Yesterday a good friend of mine and I spent some time scouting out a couple of Lake Champlain tributaries. It seemed like a great idea on a wonderful warm afternoon. There was hope that there could be a steelhead or two around. It turned into a nice day for a walk.
So here is what I am seeing: the rivers are still iced up but in the process of breaking up. There is evidence of ice damming and then the dam gives and the process starts again. Much of the ice in rivers has sediment over it which gives me the evidence of the damming/breaking repetition. A good flush of water and lots of warm temps will help a lot.
The banks will take a lot longer right now. There is a tremendous amount of ice that came from the all too short break in the cold we had in January. There is 8-12" thick chunks of ice stacked like books along the banks. You can see this in the photos. It is about 3-5 FEET high. It is treacherous walking- easy to turn an ankle or break something if you are not cautious. I have seen this a long many rivers so really watch yourself.
My forecast for the upcoming opener a week from today: cautiously optimistic with a healthy dose of reality. We have warm temps forecast for the next few days. There does seem to be a decent rainfall in the forecast as well. This would help things out. The big downside is that there is a lot of snowpack still up in the hills and mountains. Once this warms and/or we get a big rain event then things will blow out and blow out in a BIG way. That kind of situation makes for horrible fishing and, simply put, dangerous conditions to be around. Watch the weather and the gauging stations closely. Many of the gauging stations are currently ice affected but that should change quickly. That only impacts the Discharge data so you can get an idea of what the river is doing by looking at the River Stage. If it seems unsafe, it likely is.
The reality is that the trout opener next weekend might be a wash. I am hoping that I am wrong but a lot depends on weather conditions. If we don't get a lot of rain and the temps stick around the low 40s then some rivers might open up enough to fish and have a decent color (a green stain is much preferable to chocolate milk). Fingers crossed!
Be safe out there. Better weather and fishing conditions are coming soon!