Friday, April 12, 2013

Stocked Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout in Streams and Small Rivers

Tips for Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout in Streams and Small Rivers

          Early memories of the first cast placing salmon eggs on double leaders into clear water, and of the air warmed to 70 degrees by lunchtime, return me to forgotten values. Although Opening Day can remind anglers of winter more than spring, warmth and green shoots are here to greet us without that edge of low temperature contrast, an outdoor presence so nice that everyone in the crowds seems friendly. In fact they tend to be. Being out in the beginnings of the year’s warm season makes an actual difference in people’s temperament. On March 20, 2012, we commonly heard, “Happy first day of summer!”

          Summery weather or not, is it just the trout that the state—of all entities—stocks? Or isn’t it largely a desire to be outside in the transition to the warm season? And why are brook trout, of all freshwater fish, so suited to be eager to please right when this shift from the cold to the warm season is underway?

          That seems one of those questions no factual answer follows, besides the obvious biological reasons, which isn’t really what I meant. But I think it was wise that brook trout were chosen as the symbolic state fish of New Jersey. How does your garden grow? From the very beginning of the warm season. 

          Brook trout have been here since the Wisconsin Glacier began to recede some 12,000 years ago. Garden State gems. Not to mention that New Jersey is very much the center Mid-Atlantic state, certainly so for dense population, and the weather is sort of balanced here between the far north and far south. Spring is when the gardening begins and the brookies flourish and the pivotal point here in New Jersey between the cold weather season and the warm weather season we've reached now is not long after the Spring Equinox. 

          Since brook trout get stocked first, followed by rainbows beginning the second week of stocking, then brown trout by about May 1st, it’s wise to have small sinking Rapalas, one-inch and two-inch sizes. The largest brook trout may strike these plugs if you fish stretches or holes of the major rivers stocked with outsized fish. Another trick is to bring a small bucket with at least half a dozen medium shiners and hope the same happens. It’s possible to give a big trout a preferential treat over the salmon eggs and other small presentations.

          No one doubts that fishing among other people often has a competitive aspect, but this is kept at low key, and people learn from one another this way. Conversation on the water is light and sometimes surprisingly informative. I remember a couple of years ago being told about an eight-pound brown trout caught in the Claremont section of the South Branch Raritan and forever being left with the impression that the man spoke of a wildly bred trout. I doubt it. But I could perhaps raise the issue with someone else who seems knowledgeable and be informed of some fact or other that establishes if it could have been stream bred or not.

          None of us out there knows everything, but each of us knows something no else does. Since I know a little about salmon egg use, I’ll write about this for brook and rainbow trout.

          First produced for bait use in 1948 by the Pautzke Bait Company, salmon eggs remain New Jersey’s most popular trout bait unless this has been usurped by floating Power Bait. Salmon eggs take more skill and allow more versatility, since Power Bait is most effective by still fishing deep pools and slow stretches since it floats. (It is good in ponds or lakes.) At any rate, a sinker keeps the line on bottom with Power Bait floating above. Salmon eggs can be fished by the use of two-pound test on the lightest rods possible besides ice fishing panfish rods, a small snap attaching one, or even two leaders from a foot to 18 inches long with size 14 snell hooks.

           Fish salmon eggs and you will know how challenging stocked trout can be. They steal bait better than saltwater sheepshead and tog. And sometimes they peck at an egg rapidly and refuse to mouth it. You reel in the salmon egg still attached to the hook. It’s also difficult to achieve a simple, natural drift through the fast water trout especially habituate to since even two-pound test line will drag in the current. If you were you to use a higher line test, the problem would worsen. Learn to judge the amount of weight needed—usually just the snap, but sometimes a clipped off piece of swivel with one loop remaining or BB split shot—and you will be on the way to mastering a method that in the long run may out-produce the way everyone else is fishing brook or rainbow trout, although particularly rainbows love salmon eggs.

          As persnickety as it may seem, get a safety pin, and instead of buying snaps, buy snap swivels size 14-20, cut off the swivels from snaps with nail clippers, and attach the swivel pieces through the pin, placing that on your vest. Some drift situations call for placing the snap through the swivel eye and closing the snap on the swivel for just the right amount of weight.

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