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I received a number of calls and e-mails about last week’s column about looking for cast-off deer and moose antlers, but most of the comments were about my mention of Yodelin’ Slim Clark, my old friend from St. Albans.
It was heartening to know that lots of folks in Maine (and a few from out-of-state) are keeping Slim in their hearts. He was a great guy and a cherished friend. Even at 80 years of age, his interest and passion for the outdoors were equal to mine. I think of him every time the conversation turns to deer antlers, springtime and country music.
Speaking of spring, it’s almost shocking to realize that we are just days away from the 2010 open water fishing season. Is April 1 too early to start fishing? Not if you like to “fish!” Of course, “catching” trout this early can be a bit of a challenge, but for those who can’t stand to be shut indoors any longer, any excuse to wet a line will suffice.
If I had to bet on whether or not a trout can be catchable on opening day I’d have to go with . . . maybe! There have been years when spring came early, there was little runoff from snow and the streams were nearly perfect (temperature-wise) for trout fishing. The best technique for finding opening-day trout is to go at midday and target the pools and runs that are drenched in sunlight. The reason for this is simple enough – spring trout really turn on when the water is around 55 degrees, and the stretches that are low and slow, exposed to full sun, will be the best places to start.
Because most streams meander far and wide, vary in depth and shoreline cover, it may take some effort to find the best pools. You can fish for hours in beautiful water that is heavily shaded, deep and fast and not take a single fish, but then you can cast a fly, lure or bait into some non-descript, shallow run and nearly fill your limit in that one spot.
If I had to limit all my opening day trouting to one particular spot, I’d make a list of all the bridge pools I know of and hit them around lunchtime every day. Between the warming sun, the heat emanating off the road and the concrete or metal bridgework, the water in these places will be just a tad warmer than the rest of the stream, and the trout will know about it.
There are dozens of these crossings in our area but I can tell you that my all-time favorites are easy to get to and nearly always produce good first-day catches. First on my list is Rhoda’s Bridge in Milo. Easily accessible on either side of the river, the water within 20 yards of the bridge abutments often teems with trout in early April. I have been there many times planning to fish both sides of the river on either side of the bridge (essentially four places to try) and ended up taking my limit at the first place I tried. If there are logjams in the slow water, so much the better. Find a way to work a fly or bait under the debris and hang on – if the trout are there they will answer!
Another favorite spot is at the covered bridge in Dover-Foxcroft. Also easy to reach, it’s possible to catch a limit of fish while targeting the water directly below the bridge. Wade if you can, bring a canoe if you have to, but find a way to fish the current seams closest to the abutments.
Third on my list is the series of culvert pools along Route 16 between Milo and Dover-Foxcroft. There are plenty of these smaller crossings under the major and minor roads throughout central Maine, so don’t feel as if you are limited to these. The real point is to stop and fish both sides (and inside!) each culvert for as far as you can reach without drowning! I save these hotspots for midday or just after lunch, when everyone else is busily at work. That is when the water temperature will be at its highest and the trout will be the most receptive to a lure or bait.
Be sure to fish as far up into the culvert as you can. You may lose a hook or two in the process, but if the fish are there you should have no trouble finding them.
On the best of days you can take a limit of trout at the first two or three culverts you come to. If conditions allow, fish upstream or down as far as you can, making certain that your bait has been offered in every hole, undercut bank, rock, log or logjam you can reach. I have taken some remarkable trout, fish over a foot long, in these places during the early part of the season. There are no guarantees, of course, else we’d call it “catching,” not “fishing!”
While you’re gathering your gear for the season, stock up on No. 6 snelled hooks (the bait-saver type) and make sure your fly book or worm can is in working order. Sharpen all hooks and fill your spools with fresh line (cheap insurance against break-offs, frays and abrasion) and be sure your knots are secure.
Also, keep in mind that you must possess a valid 2010 fishing license, renewable online if you so desire. Other than that, all you need to get started this spring is a copy of the 2010 fishing regulations. There are general and water-specific regulations covering every inch of water in Maine. Now’s the time to bone up on this year’s rule changes (bag and length limits, tackle restrictions, etc.). Study the regulations covering the waters you plan to fish and be sure everything you do, bring and use is legal for use on that water. Once the season opens you won’t want to spend your time indoors reading!
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