By the time the Minnesota stream trout fishing season opened last year, many anglers already had logged plenty of fishing time on area lakes.
Thanks to an exceptionally mild winter, the ice went out of south-central Minnesota lakes in early March, a full month earlier than usual.
But even if winter-weary anglers got to scratch their open water fishing itch early, many still lined the banks of the St. Peter trout ponds, elbow-to-elbow, when the traditional mid-April stream trout fishing season opened.
After all, there just aren’t very many places in this part of Minnesota where one can angle for trout.
So it ought not to come as a surprise that the trio of ponds, which really are dug-out sections of spring-fed Paul’s Creek and the site some 60 years ago of a trout hatchery, are such a popular destination.
The area located northeast of St. Peter on Le Sueur County Road 23 (the Ottawa Road) once again will be stocked with rainbow trout trucked from the DNR’s cold water hatchery near Lanesboro, just in time for Saturday’s opener.
According to Scott Mackenthun, assistant supervisor at the Department of Natural Resources Waterville Hatchery, 1,500 yearling rainbows weighing about a half-pound each are scheduled to stocked in the ponds Friday.
To sustain fishing opportunities, additional trout stockings will be done later, Mackenthun said, with another 1,500 on April 19, 1,000 more on May 3, and a final stocking of 1,000 fish on May 17.
Hatchery trout, fresh off the truck can be easy to catch. But can and be are the operative words here.
In such a clear water environment, light lines, small hooks, small split-shot and bobbers, sometimes none at all, will tip the odds in anglers’ favor.
Crappie minnows typically are the favorite live bait. However, worms, wax worms, spikes, even a pinch of Velveeta cheese rolled into a pea-sized ball or a kernel of sweet corn slipped onto a hook can trip a trout’s trigger at times.
Anglers preferring to use artificial hardware usually toss small spinners. Variations of artificial, soft, flavored baits of the “Gulp” variety that resemble fish eggs also can work well.
Artificial flies also can produce. However, given the size of crowds around the ponds early on, chances are greater for catching a fellow angler rather than a trout.
Of course, catching fish is never a sure thing and sometimes, even hatchery trout can be as finicky as, well, trout.
Consider last year: After a hiatus of several years, a friend and I joined the opening day party, confident we at least would catch enough trout for an evening meal, if not our five-fish-limits, in short order.
Four hours later, in spite of everyone else catching trout around us and having tried a variety of baits, we didn’t score a single fish.
On the other hand, a fellow just a few yards down the bank was casting an artificial bait, catching a scrappy trout on virtually every retrieve.
We did our best to sneak a peak at his magical lure, to no avail.
I’m still wondering just exactly what that fellow was using.
Gotta’ get me one, whatever it was.
John Cross is a Free Press staff writer, Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at email@example.com.