I can't remember the last time we got skunked on trout in March. Of course, early on we fished in California, and now we fish lakes in Eastern Washington, but there's no question that, as soon as ice goes out and regulations permit, you can do extremely well on trout even before the usual April to May stream season opener.
To do so you need three things. First, you need to know which order the bodies of water in your area get hot. Second, you need to modify summer tackle and techniques to suit cold water and, of course, pay attention to water temperatures that determin trout activities. Third, you need to fish the right time of day.
Lakes and streams almost always peak and
wane in the same order even though their hot dates vary by weather,
snowpack or rainfall and other conditions. So if you check on last
year's fishing reports you can plot this year's results. Just make sure
that when you read lake A was hot last weekend, you turn up at Lake B
that will be hot next. Yesterday's reports are otherwise only good for
the bottom of the parrot cage.
There are a few general rules to help plan. For example lower elevation lakes usually warm faster than higher elevation lakes. Shallow lakes warm faster than deep waters. Lakes with good open exposure to the south fed by streams that drain south-facing watersheds warm fastest. You get th ideal.
Bait works better when water's too cold or too hot. If you insist on lures look for those that work when fished slowly. However, you'll do best with slow trolled worms, or baits fished at lake inlets -- to catch spawning and post spawn species -- or at outlets. As water generally warms as it moves through lakes you will find outlets productive.
The most effective system for boaters is to doubtless slow troll worms or, where legal, minnows. Leeches, it should be noted, don't work well in waters colder than 50 degrees. Try the shallows first, and in particular black or dark bottom shallows that warm fastest. If you lake's extremely cold, try areas arond springs that might, in fact be warmer. These are, of course, the best spots for summer too.
Bank anglers should consider points that tend to contentrate fish. Other good spring areas include trolling hot spots and quiet open coves with rock banks that warm in the sun.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
When waters are below those prefered by your target species -- for trout this means 40 degrees or so -- you need to fish shen and where the water's are warmest. In the spring this means from about two in the afternoon to dusk. In the summer, of course, you should fish at first light when water temperatures are minimal. Of course, if you do fish during the day brown trout may be crusing shade. So always troll or cast on the shady side of the rocks.