April is a great time to go through your pre-season checklist to make sure that your gear is ready for the coming season.
April is a transformational month in New England. The warming water brings the fish into feeding mode and the weather is finally warm enough to fish comfortably. Last year, April was a little less than friendly; the heavy snowfall left a thick ice covering on most ponds that didn’t dissipate until April or May, and the cold weather slowed the striper migration.
This year, however, it looks like we have prime conditions for April fishing. Not only does the warmer weather make for better freshwater fishing, but it also makes better conditions for an early return of the stripers.
As a kayaker, I’m much more wary of weather conditions that when I fish from shore or a boat. I’m immersed in the water, and harsh conditions can make fishing difficult or dangerous. The beginning of April usually means full dry gear and extra safety precautions, while the end of the month can be balmy with considerably warmer water. Many kayakers use the “50/50” rule, meaning that unless both the water and air temperatures are above 50 degrees, they won’t go out.
April is a good time to go through your pre-season checklist to make sure that your gear is ready for the coming season. If you’re like me, you set aside a pile of reels to clean over the winter and only finished half of them because you kept fishing. It’s always a challenge to make sure that I have enough working reels to make it through the season!
Rods and reels aren’t the only gear to get ready–usually the biggest project is getting the kayak ready. The start of the season is a good time to figure out what improvements to make for the upcoming season. Installing new rod holders, a milk crate, or fishfinder is best done when you aren’t rushing to get out and fish. Instead of rigging the night before a trip, taking the time to fix up your kayak before the season begins will help you put together a better platform. Early April is a good time to take the kayak out on a warm day and figure out where you want to install items while making sure they won’t get in the way when you are paddling or fishing.
It is also a good time to evaluate whether you need to buy more gear. With the short New England season, it is wise to get any major purchases out of the way at the beginning of the season. Picking up that new color fishfinder that you had your eye on in August is nice, but if you get it in April, by August you will be an expert at reading it and will be catching more fish. Plus, the last few fishing shows are in April, and are a good chance to get out and compare products so you get what’s best for you.
Other tools to consider are a really nice paddle or a high-level milk crate. Many kayak anglers love to paddle and derive considerable enjoyment from just paddling around even when the fishing isn’t good. A nice paddle can make the trip that much more fun and a light, high-quality paddle can lead to more hours on the water. These days, you can spend a pretty penny on a new milk crate and I have to say that I was skeptical about the utility of the high-end tackle crates like the Hobie H-Crate or the YakAttack Black Pac. After using one for a season, I found that a nice crate makes it easier to rig the boat for each trip and makes my gear more accessible.
If your kayak has been sitting outside in the elements, check it over for any issues prior to launching. Check your rudder and any attachments that may have been exposed to water over the winter. Aluminum rod holders may experience significant corrosion, especially if you have used them in the salt. I always make a point to rewire my fishfinder—there’s nothing worse than getting on the water and losing the electonics due to corroded wires.
I like to make my first trip of the season in freshwater that is close to home so I can check my gear in a real fishing situation. I have four different kayaks that I fish through the season and I want to make sure all of them are in full working order. As an added bonus, checking your gear is a great excuse to make a bunch of early season trips!
It is also important to make sure you have your gear organized in a way that you won’t forget things when you go. With paddles, seats, pedal drives, pfds, dry gear, batteries, fishfinders, and about a dozen other items, it is easy to forget something when you head out. A couple years ago I got up at 1:00 a.m. and drove 40 minutes to my launch. After rigging up, I realized that I had left my fishing rods at home! Since then, I have improved my system for checking. I even carry an extra battery for my fishfinder in my car—I’ve loaned it out to others who forgot theirs more often than I’ve used it myself.
Give your car topping gear a look, too. Even quality roof racks don’t last forever. Check them for corrosion, especially if you use add-ons like J-racks to hold your kayak. I find that quality straps will only last for a couple seasons of hard use before the elements take their toll. Your rack system and straps are extremely important for the safety of other drivers–you don’t want your kayak turned into a projectile on I-95 when you’re heading to the water!
One last word of caution for April fishing—take the water temperature seriously. Every season canoeists and kayakers lose their lives by not taking precautions in cold water. Warm days in April are tempting to fish, but make certain you are wearing the proper dry gear and a PFD when you head out!