April Trout

By on April 8, 2019
Jody Button of Fairport with a beautiful Lake Erie ... lake trout.

Jody Button of Fairport with a beautiful Lake Erie … lake trout.

Old Man Winter is doing his best to hang on, but I can tell by the robins hopping across my lawn that winter will soon tap out. Another good barometer that spring is on deck is the opening of New York’s trout season on April 1. I will repeat my mantra that we here in Western New York are lucky to have all this great fishing so close and our trout fishing opportunities are the perfect example of that.

The biggest question in most trout anglers’ minds is do I fish for stream trout now that the season has opened or go to Lake Ontario, or the Lower Niagara river for big brown lake trout or rainbows where the fishing is heating up? You can’t go wrong no matter which you choose. If you decide to stream fish, the DEC stocks over two million catchable-sized brook, brown and rainbow trout in 3,000 miles of streams across the state. Many of these streams support wild populations of trout as well.

Streams like Naples Creek, Catherine Creek and Powder Mills Park have great fishing because they are heavily stocked. The DEC stocks around 151,000 brook trout and 1.8 million brown trout, 89,000 of which are two-year-old fish that average thirteen inches. Approximately 392,000 rainbow trout are stocked each spring.

Tributaries directly off Lake Ontario can be fantastic this time of year as well. Irondequoit Creek and the Genesee River are well known hot spots but there are some small creeks like Sandy Creek in Hamlin, Mink Creek in Williamson, and Four Mile Creek in Webster.

The rainbow trout are spawning in those streams now. Fresh trout eggs are the best bait to use at this time of year, so if you are lucky enough to catch a female do yourself a favor and gently milk the eggs out of her into a zipper bag. You can then release the hen fish.

When stream fishing, always fish upstream. Trout usually face into the current and will be less likely to see your approach. Move slowly and disturb the water as little as possible. The size of split shot you use is important. It is often trickier to get the right amount of weight for a good drift than any part of your presentation. Your bait must flow naturally downstream.

As far as bait in the stream, it’s hard to beat fresh trout eggs. Try to use a dime-sized sac on a #6 hook, targeting slack water behind rocks and boulders. These current breaks provide trout with a location to hold and ambush passing food. Cast your bait upstream of the current break and allow your bait to drift along the edge of the slack water. If the fish are there it will soon be game on.

If you are looking for big brown trout, Lake Ontario is the place to be at this time of year. As the lake warms up, usually 38 to 40 degrees by the end of March, brown trout will leave the creeks and rivers and move along the shoreline to where they can find warmer water and a food supply. They will often congregate around river mouths where the warmer river water meets the lake water. You can cast from shore or off of piers, but trolling from a boat is your best bet to finding fish. At this time of year, the fish are close to shore so you don’t need a boat with lots of equipment to catch these browns. When Lake Ontario is in a good mode almost any boat 14-foot or larger will work as long as you watch the weather and get off the water if the winds switch on you. South winds on our shoreline here in Western New York is an off-shore wind and the lake close to shore will be calm. Any winds out of the north and the big lake can get upset fast. As far as trolling equipment goes, all you need is a couple of fishing rods rigged with 12 to 15 pound test fishing line and a handful of minnow-shaped stick baits and you will be good to go. Troll them behind the boat about 60 to 100 feet and motor slowly along the shoreline, trying to stay under 2.5 MPH. Shore fishermen as well can enjoy great action casting from shore near river mouths or off of local piers.

Last, but not least, is the incredible trout fishing going on in the Lower Niagara River right now. The size of the lake trout, steelhead and brown trout being caught there now has to be seen to be believed. If you go to the Buffalo daily newspaper’s website and look for “the catches of the week” you will find a bunch of impressive fish pictures that display the trout fishing going on now on the lower Niagara River. It’s some of the best in the country. There is a public launch in Lewiston that will get you on the lower Niagara but beware that there is a strong current on the lower Niagara River, so caution is needed when boating there.

And last but not least, please practice CPR … “Catch … Photograph … Release!” Keep a fish or two to eat if you like, but return the rest. These days we all carry cameras disguised as phones. So, take a quick photo for proof, then return the fish to grow larger and maybe caught again so that someone else will enjoy the fun that fish gave you.