Except for brooks and streams broad-shouldered with runoff, there were few opportunities for anglers to wet a line yesterday, the start of Maine’s open-water fishing season. Nevertheless, anglers addicted to trolling are making ready for spring fishing on lakes and ponds by fussing with boats, motors, trailers and tackle. To take up the slack, then, let’s compare notes on what it is that makes fishing on the heels of ice-out so special.
Seriously, what is it that compels us to launch boats on lakes cluttered with shards of honeycombed ice? Why is it that we think ice forming in the bait bucket is special? Likewise, sewing smelts on with fingers cold as icicles. And why do we say things are “just right” when a cutting wind is churning the lake into a white-capped “salmon chop” that would prompt the Coast Guard to issue small craft warnings? Obviously, there’s more to spring fishing than the chance of hooking, say, a hit-and-run salmon whose silvery flanks are tarnished because the water’s so cold the fish hasn’t cleaned off.
The way I see it, spring fishing is special when my winter-chilled outboard coughs on the first pull, starts on the second, then trolls down to where I can count the strokes of the pistons. The same goes for deciding on whether to start the season with a tandem-hook Gray Ghost or Nine-Three. And what’s more special than going ashore to stretch your legs and brew a potful of hobo coffee over an open fire? Allowing that you’ve been there done that, you know Warren Buffett couldn’t buy it.
For those reasons and more, it’s safe to say that spring fishing is a touchstone for those of us who began fishing when boats were canvas-covered and we were as young as the season at hand and thought we always would be.