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Fish Season Is Upon Us

Jay Peak's Stateside lodge, built in 1962, is slated to come down April 6 to make room for a new hotel a the northern Vermont resort. (Marty Basch photograph)

Jay Peak's Stateside lodge, built in 1962, is slated to come down April 6 to make room for a new hotel a the northern Vermont resort. (Marty Basch photograph)

For those of us who don’t ice fish, the best part of the year is coming. Fishing season opens Monday, which means that licensed anglers may now trod the banks of their favorite streams, ponds and lakes.

As the weather is still a bit chilly, not everyone rushes down to wet a line on opening day, so there is still plenty of time to get ready.

Boat owners like Dan Magoon know that maintenance is required before hitting the water.

Magoon is lucky enough to keep his boat in dry storage all winter, but that doesn’t mean he can avoid the work involved to prepare his craft for the lake or river.

The first thing to check on the boat is the battery. It can be recharged, but Magoon replaces the battery every year. He wants to avoid being stuck at the boat launch with an engine that won’t turn over.

Magoon also recommends starting the engine before heading to the lake.

For spring starting, boaters used to back the trailer up to a 55-gallon drum full of water, but that method is passe. Today all you need is an attachment that hooks up to the garden hose and the motor’s intake valve. This allows you to start the motor in your driveway or backyard.

The boat trailer should also be checked as well as the wheels. Rust spots should be sanded and repainted. Tires may need inflation and bearings can always use some grease. Tires on trailers stored outside can also suffer from dry rot.

Since Magoon likes to troll for several species, he also checks the rod holders to make sure they aren’t rusted out. Loose screw holes can be filled and the screws reset. Down riggers should also be checked and the mechanisms lubricated.

Next comes the tackle box. I never clean out my tackle at the end of the summer, so I have to sort through the tangled mess in April.

I always find dried bits of nightcrawler and power bait, so I end up throwing away everything that didn’t seem like trash last September.

Lures should also be cleaned to get rid of odors that might carry over from the previous year. Since fish choose their forage based primarily on smell, an unfamiliar, artificial scent may stop them from striking.

Magoon offers a tip for lure maintenance that I plan to use this year.

He hangs his lures in the dishwasher and runs them through a cycle. He finds that lures work better after a good cleaning.

Some anglers will sharpen the hooks on their lures each year. This is easily done with a file or a specially made honing device.

Experts find that sharpening a manufactured hook can mean the difference between losing or landing a fish, especially the big ones. I always mean to do this but never get around to it.

Changing the old line on reels is perhaps the most important part of preparing for fishing season. Frayed line can snap even when landing smaller fish. Also, kinked or limp line won’t cast as far or as true.

It can be difficult choosing which line to buy. Name-brand manufacturers tout the superiority of their lines over the generic brands.

My choice is always the generic. I have found that the off brands work just as good, sometimes better than, the big names. One of my favorite lines is called Ande. I have used it for many years for all sorts of fishing.

Magoon has a technique of changing line that saves him money. Since only half of the line is used for trolling, he will wind the old line onto a reel, thereby using the half that wasn’t touched the previous year.

Many anglers don’t know that the biggest threat to monofilament fishing line is sunlight.

During the fishing season I always have a rod in the car so the line on my reels is constantly exposed to the sun. I change the line on my reels at least twice a month, which is another reason I find the generic monofilament to be cost effective.

David Titus recommends braided line, especially for trolling. These lines are costly but they are also pliable and strong. They can be effective for pulling large fish out of cover.

The biggest mistake I see novice anglers making is loading up their rigs with too much, for lack of a better word, ‘bling’.

I came upon a fisherman one day who was using three split shot sinkers and a large snelled hook complete with a spinner. I wondered if he was trying to conk a trout on the head or maybe scare it into jumping out of the water.

The best fishing techniques almost always involve a simple presentation. Trout are more likely to grab a worm on a tiny hook. The worm should never be hooked in a wadded ball but allowed to drift freely in the water without any weight.

Two fish that I like to pursue in the spring are the eastern chain pickerel and the native brook trout.

Early in the season, the pickerel’s habitat is not choked with vegetation.

These areas can be fished with a spinner, crank bait or topwater lure. I’ve caught so many pickerel in the spring that it can become boring.

Native brookies are also a great treat on light line. They can be found in almost any stream that features deep pools or a beaver bog where the beavers are active.

Fried whole in butter, they are a delicacy that’s more tasty than stockers.

Of course, the best tip I can offer for opening day is to watch for the Fish and Game stocking truck and then fish in that general area.

Got a tip or story that’s, er, mostly true. Email Coleman at stokecoles@gmail.com