Early Season Trout Fishing

Scott Locorini

Early Season Trout Fishing

When I was a kid, opening day of trout season was like a holiday.  Hardly anyone went to school, teachers even played hooky.  In fact, I can remember one embarrassing time when I was in my teens.  It was opening day and I was just leaving my favorite little brook trout spot.  As I was hiking out, my father was hiking in. I was supposed to be in school and he was supposed to be at work.  There was an awkward moment, we acknowledged each other and continued on our respective ways.

I moved many times through my twenties but opening day of trout season always found me on the water.  From the Smokies to northern Maine, no matter how much snow I had to crawl through, I was on the water on opening day.

I learned about “ice out” fishing when I was a kid but never really understood it until I was in my thirties.  Ice out is a magical time when trout are just plain hungry. I’ve actually seen them follow bait up onto shelf ice desperately trying to get some food in their stomach.

Ice out means different things to different people. For the sake of this article it will be broken down into two categories: pond fishing and stream fishing. Many folks avoid opening day on streams and rivers because they say that the water is too high, too discolored or too cold.  That may be the case, but there has to be a stream that feeds that river.  And if that stream is not favorable for fishing, there has to be water coming into that somewhere. Basically, keep walking and searching up tributaries until you find something fishable.  I have caught spring brook trout in places where you can barely find water in the summer. 

In my opinion, you can’t beat good old fashioned “garden hackle” for spring fishing.  Worms (not nightcrawlers) seem to work better than anything else on these small creeks in early spring.  One technique that I use which might be different from others is to use of a longer than average rod.  I prefer a 7 1/2’ rod for fishing these small streams. These small creeks are usually choked with trees and make it difficult to cast.  With a longer rod I can reach through and over the cover so I can just drop my bait into the spot that I’m trying to reach.

Pond fishing is a completely different beast. In the Adirondacks there is usually still ice on the pond on opening day.  Let the waiting begin.  Once the ice starts to open up and you can get a line in the water, you’ll have 48 hours of phenomenal fishing.  After that, for a week or so the fishing might cool off until the fish reacclimatize and start feeding again.

Once that starts, the bite is on for a good couple of weeks.  In the beginning you might be casting over shelf ice. But once the pond is completely free, it’s time to put the canoe or kayak in the water and start some slow trolling.

Many folks have heard of the wobbler and worm combination but many don’t know how to fish it.  There are many manufacturers that make the wobbler; the local Adirondack version is the Lake Clear Wobbler. 

The general setup of this combination is to attach the wobbler to your main line and run an 18”-24” line off of that to attach a nightcrawler, worm or streamer.  All connections should be made with inline swivels to minimize line twist.

  The idea is that the wobbler is the attractant and then the fish will bite the bait.  The key to this technique is to troll slowly. You don’t want the wobblers to spin; it should flutter through the water.  Watch your rod tip. It should bounce every second or two mimicking the flutter on the wobbler.

The Adirondacks are large and there is water everywhere.  Finding small streams and ponds to fish can be an overwhelming task.  Most “secret” spots are well kept secrets, as they should be, and you won’t likely be able to Google “Adirondack secret fishing spots” with much success.

Your first step should be to focus on a specific area and start looking at maps.  You can also check out previous stocking lists for that area on the DEC website.  Once you have decided on a location get out and do some scouting.

Head out in the first week of April and hike the outlets of ponds that you’d like to fish after ice out.  You might pick up a few fish in the outlet which will give you an idea of what the pond might be like.  Even better, if you can plan ahead, drag a canoe or kayak into the pond that you’ve chosen when there is still snow on the ground.  It’s much easier to strap on snowshoes and drag a canoe or kayak across snow than it is to carry it through the mud that accompanies spring thaw. 

Regardless of whether you prefer pond or stream fishing, spin or fly fishing, hiking into remote areas, or walking 100 yards off the road to fish, the most important thing is to get out this spring and have fun!  After a long winter it’s great to just get out and be on the water.  For an added bonus, take a kid fishing. They are the future and we need them to have an appreciation for the outdoors and all outdoor sports.


Scott Locorini is a licensed guide and owner of Adirondack Exposure. He regularly guides hunting, fishing, camping, and rafting trips in the Adirondacks, Tug Hill, and the region of eastern Lake Ontario. During the winter he guides kayak fishing trips in Florida. He is also a freelance writer. Contact him at (315) 335-1681 or




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