see water that is high and brown, low and clear or anything in between. Some years you can fish in a T-shirt, while a winter coat does not seem warm enough to keep the cold at bay on other openers. It is best to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw your way.

The opening day of trout season has always been a family event for me, first accompanying my father, then fishing with my brothers and sisters, and more recently with one or more of my own grown children.

Although it is a family outing, it is also very much about catching fish. Most of the other anglers with whom I associate have no trouble catching and releasing two, three, four or even ten times their limit of trout on the opening day. However, there are many other anglers — young and old — who often have trouble catching just one trout.

For those who want to catch more stocked trout on April 13, I offer these five fishing rules:

Rule 1 — Go where the trout are. Check the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website ( to learn which streams are stocked and when they are stocked. If you can, visit the section of stream that you would like to fish to learn exactly where fish are holding. Polarized sunglasses and a loaf of white bread are helpful tools for locating freshly-stocked trout. Streams change during the course of a year, especially following strong storms or heavy downpours. Even if you are familiar with the water, it is always best to get a fresh on-site perspective before opening day.

Rule 2 — Select a fishing spot with few other anglers. When we arrived at my chosen stream around 6:45 on last year’s opening morning, there were already eight other fishermen at the pool where I had hoped to start. No problem — my daughter, her husband and I drove a quarter mile downstream to a location with just one other fisherman. We all did well — my daughter and her husband both caught trout over 16 inches long, and I caught more trout than most of you would believe.

Rule 3 — Use stealth. Except when the water is cloudy, move and cast upstream as far away from yourself as you can. Wear camouflage or dull earth-tone clothing. The greater the chance that the trout will see your bait, lure or fly before they spot you, the greater the odds of catching that fish. This is another important reason to avoid crowded locations — see rule 2.

Rule 4 — Be mobile. While it is true that you can sit at one spot with your bait anchored to the bottom and catch trout, you will usually catch more by moving from spot to spot — especially on small streams - making a few casts to each likely-looking location as you move. On opening day 2012, I covered about one mile of stream — skipping areas that held other anglers. Families with young children do not have this option. That makes rules 1-3 all the more important.

Rule 5 — Use the right equipment. Almost any functional freshwater rod and reel will catch trout. However, the line diameter (pound-test) is critical for bait and fly fishing. An 18-inch trout weighs about three pounds — there is little reason to use any line heavier than six-pound test. I always fish with four-pound test and rarely have a trout break my line. Light line permits longer casts — see rule 3.

Learn to tie an improved clinch knot — with light line, this knot securely holds the hook or lure. Check your knots and line often for nicks or frays and cut off the last three feet as necessary. I do this at least once an hour. Hook sizes 10-6 are the best for bait fishing.

For me, the three most important pieces of non-tackle fishing equipment are polarized sunglasses, hipboots and needle-nosed pliers. Landing nets and other gadgets are low on my priority list. Having the right equipment can help in a big way.

Polarized sunglasses cut glare and allow anglers to locate underwater obstructions, as well as trout — see rule 1. Sunglasses also protect your eyes from errant hooks.

Hipboots, chest or waist waders allow you to easily cross all but the largest streams. This permits you to access the best casting spots and more easily move up or downstream — see rule 4. Boots also make it easier to enter the water to retrieve snagged hooks or lures. Always remember to be polite and avoid wading in front of or close to other anglers.

Hipboots and chest waders keep you warm and dry, but if you are new to the hipboot world, I offer two bits of caution. Be careful when wading, particularly in swift water. Also - hipboots and sharp objects do not mix. Steer clear of briars and barbed-wire fences. One blackberry cane can ruin a good pair of boots in a second. Trust me — cold water will let you know exactly where the hole is.

Needle-nosed pliers make the job of removing hooks easier, faster and safer. If you are going to catch more trout, you will be releasing more. Keep the trout in the water during hook removal, if possible. A pair of pliers or forceps facilitates a quick release, which is less stressful for trout.

Follow these rules, and quite possibly, you will have your best opening day ever.

Mark Nale fishes and lives in rural Centre County. He is vice president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. Contact Mark at [email protected]

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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