|Spring Fishing Fever|
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Article and photos by: William D. Anderson
BEFORE THE SHOWERS OF APRIL BRING THE FLOWERS OF MAY, THE IDEAS OF MARCH BRINGS THE OPPORTUNITY TO CATCH THE FISH OF A LIFETIME.
During March and April, the last remaining ice disappears from all but the northernmost bodies of water. As the days get warmer and longer, fish become more active, begin their annual spring feeding frenzy and start spawning activity. By the time the ice melts, a few species will already be well into the spawn cycle. This period of feeding and spawning represent great opportunities for anglers to catch the fish of a lifetime.
Most species of fish feed very aggressively prior to spawning. They instinctively begin an aggressive feeding cycle that helps them build strength and energy because during that cycle, and while guarding their nests, they will often not feed at all. An angler has a good chance at catching a real lunker before, during and after the spawn because the largest members of the species can be found closer to shore than they will be at any other time of the year. This makes larger fish much easier to find and catch.
The feeding cycle can begin as soon as the ice begins to melt. Baitfish will move closer to shore soon after ice out because the sun quickly warms shallow water and because warmer water rises to the surface and is then blown to the sides of the water body. This warmer water attracts shad, minnows, crayfish and other small fish. It also helps to increase metabolism and causes all species to become more active. Larger game fish prey upon active baitfish. While the water is still generally cool, the best time of day to look for fish is usually in the afternoon when the sun is at its peak. Soon after the spawn has completed, early morning and early evening will be better, but that’s not to say that you can’t catch fish at any time of the day or night.
The most important thing to do when you see a school of baitfish is observe how they move through the water. Notice how they swim when they are at ease, and also how they react to predators and try to dart away. Keep an eye out for injured fish and observe how they twitch in the water. You will want to use lures that resemble the color of the baitfish and imitate all of these types of behavior. The more natural your bait looks in the water, the better the chance a fish will go after it.
If you are fishing by boat, you can use your electronics to look for schools of baitfish or “bait balls,” as they are also known. These show up as clouds on the locator screen and you can usually see a couple of larger fish following the school or swimming underneath it. Fish your bait to the outside or under these schools of baitfish so that it stands out and is an easier target. Deep running crank baits, blade baits and spinner baits that resemble baitfish are good choices.
Another place to find fish is where runoff flows into the water. Runoff is often warmer than the body of water it flows into, and it can also contain food that all sizes and species of fish feed on. Fish are expecting a meal to come towards them and when you retrieve a lure in the opposite direction, they will sometimes leave it alone since it is not something that is natural. In these situations, float any type of live bait out with the current and it will catch fish. Smaller plastic baits also can be a good choice.
As you survey a body of water, look for ripples or other surface activity that might indicate the presence of active fish. Bass will often herd baitfish into coves or other confined areas where it is harder for their prey to escape. Look for minnows jumping out of the water or larger fish making a commotion near the shoreline. It is not uncommon to see the water’s surface erupt as several large fish tear through a school of smaller fish in an attempt to catch a meal. When fish are feeding aggressively like this, they can be caught very easily. Any crank bait that resembles the species that the game fish are feeding on will work. Other lures such as spinners or swim baits will also catch a lot of fish at this time of the year.