Trout are no match for prepared angler


April 03, 1994|By GARY DIAMOND

The last weekend in March should be declared a state holiday. It's a time when nearly every freshwater fisherman in Maryland treks to his favorite trout stream, dons ridiculous-looking clothing, and frequently catches nothing more than a bad cold.

March 26 was opening day of trout season in Harford County.

More than 2,000 county anglers pitted their fishing skills against 4,800 rainbow trout recently stocked in the waters of Deer Creek and Little Gunpowder River. When opening day arrived, the water was ice cold, murky and well above normal level -- less than optimal conditions.

Undaunted by torrential rain and 38-degree temperatures of both air and water, an army of anglers invaded Rocks State Park.

Although the official opening time was not until 5:30 a.m., nearly every available parking space was taken long before sunrise. Almost in unison, exactly at 5:30, nearly 1,000 car doors slammed as twice that many fishermen rushed to the water's edge, baited their hooks and cast into the murky stream.

Most anglers managed to catch a few fish, however, some had little or no difficulty reaching their five-fish daily limit during the first few hours.

Were they just in the right place at the right time?

Did dumb luck play a significant role or were the less fortunate fishermen outsmarted by the rainbows?

It's highly unlikely that a fisherman could be outsmarted by a rainbow trout. When it comes to intelligence, trout are dumber than dirt.

According to the International Gamefish Association, of all freshwater fish, largemouth bass have the highest IQ, remembering a single encounter with a fishing lure for periods exceeding a year. Trout, particularly rainbows, repeatedly will strike a lure more than a dozen times before finally realizing it's a phony.

The only species that has a lower IQ than rainbow trout are bluegills.

A glance along Deer Creek's shoreline revealed the reason some anglers were more successful than others.

More than half the fishermen were using tackle capable of landing a Buick. Everything from surf rods to stand-up tuna outfits made up the vast array of fishing gear. Only a handful of individuals used light or ultralight spinning equipment.

Trout might not be intelligent, but they're not complete idiots. No fish in its right mind would take a glob of bait impaled on a gaff-sized hook attached to line resembling winch cable.

Successful fishermen, those with their limits of 12-inch rainbow and brown trout, were armed with extremely light tackle.

Rods ranged from 5 to 6 feet in length, weighed less than 2 ounces and were so sensitive, they immediately responded to the slightest tap at the end of the line.

The matching reels were spooled with 2- to 4-pound test, premium grade, clear monofilament line while terminal tackle consisted of nothing more than a tiny size No. 10 to No. 12 hook.

Contrary to popular belief, trout are not finicky eaters. In fact, they'll eat just about anything.

Shortly after being stocked, they will take small morsels of worm, cheese rolled into pea-sized balls, dough balls, whole kernel corn and even tiny marshmallows. However, once they've become acclimated to the stream, they'll switch to small crayfish, minnows, hellgrammites, worms, and various aquatic insects and their larvae.

This time of year, trout primarily stick to deep-water haunts. They take refuge beneath undercut areas of bank, behind large, submerged boulders and at the bottom of deep, slow-moving pools. It's at these locations where they'll await in ambush for an easy meal to wash past.

The bait should be cast upstream at a 45-degree angle and allowed to drift naturally with the currents. As your offering tumbles over the rock-strewn bottom, slowly take in any slack line so you'll feel every pebble the bait touches. At the slightest indication of a strike, set the hook -- it's that simple.

Most fishermen use trout season as a quick cure for cabin fever, mistakenly believing the fish are all caught within the first few weeks. They then fish for other species such as largemouth bass or head for Chesapeake Bay.

In reality, Deer Creek and Little Gunpowder River both hold good populations of trout throughout the year.

If you want to try your luck, you'll need a Maryland Freshwater Fishing License and a trout stamp.

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