Mansfield Report: May 2023

Mansfield Report: May 2023

David Harris with a very nice one – CPR!

Greetings from Port Mansfield! With “big trout season” winding down I cannot help but reflect on some of the great days I have experienced throughout my fishing career. One was in the 1990s when my cousin and I easily caught more than a hundred trout up to six pounds. Another was in 2009 when Jimmy Schroeder, who by coincidence happens to be on this month’s cover, and I caught forty trout between five and eight pounds on topwaters on an unusually cold spring day. In 2018, Glenn Ellis, Patrick Martino and I caught multiple huge pre-spawn trout with Glenn’s best heavier than ten pounds.

Another came this year when conditions for big fish aligned perfectly. We had slowly rising water from an early-spring south wind, an abundance of bait, and a school of big trout setting up to spawn. Another positive was rising water temperature following a significant cold front. The final kicker was almost solid cloud cover. Somewhat rare as post-front days are typically bright with a high barometer.  

We did not leave especially early and set up as I’ve done many times before. I explained that our approach would be slow and methodical; cast multiple times into every pothole and toward every flicker of bait. It didn’t take long and we had nice trout slurping topwaters, some would connect, and some would not. They were not angry. If you didn’t connect the first time it was likely you wouldn’t connect at all. We stayed the course and as the day progressed the big trout activity increased steadily. The group I had the day before had done the same thing, ending our first wade at 1:00 pm. We didn’t move more than a couple hundred yards. Targeting big trout, I move very slowly, walking more left and right than forward.  

We made only one reset that day, with the second wade equally productive as the first. Collin landed his personal best trout – four years in the making. Scotty, his dad, expressed to me how special it would be if I could make this happen. Lady Luck smiled and we got it done. Activate the QR Code for details. We called it a day and I told Scotty I’d phone later that evening with the next day’s plan.  

Based on a variable in what I call my Fishing Equation, (early morning solunar major), we left the dock well before daylight. I tweaked the approach to our first spot to accommodate a slight wind shift. We couldn’t have written a better script; Collin’s first cast with a Mansfield Knocker produced a fat 27-inch trout. Not much else changed except the sun peeking out toward the end of our first wade. I personally had a group of big trout dialed in along a small secondary flat, but it faded as the sun brightened.

We broke for lunch and sat nearly an hour, chatting casually. All the while my mind was calculating our next strategy coupled with me trying to figure out where “my” trout had gone from the flat. Finally, Collin asked – “Do you want to reset?” I pondered that a while and answered, “No, those fish either moved into the grass or are staging on this drop-off.” I sent Collin and Scotty to the grass, and I headed to the drop that included several large potholes. Within fifteen minutes I landed a 5-pounder and then another a little heavier. I had also switched to a KWigglers Wig-A-Lo and was slow-rolling it with the occasional hop in the deeper water. Collin and Scotty, seeing the action, quickly joined me. The action remained steady for the three of us with very few of our trout less than five pounds. As luck would have it, yours truly landed a really good one, but you will have to wait until a later date to see her.  

We tagged three good trout for my friends at Harte Research Institute that day and could have tagged more but I was low on tags. I wanted to tell this story, not only because we caught some great fish, but more because we as anglers truly have the future in our hands. I feel proud to have been doing Empty Stringers more than five years and believe Karma has rewarded me. If more anglers will practice catch and release days like this can become common again, just like it was years ago. How do you want your fishing to be? Think about it!

Remember, fresh is better than frozen.