As always, the New York trout season will begin with the sunrise on April 1. The season opener will coincide with April Fools' Day, which is appropriate since only a fool would expect to catch anything beyond a cold from the icy mountain flows that are still overflowing their banks with snowmelt at this time of year.
With the recent delivery of more than 3 feet of fresh snow, it will likely be a while before outdoor enthusiasts exchange their ski poles for fishing poles.
To further complicate matters, most of the local rivers and streams won't even be stocked until the snowmelt is over and flows return to normal.
Fishermen anticipate ice-out to come soon and the trout to follow after the April 1 season-opener.
Photo — Joe Hackett
While there will always be holdover trout that manage to survive the gauntlets of flyfishers, worm dunkers and spin casters, there are also fish fast enough and smart enough to safely winter-over, despite the threat of river otter, eagles, osprey and the slapstick anglers who take to the rivers during the early season.
Records indicate early settlers actually parked wagons in the river, and filled them with fresh salmon that were harvested with pitchforks. The most difficult part of the operation was moving the overloaded wagons out of the river. Salmon were so plentiful, they actually caused the horses to stumble.
Although most of the local lakes and ponds remain locked under the cover of black ice, there are still plenty of angling opportunities for the diehards who are willing to find them.
The most likely early-season opportunities will be found near the inlets and outlets of lakes and ponds, especially where waterfalls or rapids keep water temperatures a few degrees warmer.
Of course, the new season also signals the beginning of the annual smelt run, which is triggered by the the first full moon of the spring season. This year, a rare pink full moon will mark the new season on the evening of April 1.
The increasing duration of daylight hours triggers the spawning instinct in smelt, as it will in all creatures, including humans.
Tell-tale signs of the smelt run include the presence of eagles, loons and mergansers gathering around the inlets or outlets of lakes and ponds. There will also be coons, mink, otter, gulls, jays, loons and a host of other scavengers.
Bog River Falls at the head of Tupper Lake has always hosted a healthy smelt run. Dipping smelt, which entails scooping them up with a long-handled net in the dead of night, is an old Adirondack tradition. It will be interesting to see if smelt will now migrate upstream.
There are numerous locations where dipping for smelt is still pursued.
With the removal of the old dam in Willsboro, wild salmon will now be able to migrate up the main flow and into the north branch of the Boquet. Salmon will now be able to travel upriver all the way to Little Falls which is about 15 river miles from the lake.
As usual, I'm anxious to wet a line, regardless of the catch, which can be quite spotty during the early season. In fact, until the last few years, I rarely had the opportunity to fish the ponds before the middle of May.
Although water temperatures need to rise into the high 40s or low 50s before fish begin to feed heavily, I like to get out early and often.