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PAUL SMITH: Springtime Trout in Newfoundland and Florida

Me and Rory trouting — carrying on a great NL tradition.
Me and Rory trouting — carrying on a great NL tradition. - Goldie Smith photo

Springtime is wonderful for fishing, both here in Newfoundland and Labrador and in America’s Sunshine State, Florida.

This is our favourite fish by a Newfoundland mile.
This is our favourite fish by a Newfoundland mile.

But here in Newfoundland, right now, we aren’t permitted by law to fish for our native brook trout.

Mud trout, as many of us call them, are the assumed target species when we use the term trouting as a verb. They don’t say trouting in many places outside of this rock in the ocean. They go trout fishing. I think trouting speaks to the extent that this fantastic outdoor experience is engrained in our Island and Labrador culture.

I so looked forward to fishing with my dad as soon as the ice melted from our lakes, ponds, and gullies. Do you recall bundles of bamboo poles stored outside just about every little town store from St. Anthony to Pouch Cove? Trouting is in our heritage. There’s no trouting in Florida. But they do have amazing trout fishing.

It troubles me that our trouting season closes from April 15 to May 15. This month of conservation was introduced quite a while ago when anglers voiced concern over dwindling brook trout stocks.

It was good that authorities heard grass-root concerns and heeded them. But I’m not so sure we still need a spring break for the good of the trout stocks.

They are so tasty.
They are so tasty.

Most anglers I talk to think that it is unnecessary in the present context. Angling pressure for mud trout has dropped exponentially in the last few decades. This is particularly true amongst the younger generation. You hardly ever see kids trouting anymore.

When I was growing up all my friends went trouting in springtime.

You know what? I see kids going fishing in Florida, just like it used to be here in Newfoundland. They go pedaling along on their bikes with rods and bait-buckets, geared up for some pier or beach fishing. It’s refreshing to see.

I think that absence of kids angling here might have something to do with the mid-April to mid-May closure. Spring is a magical time. The brooks are gurgling with winter run-off, trees and plants are waking up, and we began to feel the rejuvenation of the sun. I know it was for me when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait to buy one of those bamboo poles and get in by the side of a pond with my buddies. And besides that, there was the fishing with my father. He loved early spring fishing. That meant a lot of quality outdoor time for me.

If that ban would have been enacted in the 60’s I would have experienced a very different childhood. I know there are many different factors that influence kid’s outdoor life nowadays. It’s not just a spring break on trout fishing.

Kevin McKenna with a double hookup on Florida Trout. — Barry Grady photo
Kevin McKenna with a double hookup on Florida Trout. — Barry Grady photo

But hey, if we don’t need that ban for conservation let’s get rid of it. What do you all think?

If I were permitted I’d be taking my grandkids trouting over the Easter school break. Maybe lots of other kids would go fishing too.

I know, I can take them fishing after May 15, there’s lots of time. Maybe, but a month of lost opportunity is a lot. There’s tons of other stuff to do. Lots of parents and kids may have lost the gurgling brook urge by that time, and the flies will be out. This is a slow time of year for outdoor stuff and I wish I could take the kids fishing now. How about you?

And I wouldn’t mind going trouting myself. A fry of mud trout would be a nice treat for Good Friday.

Remember I mentioned my injured arm a few weeks back? Well, this is also the first May I won’t be spending in Florida in quite a few years. There’s a new grandchild on the way and Goldie and I would not miss out on that for all the sunshine and sand in the world.

So I was hoping to get in some springtime trout fishing Newfoundland-style. I’ve been catching plenty of those Florida trout. Now I’m just hoping that I’m healed enough to reel in a few pan-sized trout by May 15.

I’ve missed that. I certainly would not be able to handle the Florida fishing this May. A burley snook would no doubt re-rupture my tendon.

Even some of those Florida trout would be risky.

Barry Grady with a Whopper. I have to get my arm strength back.
Barry Grady with a Whopper. I have to get my arm strength back.

Before I sign off this week let me explain what Florida trout fishing is all about. It’s a great species to start on, with either hardware — bait, or fly — and it’s the critter of choice for many of the kids I’ve talked to. The season is open all year around.  

That’s amazing for kids and parents alike. Florida tends to limit retention as opposed to taking away time on the water opportunity. I have to say, the Sunshine State knows how to manage recreational angling. They have well thought out slot-size regulations as well. And they respond quickly and wisely to conservation concerns.

The spotted sea trout is not technically a trout at all. It’s a member of the drum family and can run anywhere from two to 15-lbs.

They fight like crazy and are relatively easy to catch compared to snook, red fish, or tarpon, a great fish for beginners to get salty in the south. They are found on just about any shallow grassy flat anywhere in Florida, estuaries, rivers, virtually any inshore waterway. There’s wicked fishing at nighttime around docks with lights. Another time I’ll give more details on going about catching them.

Oh, and Florida trout make for amazing fishcakes. My southern brother Barry Grady has the best recipe.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock.

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