When I think about trout fishing in Minnesota the one time of year that I don’t look forward to is October 15 – December 31st. Historically this used to be a time when you could not fish for trout anywhere in the southeast part of Minnesota. Brown trout spawn in the fall (usually late October and early November) and as far as I have heard this is why the DNR had managed the fishery to be closed at this time of the year. That was until the fall of 2014 when the DNR opened up 3 state parks to fishing during the former non-fishable season. This season became know (at least to me and a few others) as the “state park season.” Since the opening of the parks to fishing in 2014, the DNR has also opened up a number of sections of trout streams that run through the urban areas of a few southeastern Minnesota cities. This has helped spread out fishing pressure and made the state park season a little more tolerable but, in my opinion, this is still my least favorite part of the year because of the limited areas to fish. By the end of December the itch is real to fish some of my favorite waters that have been untouched for 2 and a half months.
With all this said, Dillan, Jack and I set out on the last day of 2018 to fish one of our favorite state park season sections and this outing did not suck.
We hit the road nice and early and arrived at the park before sunrise. Temps were hovering in the mid 20’s. We rigged up our rods with streamers and hit the trail to hike in.
It didn’t take long to find good water and we had our first fish to hand just after 8 am with another fish following shortly after.
From here we hiked up to the top of the valley where nearly the whole trout stream comes pouring out of a cave at the base of a 200′ limestone cliff. This cave is definitely one of the coolest geologic features that the Driftless area has to offer and is proof that trout don’t live in ugly places.
Not far below the cave is another major spring that adds additional flow to the stream.
We didn’t do all that well at the top of the valley but as we fished downstream we began to pic up fish sporadically. By the end of the day the 3 of us ended up in the double digits.
At the bottom of the valley it was after 12 and we knew that we were over our time limit (we were supposed to be an hour away in Rochester by 12) but we had to fish the remaining few holes. I was fishing a hole down below Jack when I heard him yell out, “dude I have a big one!!” I quickly dropped the my rod and raced up to see what he had hooked into. When I peered into the deep blue hole I could see the big brown head-thrashing and trying to spit the hook. After a seemingly long minute, the fight was over and I was able to net the fish for Jack.
Jack had landed a new personal best trout; 18″ of state park season brown trout was a heck of a way to end the 2018 trout season!