Remembering when trout season had an opening day

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June 15th, 2018, 12:26 pm #1


Remembering when trout season had an opening day
by Bill Cochran at the Roanoke Times | Apr 3, 2018


It is going to look like a re-enactment of opening day of the trout season Saturday along 20 streams and impoundments, mostly in the western portion of Virginia. Called Trout Heritage Day, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will close for stocking a sampling of its 180-put-and-take trout waters and reopen them to fishing 9 a.m. Saturday.

Included are Tinker Creek in Roanoke, Jennings Creek in Botetourt County and Liberty Lake in Bedford County.

You don’t have to search far to find people who still prefer the old opening-day format, which they believe was more family friendly because it gave everybody an equal chance at the trout.

Virginia went to a year-round season in 1996, following a survey that claimed 73 percent of the fishing-license buyers preferred a fishery with no beginning or end.

While it is evident that the majority of trout fishermen prefer the year-round season, you aren’t likely to find many of the estimated 4,000-to 5,000-participants of Trout Heritage Day voting that way. When opening day got the ax, a lot of the excitement for many people was gone. There no longer was a special date to be circled on the calendar.

On the other side, those who favored the trout season taking on eternal life were saying, “Thank God,” — no more tangle of traffic, tangle of fishing lines and tangle of nerves.

DGIF officials said opening day crowds were getting out of hand, landowners were denying access to streams on their property because of blocked gates and litter.

According to a faded clipping of a newspaper column I wrote, I spent the last opening day on Jennings Creek, where water spills off the timbered ridges of the national forest to form a deep, green pool at Arcadia that had attracted 62 fisherman.

That’s where I met a man from Roanoke who had been fishing that spot on opening day for 28 years.

He had taken a different approach on the final first day. Rather than fish, he stood on high ground above the stream and videotaped the action, while shouting encouragement to the anglers below him, many of whom he knew.

“You don’t migrate to the same place at the same time for 28 years without developing a comradeship with like-minded celebrants,” he told me.

Then he shouted encouragement to a friend.

“His daddy brought us up here when we were kids,” he told me.

It was difficult for the man to believe that 73 percent of fishermen in the DGIF survey wanted to end opening day. He did a survey of his own. Cupping his hands to his mouth, he shouted, “How many of you would rather opening day stay like it is?”

Hands popped up everywhere.

“Where does this 73 percent come from?” one fisherman shouted back.

A few minutes prior to the 9 a.m. opening, someone asked, “Anybody got the time?”

“Close enough,” said another fisherman, dropping his bait into the water. It was like waving the green flag at a NASCAR race. There was a sudden blur of action as a rain of worms, Power Bait, salmon eggs, minnows, night crawlers, corn, spinners and marshmallows hit the water. Half of them disappeared into the gaping mouth of trout.

About then, a Botetourt County deputy sheriff showed up, the blue and red lights on his patrol car flashing.

“Don’t you know the season doesn’t start until 9?” he shouted to the fishermen who were impaling trout onto their stringers. His digital watch showed the time to be 8:56 a.m.

“Come on fellows, put them [fish]back in,” said the deputy. “I don’t want to have to get you all out of the creek and check your pockets.”

One angler watched his trophy brook trout swim away, estimating it to weigh 3 pounds.

“I thought about taking the ticket; I honestly did,” he lamented.

Someone reminded him that he wouldn’t have to wait for the season to open in the future, but that didn’t seem to ease his pain.



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