I get the question all of the time. How important is it really?
While everyone is complaining about the winter weather I am adding trout fishing honey holes to my list.
Why do you scout trout streams?
The reason is simple, I want to catch more and bigger trout. Just like anything to do with fishing or hunting the more time you put into the sport the more you will get back. I hear people complaining about never seeing any deer every year, but the only time they are in the woods is during the 9 day gun season. Same thing goes for fishing. I love to scout trout streams in the early and late winter during times of low snow pack. I will identify either an area to search or just specific streams that have caught my attention. I also have noticed that I will look and study a stream differently when I am not fishing, I slow down and really see every detail. When I am fishing a new stream for the first time without scouting it, I want to cover as much water as possible and tend to rush areas, not noticing small details. This winter alone I have found at least 15 new streams that look like GEMS!! Loaded with trout...some of them really big ones.
When do you scout streams?
Normally during the winter months. I also do a lot of reading off of the Wisconsin DNR website. I read the most recent surveys and other literature about the waterways. I also will send emails to fishery biologist with questions I have about the systems. I gather all this information and keep notes in my map book for future reference.
How do you know where to scout?
Like mentioned above, the DNR website has information for you. Some of these surveys are 10+ years old, but it will give you a baseline for what streams are worth looking into. See what streams have had HR work done on them. I have found that 3-4 years after HR work has been done is when the fishing really improves. I personally don't fish too much HR stream sections all that often. Don't judge a stream from the first bridge either! Find out what the stream classification is (I, II, III) and check out the stream from multiple bridges or crossings. I fish a couple streams that look like trickles from the bridges, but 100 yards upstream open up into really nice pool, run, riffle segments. Once you find a stream that sparks your interest get out and walk the banks (get permission if needed) and bring allow a camera.