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Opening Weekend, 2021

The "catch and kill" opener is about as close trout fishing gets to deer camp. To be honest, I don't love opening day but there is something compelling about the craziness of opening day. Being mostly a catch and release angler, the opener really just means more people on the stream, at least for a bit. Call me selfish, I guess.

A Driftless stream - post 2018 flood. The stream has a liberal bag limit and I had it to myself.

But I felt compelled to fish for a bit on opening day. First, holy cow was is windy. If every day were that windy, there might be no such thing as fly fishing. I guess I needed to look at the forecast a bit more closely as the wind caught me a bit by surprise. I must have been fixated on the 87*F high temperature forecast.

I got out for a bit more than an hour and did just fine including one pretty nice fish on my CDC and Elk dry fly. Better yet, it was a nice Brown Trout tucked into a pretty tight corner that was hard to get a fly to - particularly with the wind as it was. It was above the 12 inch maximum size limit on that stream which is sort of my benchmark for a good fish in the Driftless. I call that an opening day win.

I was in no great hurry to get out so maybe I missed the craziness of opening day. I had meat to pick up so I had a built-in reason to head east and fish the coulees. I headed up to St. Brigid's Meadows, picked up meat for the next couple of months, a headed down the hill along a small Coon Creek tributary and then up highway P to experience the craziness. To my surprise, it was less crowded than it had been during most early season weekends. I started fishing at about 11:30 AM and was back to the car a bit after 1 PM. Last year, I was out earlier in the day and there were a lot more people out.

Maybe I missed the opening day craziness? I was a bit disappointed that I missed the craziness of opening day. There is something about opening day. It is good to see young and old out fishing. To see the mix of people who have driven for hours and those that are minutes from home.

Fishing the Internet

A bit of wandering around the interwebs showed that plenty of people were out trout fishing. In any year, opening weekend represents a significant amount of the annual angling effort and harvest. It is hard to find good data on how much effort and harvest - but I know the La Crosse fisheries crew was out conducting creel surveys opening day. Pennsylvania surveyed their stocked trout streams in 2005 and found that over 20% of trips occurred on opening weekend (source). Numbers are pretty similar in Wisconsin. On Wisconsin's Onion River, a 2003 creel survey showed that opening weekend was 27.8% of angler effort and 56.4% of the angler effort occurred in May (source). Fifty-three percent of the harvest occurred over opening weekend and over three-quarters of the harvest (78%) occurred in May. In Bob Hunt's studies of Lawrence Creek in the 1960's, he found that most trips and harvest occurred in the first week of the then shorter season (source). That does not seem to change much - the average trout angler does not fish that often. But they pay the same money for a trout stamp as those that are out all season long.

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