Ok, the opening weekend of trout season was not what we hoped for this year. Better times are ahead, though, and not far ahead. Even now with stream flows much lower than the opening weekend, trout fishing has improved some. Looking on the bright side, poor fishing on opening weekend means more trout remain in the streams now.
Heavy stream flows made fishing difficult on opening weekend, probably more than anything else. Some trout anglers blamed it on cold water. True, the water was, and still is, cold. But trout hit the day they are stocked during the ice fishing season. That should eliminate the 'water too cold' excuse. But we will not tell anyone who does not read this column.
I did not hit a stream until the first Monday. Flows still were high at the South Branch Kinzua Creek and Kinzua Creek. The water was clear. Fishing was poor. All I had for the day were two fish that were on the hook for only a few seconds, that after trying several nymphs and a couple of streamers.
My most recent outing, last Saturday, was a return to Kinzua Creek, at the Catch and Release Artificial Lures Only section. Stream flow was much lower this time, and very clear. Mack Engstrom and I were able to catch trout at only one pool, a particularly large, deep pool with some slow moving water. We could not tempt trout elsewhere.
Most interesting were the hybrid brown trout/brook trout we caught. I had never before seen them. It took a couple of minutes to decide what they were. The front half of the fish looked like brown trout, the back half like brook trout. The fins had the characteristic white edges of brook trout.
For the ultimate example of flow affecting trout fishing, all we have to do is look at the Allegheny River. March was a very good month for big brown trout on the river. But that interests only anglers who practice catch and release. Those who want to keep their catch have no interest in the period when trout may not be kept in the Miscellaneous Special Regulations section of the river, between the Kinzua Dam and Conewango Creek.
But well before the opening weekend the flow was increased. The outflow from the Kinzua Dam was decreased just before opening weekend, but still was running at 9,000 c.f.s. This is too high for good trout fishing, and too high for safe boating.
Bait has a clear advantage over just about any artificial lure in heavy stream flows, especially when it is combined with cold water. As for me, I enjoy fly fishing, when I spin fish for big trout in the river I like to cast stick baits, but mostly I like to catch fish.
If you want to catch fish, do what it takes. Ignoring the mood of the trout or water conditions is hopeless.
Maybe the best solution to catching brook trout or brown trout in cold water and high flows is fishing with lively shiners. This is not as difficult as it might seem. Of course no one wants to carry a full size minnow bucket along a trout stream. It is not necessary. Small minnow containers that can be hung over a shoulder are widely available.
Transport the shiners in a standard size minnow bucket, or a larger insulated container. Put the shiners in the small container only when you park the vehicle at the stream.
It will be necessary to change water from time to time, but this is no problem. Some small containers are designed to make this easier.
Keep hook size proportional to the size of the bait. Even stocked trout are a little wary. Still, it will be hard for them to resist a wiggling shiner.
Rainbow trout certainly will hit small shiners. Note, however, their proportionately smaller mouths. Smaller baits should be more effective. Try red worms or salmon eggs.
Red worms are excellent bait for any trout. Just as with minnows they should be lively for the best results. And fishing with red worms is simple.
Fishing with salmon eggs is more complicated because there are numerous kinds and colors of salmon eggs. Which type of salmon eggs you use might be very important. All-time favorites include cheese eggs, which are usually yellow, and large orange eggs. Carrying several types of salmon eggs can pay dividends.
Another proven bait is Power Bait. Like salmon eggs, it can be bought in various colors, and only the trout know which they prefer on any given day.