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The southeast's catch-and-release winter trout fishing season, which runs through March 31, is the result of the increasing popularity of trout fishing and requests from anglers to expand the number of streams open to winter fishing. Currently, about 135 miles on 38 streams are open to winter trout angling.
"Winter stream trout fishing provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during the heart of winter, and it sharpens your angling skills," said Steve Klotz, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) area fisheries supervisor at Lanesboro. "It's highly challenging and great fun."
Winter trout fishing may require the angler to experiment with different tactics, Klotz said. As water temperatures drop, so does fish activity. Every 10-degree temperature increase doubles the biological activity of the fish, so afternoon fishing often is the most productive. Anglers should carry a thermometer with them. Fish are most active at temperatures of 38 degrees and above.
Other tips that could increase an anglerís success:
Fish slow and deep, trout are most often out of the main current flow.
When fly fishing, effective patterns include scuds, midge pupa/larva, and small pheasant tail patterns. Fly anglers should watch for midge hatches that can increase trout feeding activity.
For spinning and spincasting equipment, keep your reel cranking by using a Teflon lubricant thatís not affected by cold. Single hooks on spinners help keep fish handling to a minimum. Clipping one hook off of a treble also helps.
With winter trout waters often crystal clear, trout grow wary, so keep a low profile. Itís often best to stay out of the water.
Look for springs flowing into streams, where the water often is warmer.
At this time, only barbless hooks are allowed (crimped hooks are permitted) and fish handling should be kept to a minimum. Trout should not be removed from the water for any longer than it takes to remove the hook and release it. Anglers also should avoid walking in riffles, where trout eggs may be incubating.
The DNR implemented the winter trout fishing season in 1988 following improved water quality in the 1980s that created good natural trout reproduction in southeast coldwater streams. The goal has been to provide additional recreational opportunities without harming the trout resource, which is particularly vulnerable during fall spawning and the stress of winter. DNR creel surveys and other studies have shown that the winter catch-and-release season does not cause any negative impacts to trout populations.
Only select streams are open to winter fishing. Those streams are listed in the 2010 Fishing Regulation booklet, in the brochure 2009 Trout Angling Opportunities in Southern and Central Minnesota, and on the DNR website.
A sampling of streams open for winter angling include:
Fillmore County - Diamond Creek, Etna Creek, Gribben Creek, North Branch Creek, South Fork Root River, Torkelson Creek and Wisel Creek.
Goodhue County - Hay Creek.
Houston County - West Beaver Creek, Bee Creek, Crooked Creek, Daley Creek, Swede Bottom Creek and South Fork Crooked Creek.
Winona County - Coolridge Creek, Ferguson Creek, Garvin Brook, Hemmingway Creek, West Branch Money Creek, Pine Creek, Rush Creek, Trout Run, Trout Valley, Whitewater River (Main, Middle and North branches)
Klotz advises anglers to remember that staying dry is the key to staying warm, so itís important to be cautious when crossing streams or walking along snow covered banks, and to avoid walking on any ice that forms along the waterís edge.
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