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Rod, Gun and Game: Trout season opens on April 1

IT’S A WHOPPER — Collin Voss, 11-years old, with one of four brown trout taken on a recent opening day of trout season in Cazenovia Creek between Holland and East Aurora. Photo by Forrest Fisher.
BUFFALO — April Fool’s Day is just ahead – that means opening day for the New York state inland trout season! Official New York state fishing regulations for brown, brook, rainbow trout and hybrids of these species, including Splake, are five fish, per day, no minimum size, with the season running from April 1 – Sept. 15.

When I was a kid, school classes saw slim populations of attendance when April 1 did not fall on a weekend. Everybody went trout fishing. There really weren’t many fly rod fishermen back then, or anglers tossing other types of lures – it was mostly worms and salted minnows.

No matter the choice of gear, everyone spent time with family and friends, sharing the secrets of the best knot, the way to sharpen a hook, add a split shot or choose the best fly. Not to mention, the best way to make percolated coffee, bake potatoes in tin foil and heat up some baloney or hot dogs in a steel pan over a wood fire.

My dad made us start the fire with Boy Scout training – a flint stone and some steel wool or dry leaf matter, so we would know what to do in case we got lost and got cold. He made sure all of us were armed with steel wool and he showed us how to prepare the wax-coated wooden matches that he placed with the steel wool in an old pipe tobacco tin that seemed to be made to fit into our jean pockets for a day. We didn’t go anywhere without that important fire-starter stuff.

In my younger days, fishing gear meant some red worms, hooks, small sinkers and a few small bobbers. All the fishing gear we owned fit nicely into a metal Heddon tackle box that had a single, flip-style metal latch. It had one, big tray that folded back with the opening action of the top and a bigger storage area below for an extra spool of cat-gut (the early name for monofilament line) and other gear.

I still have my two, original fishing rods and reels from the 50’s that I used as a youngster, during these early season April Fool’s fishing day trips.

My dad taught all of us how to fish, one by one. The first trip, every year, was a lesson in what to do, where to fish, how to tell if we had a bite, what to change if it didn’t work – just in case we forgot. Among the biggest lessons to learn was patience, since I would change to option two if I didn’t catch a fish on the first cast – and we only had two choices!

We had colored sinkers that we made with mom’s nail polish and colored hooks, too. Red nail polish hooks actually worked very well. You just had to be sure to sharpen the hook after painting it, because it wouldn’t catch much with the point painted over. In stores today, they sell red hooks made by factory processes, and according to published research papers, the red hooks out-fish the regular, dark-color plated hooks 2 – 1.

We learned how to hook the bait, a half or a full worm, through the middle or through one end and wriggling, going through the hook once, twice, or more than three times, so the big fish couldn’t steel the worm as easily. All of these options are still viable today, so don’t dismiss them too easily. The most effective way to hook a worm to catch a fish was only once, through the middle, so it could wiggle and attract a hungry trout. We also caught horned dace chubs, suckers and the occasional bluegill or rock bass.

We usually went home with four or five trout, for the day. The sound and smell of gently sizzling onions and garlic in a 12-inch pan was pretty common in our house. Fishing was ingrained into the roots of our souls because of these April Fool fishing days.

In 2013, the worm fishing secrets are still valid and the Department of Environmental Conservation has been busy with a complete crew of volunteers from local conservation clubs to assist in the stocking of many trout waters in Erie County. The East Branch Cazenovia Creek was stocked earlier this week with 2,760 8 – 9 -inch long brown trout and 300, 12 – 15-inch browns. Little Buffalo Creek was stocked with 580, 8 – 9- inch browns and 200 bigger fish in the 12 – 15-inch size range. Ellicott Creek in Amherst State Park will be stocked with 1,250 rainbow trout in April.

The Sprague Brook Park ponds in Concord will not be stocked until April, but they will receive 200 brown trout, 8 – 9 inches long, in Pond A, Pond B and the Veteran’s pond, along with 100 each of brown trout in the 12 – 15-inch range, as will the Main Park pond in Clarence, that will receive 300 rainbow trout, 8 – 9 inches in length.

The heaviest Erie County trout stocking takes place in Cattaraugus Creek, at several sites in Sardina where 2,760 1-year old browns were released this week, along with 600 trout in the 12 – 15-inch range. Most of these streams will also receive supplemental stockings of additional trout in April or May.

Crappie schooling under Chautauqua ice
While many anglers are getting conventional fishing gear ready to roll, for the trout opener on Monday, dozens of ice anglers are still visible on the near-shore ice at Chautauqua Lake, where the ice was still 10 – 12 inches thick in many embayments, along the north shore of the lake, last Saturday. Fishing with Bob Corby, a 70-year-old ice angler, we hand-augured a few holes in 7 – 9 feet of water and dropped small ice jigs tipped with waxworms from Dave’s Bait and Tackle, off Route 5 in Derby.

While we only used one rod each – the fish were biting too fast to use two, Corby had each of his seven ice fishing rods rigged with a very lightweight tip, that was essentially spot glued and held in place with tape, onto the tip of each short rod. The tip added remarkable sensitivity to the rods, making it easy to detect the lightest of fish bites without the use of a slip bobber.

Corby knew all the backroads to save a few miles and he also knew all the best places to find breakfast. We spent a few hours on the ice, and got about 30 plump panfish, mostly perch and bluegills, to clean with the electric fillet knife upon getting back home. One youngster fishing next to us caught several big crappies; one of them was 15-1/4 inches long. If you do head out on the ice during this late season, be sure to carry ice picks on a cord around your neck and a life preserver in your sled – just in case. The next week or so will see shore ice melting away.

S&S annual sportsmen’s show
Bow choice options will be the top focus when factory representatives from Elite, Matthews, Bowtech, Prime™, Mission, Horton and other bows and crossbows, will be on hand at the annual sportsmen’s show at S&S Taxidermy this Saturday, March 30, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Meet representatives from Deer Search, Erie County Trappers and Hoot’s Furs and view the dozens of wild animal and fish mounts in the S&S Wildlife Museum. Check out the 3D archery shooting range and if your bow needs tuning, bring it in to see Mike Ventre for professional adjustment assistance. Check out the other archery accessories now available, including sites, quivers, arrows, target tips and broadheads, as well as various styles of arrow fletchings. Bring in your antler rack from last season and receive free big buck scoring. The store is located 1/4 mile south of Wal-Mart on Cascade Drive in Springville. Call 592-2404, for more information.

Muzzleloader mastermind passes
Tony Knight of Plano, Iowa, passed away on March 18 at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. In 1985, Knight invented, patented and began to manufacture his modernized version of the in-line muzzleloader, known worldwide as the Knight Rifle®.

Outdoor calendar
– March 30: 11th Annual Outdoor Show, S&S Taxidermy, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., 455 South Cascade Drive, Springville. Call 592-2404 for more information.

– April 1: Opening day for New York state inland trout.

– April 4: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, monthly meeting, Evans Rod & Gun, Cain Road, Evans, 7 p.m. Open to public. Call Chuck Godfrey at 440-6995 for more information.

– April 6: Food plot seminar, West Falls Conservation Club, 55 Bridge St., West Falls, noon – 4 p.m. Call Paul Cwiklinski for more information at 479-2824.

– April 11: State of Lake Erie Meeting, NYSDEC, sea grant, guests, Southtowns Walleye Association Clubhouse, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 7 – 9 p.m.

– April 13: NYS Archery Safety Course, Springville Field and Stream, 7 a.m. Register at the town of Concord clerk’s office to obtain course materials.

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