DEP Stocking Program Bait Fishing
Native Trout Lure Fishing
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The DEP Stocking Program

    Thanks to popular stocking programs, Connecticut has its fair share of blue ribbon trout streams.  The Department of Environmental Protection Fisheries Division raises approximately 800,000 trout to be stocked into public fishing waters.  These trout fall into two categories.  The first are the yearlings, which average between six and eight inches long.  The second category is the adults, which go from nine to twelve inches long.  According to the DEP, the most suitable trout for the majority of Connecticut's waters is the brown trout.  Browns make up about 65% of hatchery-raised trout.  Rainbows consist of about 20%, and brook trout about 15%. Criteria for areas stocked are as follows:
    1.) All waters that are open to public fishing.
    2.) All waters that are suitable for trout to live in.

    In early March each year, the stocking of Connecticut waters begins.  It is completed by the end of May.  An astonishing 308 rivers and 82 lakes and ponds are filled with healthy, hungry trout.  The larger lakes and streams will receive an additional stocking during the season, but about 60% of the stocking is completed before opening day.  20 lakes and 18 rivers are stocked a third time for fall fishing (which can be an excellent time to go!)  The DEP provides an interesting annual report of the previous year's distribution so you can check out how many trout your favorite fishing hole received.  Click here to see how to order a copy .

    There are enough trout stocked each year for everyone to have at least a couple of maximum limit days.  Taking too many fish is a problem for conservation officers and ruins chances for other anglers, especially parents taking their kids out for a day's fishing.  The daily Connecticut trout limit is 5 and I think that's a reasonably liberal limit.  Respect the laws and think courteously of others before you pocket more trout than needed.  For more rules and regulations on trout, please contact the Connecticut Angler's Guide.

Native Trout

    Connecticut has its fair share of native trout.  The native trout are dominated by the brook trout, which occurs in many streams across the state.  In some locations, there are enough brook trout, or "brookies", to provide for some excellent fishing.  These fish range in size from 3 to 10 inches, although I have caught some beautiful fish up to 14 inches long.  Commonly called "natives", the brookies are a challenge for every angler, not because of a finicky appetite or their size, but because of the stealth needed to approach a good fishing hole.  Brookies are very spooky by nature and will dart to the nearest available cover if they suspect your presence.  Care must be taken to avoid casting a shadow or sending too much vibration through the ground when approaching the streambank.

    When I was growing up, I fished countless roadside streams as well as deep-wooded creeks and rivers and caught a countless amount of these small wonders.  Sadly, I report that the brook trout population of Connecticut is on the decline.  These places where I taught myself how to approach a trout stream and present a bait naturally in the flow of a river are gradually dying out of brook trout.  15 to 20 fish days that were once common to me have been replaced with a lucky cast to the right spot that may produce a fish.  Trees provide the shade to cool the water to temeratures that brook trout can live in, that would otherwise become too warm in many waters. Therefor, construction and removal of woodland contributes to the decline of the brookies.  Stocking hatchery-raised trout in waters inhabited by the brook trout adds to competition for food, thus contributing to the decimation as well.

    Regardless of the amout of decline of the fish, there are some excellent rivers, small streams, and brooks that can provide top notch brook trout fishing.  Many of these brooks are hidden away in the woods.  You can ask local bait and tackle stores for specific directions off of the ones in this link.  Unfortunately, many of these spots flow through private land.  A good idea is to ask the landowners if you can fish on their property (you'll notice you'll have more success asking to fish than to hunt!)

    Brookies will suprise you in some of the places that they turn up.  I've been netting shiners in small back-factory brooks and had a brookie turn up in the mess.  If you're out looking for native fish on your own, you should keep a few things in mind.  As a rule, brookies need very clean water to survive.  They are pollutant-intolerant fishes that thrive in cold, fresh water.  Flowing water with nice, deep, shady pools and undercut banks are prime brook trout habitat.  Check to see if there is an abundance of insects in and around the brook, for that will be their most common food.

    Brookies can be caught on a huge variety of lures and baits.  As long as you can get to the streambank without spooking them, you are almost guaranteed a fish, provided they are there.  I have a two-step way of catching natives that I consider absolutely fool-proof .  When I sneak up to a good-looking pool, I cast a small Rooster-tail spinner right down through the middle of the pool.  Select a brown-trout or white and brown color.   90% of the time, I'll hit an active fish right off the bat.  If not, I cast to any structure in the pool.  If I still don't entice a strike, its time for bait.   Hands down, the best bait for brookies is the lowly worm.  Use a whole worm or a piece of a crawler.  You really can't go wrong with this common bait.  Depending on the current, add a sinker.  I usually start with a BB sized sinker.  You only want to use a sinker that's heavy enough to ride the bait down the river's bottom.  This simple 1-2 punch will catch you more fish than all other methods combined, less dynamite!

    Connecticut also has some native browns, most are sea-run.  These fish can reach a real nice size and have spectacular spawning coloration. The larger rivers, such as the Connecticut and the Housatonic sport good runs each year.  Check out the tributaries that flow into the larger rivers.  They usually have smaller native browns in them. have their share of sea-run browns.  Cast bronze spoons and spinners for these fiesty migrants.  Salmon eggs and spawn sacs are good ideas for bait fishing.

