First published in November, 2018.
It used to be that Minnesotans who wanted to fish for trout from October through December had to head to Iowa until the special catch-and-release season opens on January 1 in southeastern counties. But since 2014, year-round catch-and-release fishing has been available in three state parks: Whitewater, Beaver Creek and Forestville. And in 2017, the regulations were extended to streams within the city limits of Chatfield, Lanesboro, Preston and Spring Valley.
Although I haven’t yet fished the towns or Beaver Creek, I have made a few trips to Forestville and Whitewater this fall, and found good fishing.
It has been chilly, so I have found it useful to bring along a down jacket, fold-over mittens and a thermos filled with hot chicken soup. And when temperatures dropped below freezing, I fished a Tenkara rig so that I didn’t have to worry about my fly rod guides icing up and stopping the line in its tracks.
I made my first special season expedition to Whitewater on October 22 with Trout Unlimited member John Lace. It was 29 and sunny, warming up later to nearly 60 degrees. John caught a few browns in Trout Run Creek while I tried the Middle Branch of the Whitewater.After a few casts I tied into a heavy fish that turned out to be a 14-inch rainbow shaped like a football. Several rainbows later, John heard from some anglers in the parking lot that the DNR releases stocked rainbows into the state park stretch of the Whitewater in the fall, including some large ones. Although I tend to think of myself as a wild trout snob, the browns seemed more interested in procreation than feeding, and catching those rainbows was a lot of fun.
My next trip was to Forestville State Park on November 15-16. I fished Canfield Creek all the way up to its source at a huge spring flowing out of a cave, as well as Forestville Creek and the South Branch of the Root River.
Although the high temperature on the 15th allegedly got up to 40, the frozen puddles along the trail never thawed out. On the 16th, it snowed – but the trout were cooperating. All wild browns, a bit skinny post-spawn, but hungry for a nymph rolled along the streambed and energetic when hooked. There was a nice blue-wing olive hatch right after lunch to give me a little dry fly action as well. As far as I can tell, I was the only angler on the stream both days.
Late Fall. The mosquitos have vanished, along with the jungle of streamside weeds. No sweating in your waders. he streams are clear and there are a few touches of fall color left on the bluffs. There aren’t any bad times to be on a trout stream in Minnesota, but this is a particularly good one!