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Of course not everyone is itching to be on the water before dawn on March 2, when temperatures could be below freezing.
“I don’t start in the early, early spring,” said Rich Mlodzik of Princeton, an otherwise hardcore fisherman who attended the event. “I get out around the first of April. I’m a 50 degrees kind of guy.”
The early season is for anglers who like to fool their prey with artifice rather than bait. It’s for people who think how they hook a trout is as just as important as actually catching it. These fall into two main groups – spinner fishers and fly fishers. Each style has its advantages. Spinner fishers, for instance, can reach into deeper pools on small, alder-choked streams that defeat fly casters.
While the best early-season fishing generally does occur in mid to late April, there are some golden opportunities in March. Some hardy fishermen will be out on opening day no matter the weather, anxious to hunt trout that haven’t seen an artificial lure for at least five months.
Others will watch for those mid-March days when the sun burns hot, the ice begins a rapid melt and black stone flies can be spotted on the snow bordering streams with rocky substrates. These insects flitter moth-like across the water and trout will actually leap out of the water to catch them. Even larger brown trout that normally don’t approach the surface midday will chase them with seeming abandon. A angler with the right fly can have a blast.
Until the snow melts, the best time to fish is from noon to 4 p.m. when the water temperatures are higher. Then, as the early season progresses, the fishing just gets better and better. Wooly buggers (generally a larger fly) and scuds (a small fly) are good choices for going below the surface when there isn’t activity on top.
"After the snow melts, trout activity increases,” said Heath Benike, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources at Eau Claire. “Some of the biggest trout of the season are caught in mid-April as the fish become more active and aggressive."
Most trout streams are open to early fishing with the exception of most Lake Superior tributaries and the majority streams in northeast Wisconsin. To find the open streams, check the printed current trout fishing regulations pamphlet for specific waters. Anglers are required to use artificial lures and flies; barbless hooks are not required. The daily bag limit and possession limit for trout during this time is zero – all trout caught must be immediately released.
An inland trout stamp is required in addition to a Wisconsin fishing license. Biologists and others who study trout populations say that these are the good old days of trout fishing. Trout populations have generally increased statewide, and the number of fish in all sizes examined have increased, since 1950, according to a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point analysis released in 2011 and discussed in "A Trout Treasury," an April 2011 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article.
Cast your ideas into improving fishing in the Driftless Area
MADISON – Anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts are invited to share their ideas about improving fishing access and management of state lands in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area at nine public meetings in March.
People attending the meetings also will be able to see a decade’s worth of information showing fish populations in the affected streams, view maps of existing public access, and learn how climate change is projected to impact the future distribution of trout and bass throughout the Driftless Area, the western and southwestern portion of the state that escaped the last glacial period and as a result is characterized by rugged topography, springs, cold-water streams and rock outcroppings.
“We want to hear from anglers what influences where they like to fish and what makes a high quality angling experience,” says Paul Cunningham, the Department of Natural Resources fish specialist who co-leads the effort. “We’ve laid out the best science-based data and models available and want to get the public’s perspectives on how best to apply this information so that we spend our limited dollars and staff time wisely.”
The public meetings are part of a long-term master planning process for more than 200 properties that will guide DNR’s habitat management and land acquisition efforts in the Driftless Area over the next 15 years. Most of the properties are narrow strips along some of the most desirable trout and smallmouth bass fishing waters in Wisconsin, says Steve Hewett, who leads the DNR fisheries management section.
DNR currently owns about 28,000 acres in the Driftless Area and holds easements on more than 8,000 acres of land that allow anglers access to more than 300 streams.
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