    One thing I do and encourage others to do as well is to let these native fish go.  Keep only enough for one meal at a time.  A native population is very fragile and delicate.  Keeping all the big fish you catch will undoubtedly hurt the breeding population.  The fish won't necessarily become extinct from the river, but the river will be hurt as far as good fishing is concerned.

Bait Fishing

    Connecticut trout fisherman enjoy a key advantage fishing for these species: Most of them are stocked.  In the early season, trout are still used to being hatchery-fed.  In the hatcheries, they are fed pellets their whole lives.  This is important to remember when selecting baits.  In the early season (the first few weeks) the trout will be looking for anything that resembles their long time food.  Corn, salmon eggs, small marshmellows, and noodles make some good bait, especially in slow moving rivers.  Don't be misled, they will take natural baits as well.  I find that mealworms work the best, with garden worms and nightcrawlers a close second.  You will want to fish the most unused baits in the area you're fishing.  I've been fishing next to 5 or 6 other guys, all using worms, corn, or lures and all of a sudden I'm yanking out one trout after another on salmon eggs.

    One thing you have to remember about hatchery-raised fish is that they may seem easy to catch early on, but they adapt to fishing pressure very quickly.  In a few short weeks, the remaining trout will become very suspicious of their diet.  You'll start to see more follows and less strikes.  Its time now to switch to more natural-looking baits.  Use the river to your advantage.  Put on anything you find that will fit on a hook.  Any larvae, beetles, grasshoppers, minnows, or amphibians will be what the trout are now feeding on.  They will be looking for these bits more and more.

    Cast a bait upstream with just enough weight to keep it near the bottom.  Let the bait drift naturally downstream.  Yes, yes, you'll run into a lot of snags like this but its a good tactic for the ol' trout.  I use a #6 hook for bait fishing and make sure you keep them sharp!  You can feel when a trout picks up your bait if you're alert.  Watch your line for a sudden pull or twitch.  Bigger trout will head into a slower part of the stream to digest if they don't feel they're hooked.  If you suspect a hit, set the hook with authority for you have to go through rod, line, current, and fish.

    Personally, all my trophy fish have come from fishing for yearling and adult trout.  But if you're all about catching trophy trout, hit some of the larger rivers with unorthodox baits.  Remember, these fish have seen everthing in a Cabelas' catalogue and more.  Big browns are suckers for a crayfish or frogs struggliing on a hook.  Fish the later part of the day, right up until its dark out.  Many trophy fish are taken immediately after dark on live bait or crayfish.  I don't fish specifically for trophies in rivers, but a few guys I know dedicate countless hours to these big, bad baits.  They have nice displays of trophies on their walls.

Lure Fishing

    Lure fishing accounts for about 75% of my fishing in the first two weeks of the season.  Trout are fiesty and active toward fast moving baits.  When selecting lures, anything that fits in a trout's mouth will probably draw a few strikes.  However, there is no doubt for me that the Rooster Tail is the king of early-season trout lures.  Its combination of flash, vibration, shape, and color is irresistable to trout.  These lures you can actually fish right through the season, as opposed to lures like the Phoebe and Al's Goldfish.  They are great for opening-day, but the fish just see too many of them and quickly become wise.
A Rooster Tail is a perfect imitation of a baitfish.  I carry a number of different colors with me to match the bait of a particular river.  Some streams will have dace, others will have chubs, and others yet will have shiners.  A great all around color is brown and white.  It resembles a number of different minnows.

    I like to cast these lures and retrieve them down the center of a pool.  Any active fish will usually jump on it right away.  If you don't have a fish or follow in a few casts, move on to the next pool.  These lures are great for covering a lot of river in a short amount of time.  You can always go back and fine-tune it with bait.

    Later in the season, when the water temp warms a bit,  I'm usually out after pike or largemouth and smallmouths, but I can usually squeeze in some trout fishing.  Rooster Tails are still good bets, however you will have to try different lures when even they don't work.  Small Rapalas are good and they add to your chances of catching bigger fish.  All I can say is experiment with small jigs, spoons, minnow-lures, and spinners.  Trout will become more and more finicky as the season progresses.  Regardless of the lure, cast across and upstream.  Retrieve your lure so it is coming down at you on an angle.  Occasionally, I'll let the lure just sit in the current and perform its action (a good method for brookies!).  Now's the time to do some fly-fishing for all you fly junkies!

Best Rivers
        River                            Town                                        CT Outdoorsman Comment
Farmington River Barkhamsted, New Hartford, Farmington, Burlington, Avon Excellent trout fishing year round. Great summer fly-fishn.
Blackberry River Norfolk, Cannan Big trout in early season, decent after. Stocked nice.
Housatonic River Cornwall, Salisbury, Cannan, Sharon Blue ribbon trout stream year round! Big 'bows and browns.
Macedonia Brook Kent Good mix of stock and native trout. Wooded scenery.
Mianus River Greenwich, Stamford Nice sea-run Browns. Big Baits.
Mill River Easton, Fairfield Big trout and charr in the spring.  Fish cold weather!
Salmon River Granby, East haddam Lots of stocked trout. Plenty of access.
Saugatuck River Danbury to Westport Good chance of 10lb.+ Atlantic Salmon. Stocked fall and winter.

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