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01/18/2023 08:27 AM

Fishing Wild Trout Management Areas

Brilliant colored brook trout (top) and trophy brown trout (bottom) are sought by anglers fishing Connecticut’s Class 1, Wild Trout Management Areas. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
The beginning stretch of the Tankerhoosen River is a gem of a Class 1 WTMA where wild brook and brown trout flourish. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan
Eightmile River is another example of a fine Class 1 WTMA, where quality brook and brown trout can be fished for and released year round. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

There is so much to be said for the family of trout and the dedicated anglers pursuing them. From the spring through the fall and throughout the winter months, these cold-blooded fish maintain a body temperature the same as their environment and are most at home in water temperatures of between 32-68 degrees. Although they can survive in warmer conditions, they will seek out cooler, more oxygen-rich water where they are less stressed, have a better survival rate, and thrive.

Rainbows are known for their acrobatics and telltale pink lateral stripe. Browns are revered for their tenacious fight and territorial defense of their space. Tigers are just tough hybrids. Other species, like the Dolly Varden and cutthroat, each have their own attributes that draw praise. Brook and brown trout are the only Connecticut renewable trout resource that has the ability to sustain populations by spawning on their own — thus, given the label of wild. However, it is for the brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis (a true char), that many trout anglers have great fondness.

Whether an angler casts an ultra-lite with a 1/24th ounce inline spinner, or a 4-5 weight fly rod and an elk hair caddis, the hookup of a 6 to 10 inch native brookie, or one the size of the state record of 9.2 pounds, 28 inches is memorable. Native to most of North America, east of the Mississippi and north of Georgia, native brook trout are found in many small, cold streams throughout the state and typically range from 4 to 6 inches.

The colors and markings of a native brookie are stunning! Their olive green sides, dotted with circles of yellow, orange, and blue halo, sets them apart from other trout. Fins of brilliant orange trimmed in black and white run from the pectorals to the caudal, topped by a mottled dorsal of black and burnt yellow-orange. According to the Department of Inland Fisheries, there are 28 Wild Trout Management Areas (WTMAs) divided into three distinct classes — 1, 2, or 3.

Class 1 consists of nine waters and are natural, supporting enough reproduction for year-round fishing, provided there is no harvest or stocking of hatchery fish. Regulations protect the population structure by requiring single barbless hooks and prohibiting the use of bait in favor of artificials. Fishing is permitted year round.

Class 2 consists of two waters and are enhanced WTMAs, comprising a section of river or stream with some natural reproduction and significant unused habitat. However, through stocking of juvenile and some adult brown trout, fishing pressure is eased and angling is supported. The creel limit in these waters is two fish at a minimum length of 12 inches. There are no gear restrictions, and fishing is allowed year-round.

Class 3 consists of 17 waters and are enhanced WTMAs, consisting of a river or stream with little natural reproduction and significant unused habitat. Because there is not enough natural reproduction to support fishing pressure, and juvenile brown trout (along with adult-sized fish) are stocked, angling is supported. The daily creel limit here is five fish at a minimum length of nine inches. There are no gear restrictions, and fishing is allowed year-round.

The lure of being alone on a secluded stream fishing for wild trout — especially a native brookie — is one of the all-time favorite adventures. Until one has cast, hooked, fought, admired, and released this true native char, one can only imagine the feeling of what it would be like. So, do a little research, uncover a few stretches of water, like the beginning of the Class 1 Tankerhoosen River or Eightmile River, where wild brook trout flourish, and proceed to meld with nature.

On The Water

High pressure built over northern New England then pushed offshore, replaced by a low-pressure system and associated warm front. It then moved north, followed by a cold front that brought mixed precipitation. High pressure from the west returned and remained before another frontal system approached mid-week prior to the weekend, with day temperatures settling in the mid-to-low 40’s. Long Island Sound saw a mix of gusty winds to 20 knots, seas around two feet or less, and water temperatures remaining in the low 40’s.

Although temperatures are edging more to winter and the mobile tree force is knocking down some really old trees post haste, preparing for potentially downed wires and loss of power, weather conditions still remain relatively mild for this time of year. Safe ice is at a premium in southern CT, while ice conditions vary throughout the state — mostly iffy unless headed north of I-95 into the far northwestern and northeastern corners of the nutmeg state.

At this point, open water is the place to be casting a line. A few fishers have been out in search of winter flounder, while others are looking to connect with striped bass that are working key tidal rivers for blue back herring and alewives, which are protected and off-limits to fishers. The main attraction continues to be the trout and salmon waters. Main rivers, like the Hammonasset, Salmon, Farmington, Housatonic, etc., are the draws for nymph and streamer fly fishers, as well as conventional anglers working small, inline spinners and swimmers. Hiking into the backcountry to scout out native brookie waters has paid off with some striking catches of fish sporting rich colors.

The lack of safe ice found around the immediate shoreline has prompted anglers to keep their gear handy. Many lakes and ponds are real options to fish and have been quite inviting during stretches of better weather. From largemouth bass caught on live, soft and hard baits, to toothy critters and panfish, these upside-down weather tables have been producing some rather interesting results. Fish are generally slower to react in cold water, so adjust your presentation accordingly and fish in the more oxygen-rich part of the water column. Caution, though, the water is colder than one thinks, and safety precautions should be taken if splashing a kayak or small vessel.

Fly Fishing: Outstanding Opportunity for the experienced or beginner! Booking inland and marine fly fishing lessons for 2023 with World Fisher, certified Master Fly Fishing Casting Instructor and Fishing Lodge Director. From trout, salmon, steelhead, and sea-run browns to striped bass, bonefish, permit, and tarpon, etc., techniques learned and honed will improve your fishing.

Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and International fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.

For all things fishy, including the latest gear, ice fishing, flies/fly fishing, rods/reels, clam/crabbing supplies, fishing trips, licenses/permits, and much more, swing by the shop (203-245-8665), open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter and Authorized Penn Premium Dealer, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better.

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

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