Mother's Day weekend, which typically signals the peak of spring brook trout angling opportunities, is still a week away. But if the most reliable, natural indicators are to be trusted; the peak of the season has already come and gone.
While hiking into a favored backwoods pond over the weekend, the wildflowers were in bloom. A carpet of Trout Lilies was interspersed with the tall, and not so fragrant flowers of purple trilliums.
Witchhobble, a common woodland shrub also known as buckbrush or cripplebrush, was also in bloom; with pods of white flowers adorning it's tangled branches.
According to the old adage, brook trout bite best when the "leaves of the buckbrush are the size of a mouse's ear". Unfortunately, they're now nearly the size of a deer's ear.
Experienced brook trout anglers, who recognize such familiar natural signs, are surprised by their early arrival, coming nearly two week's ahead of usual. However, they shouldn't be! Fiddlehead ferns are already unfurling and the blackflies have drawn their first blood. There is no doubt that this year's season has been accelerated.
Despite last week's brief return of winter weather, March Brown mayflies were hatching on the ponds and trout were slurping down a healthy hatch of Hendricksons on the streams.
Pre-peppered brook trout
Friends and guests alike often ask me about a cosmetic malady that is commonly found on many species of our local gamefish. As one old friend remarked, "It's great to catch brook trout that are pre-peppered!"
Despite appearances, the small, black spots found on the skin of species ranging from brook trout and yellow perch to bass and northern pike is actually a caused by a small immature larval parasite.
The parasite, Apophallus brevis is also known as "Black grubs," "Black spot disease," or "Neascus infection parasite".
The malady can be found afflicting fish on many Adirondack waters, since the Common Loon is the parasite's host and transmitter. Adult worms live in a loon's mouth, where they produce eggs, which are swallowed by the loon and pass through its digestive system unharmed.
The parasite's eggs, released into the water with the loon's feces, will mature and swim away to penetrate mollusks such as snails and occasionally clams, which are the first intermediate hosts.
In the mollusks, the parasite matures and eventually migrates and penetrates into the tissues of the second intermediate host, which is most often a fish.
Once in the tissues of a fish, the parasite causes obvious mechanical damage and hemorrhaging. While the damage caused is usually negligible, infestations in greater numbers may occasionally kill the host fish.
Loons are a key component in the parasite's life cycle, since the infected fish must be eaten by the final host to complete its lifecycle. Unfortunately, there is no practical treatment or control of the parasite at this time. It is important to note that the parasite does not infect humans, other mammals or birds, even though it can live for 4 years in a fish.
In most trout species, the parasite rarely appears in the meat of the fish, and cooking the fish kills the parasites evident on the skin.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at email@example.com.