WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Opening Day not even a shadow of its former self

On Opening Day of the 2023 trout season, many local trout anglers were AWOL (Absent Without Leave).

Seriously, it had to be the least attended Opening Day for trout fishing I have ever seen in all of my years in the outdoors.

I figured I’d spend the morning checking all of the local hot spots to see how the trout fishermen were making out, and the best word I can use for it is “disappointing.”

Black Pond was the biggest disappointment, although all of my stops were in that category.

Over the years, Opening Day for trout season on Black Pond would find vehicles parked out on the road leading to the boat launch. If you did not get there early, you were out of luck.

Edna and I took a ride the Friday evening to Black Pond and there was very little activity other than a couple of cartop crafts cruising the water.

When I returned about 9:30 Saturday morning, there were three boats on the water and three DEEP Conservation officers getting ready to launch their own boat, but for a more serious reason than checking fishermen for licenses.

As I drove down the road to the boat ramp I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. It looked like there was a huge light-colored object in the water in front of the handicapped fishing spot!

There was plenty of room in the boat launch parking lot and, as I got there, I knew my eyes were not playing tricks on me.

It was a boat — and a very big one at that — grounded in front of the handicapped fishing spot and tilted on its side as if it had taken on some water.

Now, when I say “big,” I mean really huge! It had an inboard engine and was well over 20 feet in length.

All of the identification numbers had been taken off, so you would have to figure it was taken to Black Pond simply to dump it. I would also wonder how a watercraft that big could go unnoticed before being dumped into Black Pond.

One also has to wonder if such an atrocity would have happened if we still had a regular Opening Day for trout here in Connecticut, when there would be anxious trout anglers in the boat launch area all night long.

The fact that the discarded boat was where it was had something to do with the lack of anglers on Black Pond, and it was plain and simple that the soft opening experienced for Opening Day this year did take away the usual excitement of Opening Day.

Later that afternoon, I took another ride to Black Pond. There were no boats on the water and the abandoned boat was still blocking any fishing from the handicapped ramp.

And where were the trout anglers?

To say that I was shocked by the whole scenario would be a gross understatement. Has the COVID-19 pendemic taken away the excitement and anticipation of all Opening Days now and in the years to come? I, for one, hope not.

Then I drove by Baldwin Pond. Prior to April 8, I had seen a couple of trout anglers, but on Opening Day there were only three fishing from the area of the dam.

Continuing on my angler checking run, I proceeded up to Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park. Over the years, all I ever heard from adult fishermen was that they “wished they could fish Mirror Lake,” but it was only for children 15 years and younger to fish.

So I went to our Meriden City Council and asked them to change the rules allowing adults to fish Mirror Lake as long as they had a child fishing with them. This was granted, and then even more leeway was given when senior citizens were permitted to fish Mirror Lake.

Then the State DEEP Inland Fisheries stepped in and wanted to make Mirror Lake a community fishing spot. The Meriden Councilors again agreed and the DEEP began stocking the lake with trout and catfish.

On Saturday, there were only two fishermen at Mirror Lake. One of them was Dwain Breedlove, who is an ardent carp fisherman at Mirror Lake.

Breedlove has a different way of carp fishing and I would bet that he would share it with you if asked. He returns all the fish he catches back to the water, so the Opening Day had no effect on him.

Next on my fishing stops was the Quinnipiac River. Usually, Opening Day will find a number of trout fishermen on the river anxiously awaiting the opening hour. Not this time, I saw only two trout fishermen on the entire river.

A couple of my outdoor buddies, Kyle and Brayden Cooney, did quite well while fishing the Mill River.

I also heard that Wharton Brook Trout Park was quite active. The reason for this is that anglers know it will be stocked on Opening Day.

Some of the Meriden Rod & Gun Club anglers made the trip to the Salmon River in an attempt to rekindle old Opening Day memories. The report came back that it was, ‘Alright, but not like the old days.”

And, sorry to say, just about all of the trout anglers I talked to said they missed the anticipation and excitement of Opening Day. One of the main gripes I got was the fact that many thought that the trout action would be slow because so many of them were hooked and released.

Or were they?

I do know that the DEEP Inland Fisheries is doing its best to increase fishing pleasure for everyone, but maybe in some instances change is not better. Only time will tell.

See ya and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.


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