In the early season, trout are usually active in pools at the base of waterfalls, where air temperatures will affect water temperatures
Due to summer-like weather patterns that had arrived by the early spring, this year’s trout season has been greatly accelerated. Matters have been further complicated by the lack of any significant winter snowpack, which traditionally has remained intact in the surrounding mountains until late May.
As a result of the season’s diminished snowpack, most area rivers are currently flowing at mid-summer levels. The traditional spring runoff never materialized, and as a result, there were no spring floods. Water levels remain low even on the local lakes and ponds.
Most rivers and streams are now running gin clear, with water temperatures nearly a month beyond average.
Over the weekend, I recorded water temperatures in the mid 40’s on the ponds. It was an astounding discovery for the first week of April.
As water temperatures increase, the percentage of dissolved oxygen in the water will decrease. This spells trouble for trout, salmon and a host of other cold-water species that require cold, clean and highly oxygenated waters. Coldwater species become lethargic and stressed in warm, oxygen poor waters.
I expect trout and salmon will also be stressed by the low water levels and the startling water clarity. In such conditions, the advantage will shift firmly in favor of winged predators such as heron, osprey, kingfisher, and cormorants.
It certainly has been a strange start to the season. By mid March, the majority of local lakes and ponds had already begun to shed their ice cover.
Most area ponds were ice free nearly a week before the beginning of the annual trout season, on April 1. I received reports of paddlers enjoying the open ponds as early as March 21.
Anglers were fishing the ponds on Opening Day, and for many, it was a ‘first in a lifetime event’. I regret that it may not be such an unusual event in future years.
According to the majority of reports that I’ve received recently, angling opportunities have been outstanding to date. It appears the smaller, shallower ponds have been producing quite well, although water temperatures seem to be a bit colder still, on the deeper ponds and lakes.
Brook trout, browns and salmon have been particularly active, while lake trout have been rather slow on the take to date. However, with a change of just a few degrees in water temperatures, lakers may soon turn on.
Recent reports also reveal that the annual smelt run has begun, which appears to be on track following the full moon, which occurred on Friday, April 6. Trout and salmon will now be actively feeding in and around the inlets and tributaries of the lakes and ponds, over the course of the next week or so.
Stocking trucks have already delivered a healthy dose of trout to most of the area’s streams and rivers, from both the Essex County Hatchery, and state hatcheries.
It will take stocked trout a while to adjust to their new surroundings, and anglers should allow them opportunities to disperse and become acclimatized.
In the smaller streams and mountain brooks, native brook trout are still in their winter mode. They will be slow to react to offerings, and likely sheltered among the rocks and under the overhanging trees.
On the rivers, anglers will find the best action in the deeper pools or at the base of falls or dams, where air temperatures will have a greater effect on water temperatures.
Think like a fish, or more specifically, think like a fish that is looking for food to survive. Look around, be observant and see what’s going on. Are there flies in the air, or schools of minnows in the shallows? On the streams, seek out areas that provide both food and shelter, and you’ll find the fish.
As a result of last year’s floods, most of the local rivers and streams still have large accumulations of debris and logjams. These are excellent holding areas for trout.
Go where the people aren’t! Large fish are easily spooked, so try to maintain a low profile to avoid spooking the fish. Watch your shadows, and be careful of disturbing rocks or downed trees in or near the water. Fish will pick up on the vibrations and spook easily.
If you do spook them, rest the pool and try again in about 20 minutes, fish have short memories. On the ponds, avoid banging or bouncing around in the boat/canoe, minimize oar splash and be sure to wear your PFD; it’s now the law.
Always cast to a pool from further away then you think is necessary, and try to be accurate. There is nothing more frustrating than getting hung up on the first cast and ruining a potentially productive toss.
Don’t just reel in your fly or lure, vary the retrieve and change the speed and depth. Twitch the offering to give it an erratic motion. If it isn’t working, change lures. Experiment, and figure out a way to trigger their strike response.
Most of all, take your time, relax and have some fun, fishing is not supposed to be a chore. It is not intended to be a contest between anyone but the angler and the fish. And be sure and take a friend, or a kid along with you.
Angling adventures are more enjoyable if they are shared, and the stories are more likely to be believable.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.