By Loyal Brezny of The Hunting Mark
Nine Things an Angler Needs To Know.
- When the fishing season starts in the spring (and I say this because opening dates can vary quite a bit from state to state), there are some things you need to know that are unique to this time of year. During springtime, the water is still frigid in the northern parts of the country, not exactly ideal for lake fishing. The water needs to roll over, bringing the bottom water to the top, thereby changing the water’s PH level and the overall temperature. Why is all this important? Because fish breathe in water, and as such, the warmer and more oxygenated it is, the more active the fish will be when it is time to set the hook on that first fish of the season.
- A corollary to the first tip: when the water is a bit warmer, the fish are much more likely to be found in shallow water. This means they are easier to get to, and since they feed in schools, it also means once you have found a good spot, you can hang out there for a while for plenty of action.
- During the spring, deep structure fishing is not at all necessary. Many species of fish assemble on the “break line” instead of submerged structure at this time of year. This is the hot zone! It can vary from a few inches of water where panfish are spawning up to 15 feet when walleye are cruising the ledge along a deep water shelf.
- When trolling, which is about 90 percent of my fishing style these days, slide back and forth from shallow water to the deep ledge at 10 or 15 feet until you get a strike. When that happens, drop a marker to mark the spot. Since water levels will be lower in the spring, the marker weight should reach the bottom fast, and the mark will be accurate.
- When dealing with shallow-running fish, it is time to swap out last summer’s terminal tackle for something more appropriate for the season. In some cases, that means using lighter line weight, as the hitting sensitivity will also change due to the fish’s increased activity. Next, it is time to arrange artificial baits – pick ones that resemble naturally occurring insects common during spring. Follow that with selecting hook rigs for the type of fish you are targeting, and if needed, head for the tackle shop to replace gear lost or worn out during the previous season.
- Springtime fishing means that you need to pay some extra attention to the weather. Most anglers understand barometric pressure plays a significant role in fish activity. You can predict feeding cycles as fronts move in, causing rapid changes in pressure that stimulate activity. Plan fishing to make the best use of frontal changes. In general, the leading edge of a cold front will make fish active, and storm fronts may also impact how likely you are to get a bite.
- Of course, always keep safety in mind, especially when fishing from a boat. Weather can fluctuate rapidly during the spring, so bring a few extra clothing layers just in case. You can always take layers off, but you don’t want to get caught in a cold front without a jacket. While it is rare, keep in mind spring is when fishing-related fatalities are most likely thanks to the colder water and the higher number of boats on the water. For example, I have a great spot at the top of a spillway overlooking a steep dam. The fishing is excellent, but a loss of engine power could be life-threatening during the spring. Never take unnecessary chances – no fish is worth it.
- The eighth point is a simple one, but many forget about it, Don’t forget to get your boat in shape. I see anglers all the time come to the launch on the first day of the season, push their boat into the water, and kill the battery or their pulling arm because the motor will not start. Or even if it does start, they might be half a mile from shore, making a pass over a honey hole the sonar shows is packed with fish, only to have the motor quit. Of course, bad things always compound, and the spring breeze is guaranteed to push the boat farther from the launch. That’s about the time they regret not giving everything a once-over and doing essential maintenance before setting out on the water.
- The last point is a short one. Remember, water temperature and barometric pressure changes are not as noticeable when fishing rivers or other moving water. This is because moving water is turning all the time and won’t experience a heavy turnover the way a lake will.
To summarize, be sure to pay attention to local conditions! In the northland, you might be dealing with leftover pack ice, and in the south, you’ll need to be on the lookout for flooded banks and washed-up timber. Temperatures from one end of the country to another can and will change fishing conditions significantly, so keep these tips in mind and pay attention to the local weather before heading out.
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Here’s a little more advice for kayak anglers!