Spring has sprung is a commonly used phrase that welcomes warmer weather, blooming flowers and many other outdoor changes as we say goodbye to winter. But for those of us who dream all winter of the start of turkey season and spring trout fishing, it is the official opening of the new year of hunting and fishing opportunities.
I have enjoyed opening day of trout season for the past 50 years on the beautiful Chattahoochee River in the north Georgia mountains. Most of those years, my son Josh and I have competed in the Helen Chamber of Commerce trout tournament. This year, opening day of turkey season Saturday, falls on the traditional opening day of trout season, which has happened only a few times over my lifetime, creating quite a dilemma. Thankfully we have a long turkey season which runs through May 15, because Saturday our family will be trout fishing the Helen trout tournament on the Chattahoochee.
Trout fishing and turkey hunting are both wonderful opportunities to share time with family and friends and create memories that last a lifetime. Spring also serves as the time to start preparation for dove season and deer season through planting for fall hunting. I seem to enjoy the preparation for those seasons as much as I do the actual hunts since “every day is Saturday.”
Trout fishing has been a passion of mine since I was a young boy. I remember wet wading in jeans and tennis shoes with a Zebco 202, wire tube of crickets and a red plastic fish stringer hung from my belt loop on the Chattahoochee River in the 1960s. I didn’t think about the cold water or the freezing temperatures when I hooked my first rainbow trout and saw the brilliant colors flashing in the clear pristine water. I was hooked for life on trout fishing. During the following 50 years of my life, I have been blessed to have introduced my son Josh and grandchildren Jackson and Taylor to trout fishing which has become one of our family traditions. Witnessing the joy of my son and grandchildren catching their first trout is something I will never forget.
After all these years, I still get excited about the traditional opening day of trout fishing.
The Helen Chamber of Commerce 27th annual trout tournament starts at 6 a.m. in Helen. The tournament has evolved over the years from fewer than 100 participants in the early years to nearly 500 registered fisherman last year. The size of the fish stocked for the tournament has increased as well, with 4-6-pound tagged-trophy sized trout being stocked each year.
In addition, Georgia DNR will be stocking the river with trout prior to the tournament. Cash prizes will be awarded this year in excess of $2,500 with the grand prize of $1,000. All prizes will be awarded for tagged fish by weight. Bring your family and enjoy a great day of fishing fun in Helen.
Statewide turkey season also opens Saturday.
The special opportunity season opened March 19. This special two-day season was for youth, 16 and under, and the mobility impaired. Josh, Jackson and I hunted Saturday and heard and saw several gobblers, but we were not able to harvest anything. We had several young gobblers in shooting range that Jackson passed up, and three really great gobblers that were out of range for him to shoot. I think the turkeys are confused with the drastic change in temperature in the last few days.
I have always believed that when the dogwood trees get in full bloom the turkeys will be more active, which should be in a few days. We hope to get time to hunt after the trout tournament Saturday, and perhaps get one of those limb hangers we saw last Saturday.
The next two months will be spent preparing dove fields and food plots for fall hunting. I try to fertilize existing food plots, spray weeds and plow new ground to establish new food plots during the spring. Drilling sunflowers and sorghum in May and brown top millet in June will produce quality dove hunting in September. We have been feeding protein to deer since January, and have seen bucks dropping their antlers on our trail cameras. Some bucks have already started growing new antlers for this year, which indicates that we have a very healthy deer herd. We really enjoy watching the growth of antlers during the spring and summer on trail cameras to get an idea of what this season’s bucks will look like.
I believe the time and work spent preparing in the spring will increase success in the fall and winter hunting season.
Spring has sprung and all that comes with it. Whatever your favorite part of spring is, get outdoors and enjoy it with your family and friends. Every day is Saturday.
Russell Vandiver writes ‘Every Day is Saturday’ for The Times. His column appears occasionally on Fridays.