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Hooks and Antlers: Anglers should fish low, slow for early trout


With high water levels, heavy flows, and turbid conditions in area streams, April trout fishing was pretty much a wash.

May promises better conditions, however, and here’s a look at some tips for improving the odds for early-season success.

Pre-fishing Information

Since tackle shops are in daily contact with anglers, such places are prime sources of information so be sure to add the numbers of area shops to the contacts list in your cell phone, or, better yet, make an actual visit to the shop. In addition to providing up-to-date information on productive waters, effective techniques, water temperature, flow levels, and water clarity, tackle shops carry needed supplies.

Scouting, too, can pay dividends for trout anglers. An actual visit to streamside can reveal information about water conditions, parking, and public access.

Once at a site, don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with fellow anglers. After all, a tiny bit of information can make the difference between a fish-catching and a fishless day.

Knowing what types of trout were stocked and when they were stocked can go a long way towards hooking early-season fish. Anglers can find stocking information on the DEC website at The site also contains information on water stretches open for public fishing.

Stream Selection

A general guideline calls for fishing smaller flows at this time of year as they typically have less current, less turbidity, and higher water temperatures than larger flows. Another good bet is to fish tributaries because they, too, typically offer improved conditions. The water around the mouths of tributaries can be especially productive.

At season’s onset, head to streams in lower elevations as these waters will warm more quickly than those at higher elevations. Visit the higher destinations in late spring.

No matter what the time of year, a few degrees in water temperature can make a major difference in the presence or absence of trout and also in their activity level so be sure to look for streams or sections of streams that have seasonably-warm water.

When heading out, have several destinations as possibilities. Then if a particular place is occupied by other anglers, the fish are uncooperative, or stream conditions are unfavorable, it is just a matter of heading to the next spot.

Low and Slow

Prior to making that first cast, take a few minutes to study a particular section of stream, and then develop a plan that allows for the water to be fished most effectively and with the least amount of disturbance. Pools are the prime spots to fish in early season as trout tend to concentrate there.

Because of cold water temperatures, early-season trout don’t chase offerings so precise presentation is a must. It is also advisable to make multiple casts to any likely trout-holding spot. Determining how much time to spend in a spot is a judgment call, but early-season fishers should work “good spots” diligently as they typically hold multiple trout.

The basic motto of early-season fishers is “Slow and Low” and the elementary technique of adding a split shot or two is the standard method of slowing an offering and getting it down to non-chasing fish. Of course, weighted flies and sinking lines work, too.

Sense Appeal

In the clear water of summer, appealing to a trout’s sense of sight is generally enough to induce a strike. At this time of the year, however, an offering that appeals to multiple senses has the best odds for success. In essence, live baits (where permitted) such as crawlers and minnows work well because of their realistic appearance, taste, scent, and texture. In addition, live bait lends itself to a “Slow and Low” presentation.

The flash and vibration of in-line spinners appeal to a trout’s sense of sight and feel while bulky flies offer the appeal of sight and texture. Commercial scents can be added to artificial offerings to enhance their appeal to a trout’s sense of smell. Another critical point regarding scent is to have clean hands when attaching lures, flies, or baits at line’s end.


Spring’s best fishing times vary significantly from the peak periods of summer as spring fishing means being on the water when stream temperatures are at their warmest of the day, and that period typically occurs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Also, in contrast to the summer months, sunny days and the resulting warmer water temperatures typically see increased trout activity.

Outdoors Calendar

May 1: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York State.

May 3: Seasons open for northern pike and walleyes.

May 3: SLRWA Opening Day Walleye Derby (

May 3: SLVSC hosts Annual Walleye Derby (393-7506).

May 10: St. Lawrence Waterfowlers Annual Art Auction and Dinner.

May 13: Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of SLC meet at Canton Boces at 7 p.m.

May 15-18: Henderson Harbor Spring Classic Derby (938-5313;

May 27: SLC Fisheries Advisory Board meets at Canton Boces at 7 p.m.

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