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LHarris

Wisconsin Small Stream Trout 2016

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 First off you need to know the dates.  Early catch and release season opens on the first Saturday of January yearly.  It runs to the Friday before regular season opens on the first Saturday of May.  No live bait is allowed in catch and release season.  

 

 
 Regular season runs through the 15th of October.  Many of the regulations have changes.  The idea of simplifying this season was thrown out the window.  You better look at each stream you plan to harvest fish in because the regulations have changed.  For example the special regulations in Richland county were twelve prior to the changes and now there are twenty-three special regulations.  This is the case in all the counties for folks that want to harvest trout.
 
The early season is an excellent time to land the biggest trout you have ever caught.  My personal best was caught during the old early season.  It was a twenty-seven and three quarters inch female brown.  I caught it on a size nine deep diving shad rap in robin’s egg blue.  Extra large trout become very shy and live in tangled messes and seldom feed in the day time.
 
 
The spawning urge brings them out of their fortresses of solitude.  The spawning is long over in January but they typically have not returned to their deep dark homes that they share with no other trout.  They typically winter in the deepest holes between the spawning areas and their nocturnal hideouts. 
 
 
  They are much more vulnerable during this time.  This was why the original early season was halted.  Many huge trout were harvested during this transitional period.  You might stumble on a wayward monster in a relatively shallow hole.  If trout were stream born they have a homing pigeon trait.  They return back up the small streams they were born in.  
 
 
 These streams are typically cleaner and have a small rock and sand make-up.  These streams will have springs in them.  These springs actually keep the water at a warmer temperature in the frigid Wisconsin winters.  Springs run a constant of forty to forty-two degrees year round. 
 
 
Most vegetation stream side is gone and the aquatic plants are at a minimum during the January season.  Stealth is even more important during these times.  The trout can see you much farther away.  A low profile is a necessity.
 
 
Cast placement is a must.  You need to evaluate the hole before you cast and guess where the optimum feed lane is and put your presentation up stream of the hide with minimum splash.  If you hook up on a little trout, the hole will be spooked and monsters will be in lock jaw mode. 
 
 
You are looking for the deepest hole in the area with minimal bottom current near springs or seeps.  The springs or swamps keep the surrounding water warmer.   Logs and large rocks are perfect hides near a current feed lane for the monster to hide behind and dart out and get the offering and retreat to their hides.
 
 
Many anglers recommend small stuff in early season.  I am the opposite.  A trout living on appetizers for a couple months will move quite a ways for a main course. 


 A good early season fly is a Hornberg in size six or eight.  It is meant to be fished low and weighted; a varied retrieve with pauses added in is the way to go.  Good early season lures are bigger sized panther martins in nine or even fifteen.  The same slow retrieve is needed.  Stick baits are the cat’s meow in early season.  Work them in all directions with pauses and twitches.  Make that lure look alive.  
 
 
The early bird gets the worm idea is wrong in January season.  Many mornings there is shell ice on the streams until ten or eleven am.  Scout your stream prior to going out to see what time the ice goes off.  Those trout from last fall in the faster current will be gone.  Trout will not lie in fast cold water.  It requires too much energy to hold in place.
 
 
It is important to respect the trout in early season.  Don’t fight them to exhaustion.  Size up your rigs and get them in quickly.  Limit the glory shots during cold weather.  The trout are very sensitive to cold on their eyes and gills.  If a glory shot is required, leave the trout in the net until your camera is out and ready.  Take one photo and set them free.
 
 
Early season requires extra clothing and a back-up outfit for water emergencies.  Hot hands are a must in your gloves, hats and pockets.  Keep that camera in an inside pocket because cold drains batteries.  Now go out there and catch that monster! 

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