Although trout season officially opens on April 1, the most important date for brook trout anglers to focus on is April 22. This is the average date over the past fifteen years that Rich Lake, located in Newcomb, finally sheds it's ice. Rich Lake is considered a reliable gauge for most local waters.
While some waters may open up sooner; the third weekend in April is the typical date that anglers can expect to find open water in the Adirondacks. Ice out may not occurs on ponds in the higher elevations until early May.
With a mix of warm days and chilly nights, the early season will continue to offer sporadic snow, wind and occasional rain. Spring isn't officially sealed until lakes and ponds finally 'ice out.'
The month's full moon, which often triggers the first run of smelt, falls on April 9. Suckers and numerous other bait fish species will begin their sI believe that most brook trout anglers suffer through several distinct stages of existence before their rod is quivering with the first fish of the new season on the line. As ice out approaches, they'll shiver with the enthusiasm of a trout attempting to throw a hook.
Approaching the new season
I await the arrival of open water with enthusiasm equal to a kid on Christmas morning. My adrenaline flows like sap from a maple in the early stages of the season. This stage is about anticipation, it's a period of waiting, watching and wondering. I'm forever listening for the loon's first call to announce open water.
I satisfy my early season cravings through the preparation stage; studying maps, talking to friends and seeking information from a variety of sources. Encompassed within the Blueline are over 30,000 miles of rivers and streams and some 11,101 lakes and ponds that are over one acre in size.
Brook trout inhabit a majority of these waters. Some of these ponds are familiar, but others are new to the woods, little more than dammed up trout streams which beaver have recently created.
It remains a contest between a man (or woman) and a map to discover them and until someone wets a line, they will remain virgins. No one has fished them and nobody knows their name.
During this stage, I visit numerous sport shops; seeking information as much as tackle. Nearly every local community has a bait shop or hardware store that carries tackle and these folks want you to be successful. They're happy to tell anglers where to go and the best methods to fish; it's in their best interest. I make an annual pilgrimage to Wilmington for some special flies tied by Fran Betters. Though Fran rarely gets out anymore, his enthusiasm for and knowledge of trout fishing in the Adirondacks is unrivaled.
I make a point to stop by DEC headquarters to quiz the fine folks in Fisheries. They appreciate feedback from anglers who often provide information on waters that haven't been surveyed in recent years.
If no one's around in the Fisheries Office, I can still visit DEC's website which maintains a listing of the Top Waters for brook trout in each county. I also pay close attention to waters that have recently undergone reclamation, as the third year following the process can be a charm.
While at DEC, I also stop by the offices of the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation (ALSC). The ALCS, which has been studying Adirondack waters for years, provides information on water chemistry, species of baitfish, game fish and other valuable tools such as contour maps of the ponds. Anglers can find much of this information online at www.adirondacklakessurvey.com. Knowledge of the species of baitfish in a pond permits an angler to use appropriately colored flies, spoons or lures.
Another wonderful resource is the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council's publication entitled 'Adirondack Fishing: An angler's guide to Adirondack lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. The booklet, developed with the assistance of DEC Fisheries personnel, provides maps, charts and expert angling advise. The booklets are available at local tourism offices. They are also to be found at numerous Tourism Centers along the Adirondack Northway. If you can't find one, call the Council at 800-487-6867 and they'll send one along.
In recent years, a new publication has been on the shelves of local sport shops and even WalMart. The Sportsman's Connection volumes are a comprehensive collection of contour maps, access information, road maps, fishing hotspots, stocking reports, gill net surveys, handicapped access and local insights into the ponds, lakes, rivers and streams of the Adirondacks.
The publication has four different volumes available for each quadrant of the park. At a cost of $19.99, it provides a wealth of information. If you can't locate a copy locally, call 1-800-777-7461 or visit www.sportsmansconnection.com to order one.
Most importantly, don't overlook the old timers. Every community has it's share of veteran anglers who have accumulated years of skills, knowledge and insights into the local waters. Though some may no longer be able to get out and around as they used to; they still have much to share. I've attained a great deal of knowledge visiting Nursing Homes. Return with a few, fresh brookies and maybe you'll finally learn where all the big fish go.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org