WOODS ‘N’ WATER: It’s a new look, but it’s still Opening Day

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: It’s a new look, but it’s still Opening Day


While tomorrow, April 8, starts the official “Catch & Keep” Opening Day of trout fishing in most bodies of water in Connecticut, it somehow has lost some of its luster.

Blame it on the COVID-19 pendemic.

Back when the world was under the ugly cloud of COVID-19, Gov. Ned Lamont put some opening day regulations on the back burner in an effort to get more folks outside and away from crowded rooms and the chance of getting COVID-19.

This was a good move because I did see more folks using the great outdoors and, in particular, fishing to pass the time of day because many of them were now at home with time on their hands.

Many businesses took a heck of a hit during this period of our lives and many are still struggling to get back on some type of normalcy in our world.

Over the past couple of years, some things have changed and some have not. The Opening Day of what we know as trout season is now changed. Some like it and some do not.

While I truly recognize why it was changed and accept it, I feel for those new anglers who will not experience the excitement of an old-fashioned Opening Day.

Before the pendemic, many trout anglers would show up at their favorite fishing spot early, before the 6 a.m. start, to ensure their favorite fishing hole. Some of them even camped out on the evening before Opening Day. The excitement was almost like a kid waiting for Christmas.

I guess you could say it is a “Soft Opening Day,” and while some will wish the old Opening Day was back, others I have talked to have adjusted to the change.

The reason I call it a “Soft Opening Day” is the fact that from the beginning of March, when the main trout fishing used to close until Opening Day, Connecticut trout anglers were allowed this year to fish for trout “catch-and-release-unharmed” back into the waters in which they were caught.

I had a talk with Vennie Mangiaracina from the Fishin’ Factory on the Meriden/Waterbury Road in Southington (860-621-8145) and she said they will stay open at least until 8 p.m. tonight, April 7, and reopen at 6 a.m. on Saturday. They will also open at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Over the years, the Fishin’ Factory has been my favorite tackle shop for just about any of my fishing needs, whether it was fresh or salt water. Before Opening Day, they would stay open day and night to serve the anglers in need of last minute gear and bait.

Like I said earlier, just about everyone has a favorite spot for Opening Day. Your old outdoors writer was no different, although I did move around the state trying different spots for the trout opener.

One that was a huge favorite of many local fly fishermen was the Salmon River above the covered bridge off Route 16 on the Colchester/East Hampton line, but even that had changed over the years.

You could fish catch and release there until Opening Day, and the Meriden gang used to make it a fishing/picnic outing. The guys would show up with all kinds of game and domestic fare to munch on after they were done fishing. Year after year, it never changed until many of the group passed away and it simply ended.

Black Pond on the Meriden/Middlefield line has always been a local favorite for many trout anglers, with many of them using cartop boats, kayaks and canoes because you cannot use any gas motors on Black Pond, although electric trolling motors are allowed.

Black Pond is another spot that some anglers spend the night to ensure a fishing spot, especially the shoreline anglers. And regarding change: Black Pond will NEVER be the same without Eddie Holmes and his Black Pond Boat Livery and Bait House.

Higganum Reservoir in Haddam was also a favorite for Opening Day. I was told about it by an old fishing buddy and co-worker at the L. Suzio companies, Ken Statske, and had some memorable times fishing there with Ken and Nelson and Wes Flannigan.

Sad to say, I also witnessed the thoughtlessness of some fishermen at Higganum Reservoir. I had a two of my sons, Keith and George, fishing with me and they had found a honey hole for trout in the feeder stream that emptied into the reservoir. There were two gents in a canoe and when they saw the kids were into catching some trout, the two buffoons paddled right into their casting area.

I finally convinced them to leave when I cast a couple of lures into their canoe.

And, of course, there is my old favorite the Quinnipiac River. In my travels up and down the river during the month of March, I saw very little fishing activity, so it might be a good bet to give it a try tomorrow on Opening Day.

Also in our area is the Trout Park at Wharton Brook on the Wallingford/North Haven line. This body of water is heavily stocked with trout and has a TWO TROUT limit. It is a great place to take a kid fishing.

QRWA stocking

Pete Picone, a DEEP Wildlife Biologist and member of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association, has informed me that the QRWA will be stocking the Quinnipiac River on Tuesday, April 11. If interested, meet at Red Bridge at 5 p.m.

The trout stocking will consist of all trophy trout. They will be released at a few spots on the river.

Some of the trout will have tags in them that will give the catcher an extra reward.

And get this: There is a 26-inch rainbow trout named “Big Mike” by Pete Picone, and its tag will give the lucky recipient a 50 dollar bill. Anyone catching a tagged trout is asked to contact Pete Picone at 860-919-7236.

This is a good opportunity to give the kids a chance to have a hand at stocking some big trout. The trout stocking is taking place through the generosity of the Klein Family Trust and was obtained by QRWA member Bill Barry.

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, and I hope you all have a great Opening Day of trout season.