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All the talk is of spring now, an early and dry one (speaking from a runoff point of view), which bodes well for the annual open water fishing season that opens April 1.
There is less debate this year about the odds for angling success in early April. As mild as the winter had been, as warm as March has been and as dry as things started out last fall (November was the warmest on record), it’s safe to say that there could be some decent trout fishing on opening day this year.
Cracker barrel curmudgeons like to recite the old “poplar leaves big as a mouse’s ear” adage when it comes to spring fishing here in the North Country, but there are exceptions and this has been an exceptional period for anglers and weather watchers.
I am sure most fishermen forget meteorological data and ancient proverbs once they are on the water and casting their offerings into the deep, dark pools of their favorite rivers and streams. Adages aside, trout live in the water and if you are clever enough, patient enough and persistent enough you can catch them on April 1. Maybe not a lot of them, maybe not big ones, but a trout is a trout and the first one that takes the bait is all the harbinger of spring any angler needs.
With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that opening day is less than a week away – Sunday morning, in fact. There are only a few days left to prepare for the second-most popular “day” in outdoor Maine (opening day of deer season still ranks No. 1), and procrastinators who also work for a living may have let things slide till the last Saturday in March, which is only five days away.
It’s likely that last year’s gear is still functional and the tackle box is well stocked, but there is plenty to keep a fisherman busy with just hours to go before it’s time to wet a line again.
After many years of first-day frustrations while dealing with old line, rusty hooks and disorganized gear, I make it a point to clear the books, sit down for an hour or two and just get things set up the way I like them.
First order of business is to refill all my spinning reels with fresh line. After sitting idle for six months or more most monofilament lines become dry, brittle and unworkable, and if you wait till you are on the water to replace them you’ll waste valuable fishing time dealing with tangles and snags instead of hungry trout.
Thrifty types can peel off the outer 30 or 40 yards of last year’s line and go with the unused portion. It’s best to soak the reel in warm water for a while to refresh the line and allow it time to get its “memory” back, otherwise all you’ll have is a long Slinky of curls that will not cast well and is certain to tangle.
Next, I’ll clean my rods and reels, using a soft cloth and Windex on the rods and adding a bit of grease or oil to the reel gears as needed. It’s amazing how much streamside crud can get into a fully-enclosed reel, but it’s better to get that stuff out of there now rather than risk problems on the water.
Of course, this is the time to repair or replace parts that may have become worn or broken. Clean and lubricate every part you touch so that there will be no ominous grinding, grating or scraping noises to interfere with your fishing.
Next, I “tackle” my terminal gear – leaders, swivels, flies, lures, hooks and spinners; cleaning and polishing as necessary, sharpening rusty hooks and putting everything back where it goes (at least for starters!). I have a bad habit of putting everything in my upper left pocket when changing flies or lures so that, by the end of the previous season, just about everything I own is in a tangled mess in the same pocket! This makes it a difficult to make quick changes when the fish are aggressively biting, and the last thing I want to do is hunt for the lure I know will work but, alas, can’t seem to find!
There are plenty of other things that need attention depending on your manner of fishing. If you use canoes, kayaks, boats and motors you know what needs to be maintained – and now you are down to less than a week to get ready! Be sure everything you plan to use this spring is well-maintained and functional including anchors, paddles, oars, life jackets, motors, ropes and bumpers. There will be items that didn’t work, broke, misbehaved or were lost sometime during last season; now’s the time to repair or replace them.
Your personal method of fishing will dictate what needs to be done and I’m sure in the back of your mind you know that there’s a broken reel somewhere, a rod with a few guides missing or a boat that needs work and you’ve been putting it off all winter. Now opening day is just a few days out and there’s no more time to waste. If you wait till Saturday afternoon you may find yourself in a long like of like-minded procrastinators at the sporting goods store or repair shop, but as long as you get everything done in time to be on the water Sunday morning you’ll be fine.
Also, don’t forget to purchase your 2012 fishing license, available online at And, take some time this week to brush up on the latest open water fishing regulations for the waters you intend to fish. There may be some changes that are not shown in the printed version of the Maine Open Water and Ice-Fishing Laws and Rules handbook, so spend a few minutes online for the most recent updates.
Come to think of it, maybe the originator of the “mouse’s ear” theory was not really thinking about the best time to go fishing, he was just buying another week or two because he wasn’t ready to hit the water on April 1!
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