By Stephen King

OK everybody. Every hardcore trout fisherperson knows just what happens this weekend. That is, it is the Opening Day of Trout Season. More or less. Because, a few years ago, the Michigan DNR, in their infinite wisdom, decided to simplify the rules. And, we all know what that means.

Like, way back when, there was an early season, which started on April 1st.  However, there were also waters where the Trout fishing was open all year. For example, locally, the Millecoquin’s River was open all year. From the Bridge at H-40 to Lake Michigan.Then, just down US-2 a few miles, Black River opened up on April 1st, up to the Peter’s Creek Bridge. Then, on the last Saturday in April, the rest of the creeks opened up.

Back then, things were pretty simple. You could catch 5 Trout. And, if I recall, Brook Trout had to be 7 inches, while Rainbows had to be 10. Bascially, that was about it.

Now, with the new rules, things have really changed. First, many streams are now open all year long, or at least portions. Like, the aforementioned Millecoquin’s River. Nothing has changed. It is still open all year long.  However, now, Black River is also open all year long. At least the portion from Lake Michigan, up to Peter’s Creek Bridge. 

However, you also have to go to the DNR Fishing Guide and have to look up each stream and lake. For example, Black River is Type 4.  There are 4 Types of Streams. Five if you count Brook Trout Restoration Areas. (We have none of these in the Eastern U.P.)  And, maybe make that six, if you count Research Areas. (We also have none of these.) Then, they have 6 more Designations for Lakes.

OK, keeping with Black River, I get out the map, from the Guide, and find Black River. (Be sure this Black River is the one in Mackinac County, because there are a few of them.) And, I see it is Type 4.  Then, I go and look on the Chart, and I find that Type 4, the portion of Black River not Open All Year, Opens up the last Saturday in April.

Then, I look and find out that the minimum size is 7” for Brook Trout, 8” for Brown Trout, and 10” for all the rest of the Salmon and Trout Species. Then, you are allowed to keep 5. But, only 3 that are 15” or greater.

And, I hate to say this, but you pretty much have to do this for any stream you want to fish. Pretty much every stream has some type of designation. Yup, the DNR really simplified things.

Now, I have their explanation. Which is that the fishing Public wants more specific rules for more streams. Which bounces the ball back into the court of the fishers.

So, I could go on and on about this. But, basically, before you head out to that stream. Get a copy of the DNR Fishing Guide. Find that spot you want to fish. And, find out if there are any funky regulations. Because, when the nice man or women in the green suit and the shiny badge comes to visit you, it is totally on you to know the rules.

OK, we got that done with. Now, how to catch them. First, the Golden Rule is always “Live Bait is Best.”  That goes great for Trout Fishing. More or less. (I will get to the Fly Fishers and Lure Danglers in a moment.)

First, way back when, my Dad taught me to fish brook trout. Basic. A #6 bait holder hook. A split shot. And, a worm. People been fishing that set up for a very long time. Because, it works.

But, you guys all know me, just can’t leave well enough alone. So. I changed that up a bit. I still use the #6 bait holder and the worm. But, instead of that split shot, I use an egg sinker. Use about a foot or two of leader, tie it to a swivel, of appropriate size. Then, upstream from the swivel, thread on that egg sinker. Like, maybe a ¼ oz. size. Maybe a bit bigger.

What this does is allows you to use a heavier weight, to keep the bait in heavier current areas longer. This also allows the fish to bite without feeling the weight. Fish: “Holy Wah!  That is one heavy worm!”  If you know what I mean. The egg sinker does not weird out the fish when they bite. So, they are better inclined to take the bait.

Now, for steelhead, as I have said many times, there is no better bait than fresh spawn. But, I have gone down that trail a few too many times. So, I am assuming most of you know how to fish a spawn bag. Basically, I use that same setup. Only, a bit bigger hook and weight.

Next,  minnows:  Now, this is not a usual bait for rainbows. However, they do work. For example, many many years back, about this time of year, I got down to Black River just after dawn. One of my Uncles was already there.

I started setting up, about 50 yards upstream from him. Down by the mouth. Of course, he is watching me. And, gives me kind of a weird look when he sees me toss out a bell sinker, with a leader about 3 feet up, with a minnow dangling off of it.

And, of course, being family, he yells out, “What you doing? You ain’t gonna…”  Before he could even finish, a trout hit. And, I had one on.

Must have just about dropped that minnow right in front of him. And, he hit it. A few minutes later and I had a nice 5 or 6 pounder on the bank.

Uncle… He was making all sorts of weird noises. Some of which are not repeatable in a family paper. But, kind of on the idea that every now and then even a blind squirrel finds a nut. However, he did finally say, “Nice fish.”

Now, I have just about used up all of my space for this week. So, I will not get to that bit about the lures and the flies. So, stay tuned until next week, I will talk about those then.

But, hey, it’s the E.U.P. It’s April. It is Trout Season. It just plain doesn’t get any better than this. So, grab that kid, get off that couch, and get outdoors this week in the EUP.