For fishing fanatics in the Northeast, it’s hard to beat the anticipation of early Spring. Winter is finally releasing it’s icy grip on the woods and water, and the sun shines a little brighter and warmer with each passing day. For many anglers, the warming weather signals the time to get their fishing gear in order, in anticipation of the ending of the Spring runoff and the first outing of the season.
As a diehard fishermen myself, I know the feeling of anticipation well. But unlike many other anglers, I don’t necessarily wait around for the nice weather. I get out to fish here and there as Winter allows, but as soon as the calendar reads “Spring”, I really start to hit the water hard.
There is a period of time every year we fishermen refer to as “pre-runoff fishing”. This is the time of year that begins in early Spring when the temperatures begin to creep over the freezing mark during the day consistently enough to thaw the frozen stretches of our rivers, and to cause just the slightest bit of melting in the afternoons. It varies year to year, but typically this period occurs beginning around mid-March and lasts until mid-April in my neck of the woods.
Pre-runoff fishing can be some of the better fishing of the entire season. The slightest increases in water temperatures often trigger fish to begin feeding aggressively, and after a long, lean winter, trout are often willing to eat a whole host of offerings. Streamers and nymphs dominate, but a warm sunny day can trigger some excellent hatches of midges and early stoneflies.
That being said, the fishing can be inconsistent. Cold-fronts, snow, rain, and excessive snow-melt will drop water temps and shut fish off like flipping a light switch.
I think because of the potential for inconsistent fishing along with cold weather. many anglers seem to forgo this time of the year. Sure I see a few people on the warm sunny days, and opening week of fishing season in Maine (April 1-7) may see a crowd, but in general most people seem to stay home and wait for better weather.
As a full-time fishing guide this a double-edged sword. Lack of crowds is nice for my own personal fishing, but boy I wish I had more folks interested in a guided trip. Fishing season in New Hampshire is open all winter, and come March things really start to get interesting. There are wade options for big rainbows and browns, and even early season float trip options for folks looking to throw streamers for that brown trout of a lifetime.
In Maine, the season opens April 1st, and there can be some great brook trout fishing right from the get-go. It might be cold, but the fishing can be a lot better than waiting until the summer when things have become too warm for the fish…
I encourage anglers not to overlook this time of the year. Yes, it can be hard to predict what conditions will be like, and yes, it can be very cold at times, but for those of you who are willing to make the effort to brave the elements, I promise you some of the best fishing of the season awaits.
As I write this , the pre-runoff season has ended. Rain and snowmelt have swollen the rivers and streams to flood-stage, and it will be a week or so before things settle down again and we are back to waiting for the nice weather. Next year, don’t forget about the early season fishing. Give me a call, you’re missing out…