River Valley Outdoors
Does this warming, spring weather scream out to others like it does to me? As I sit on the back porch pecking away at the computer, I can almost hear the call of the wild in the air – “William, what are you doing? Get out here and play.”
Evening temperatures have steadily risen, assuring a more comfortable habitat for winter-weary fish. Most fish in this region don’t start becoming active until the water reaches the magic fifty-degree mark. I haven’t used a thermometer to measure water temperatures at local River Valley brooks and streams yet, but I’m betting they’re still hovering around the forties.
It won’t be long now – as the water temperatures rise over the fifty-degree mark, the fish start feeding more enthusiastically. On ponds and lakes, the smelt and baitfish populations start moving up the tributaries to spawn. Predatory fish, like bass and salmonid, tune into the baitfish patterns and feed on them as they move into small brooks and streams.
Early-season anglers that key in on baitfish imitations do well this time of year, stripping streamers across the current of these smaller tributaries. I know the angler’s spring mantra, “good fishing starts when the alder leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear,” but I can’t wait, and begin hitting the streams well before the alders ever show a leaf.
It’s a foolish spring ritual that I seem to perform every year. I get all my fishing gear together, run down to a local stream, and attempt to hook an early-season fish. I should know better – it’s always way too early for good stream fishing, but at least I get a chance to work out any gear problems before the best fishing of the year starts.
Some of the earliest “productive” fishing that I’ve ever done has been for white perch on local ponds and lakes that carry the tasty fish. Fancy fly tiers will laugh at this one, but the single fly that works best for panfish like white perch happens to be nothing more than a number 18 to 22 hook with a shank wrapped in silver tinsel – nothing else.
I find a pond with a good supply of white perch or crappies and do all of my casting around the mouths of any incoming water. In no time at all, I’ll be back home with a pan full of sizzling fillets.
This kind of early-season fishing produces better than flailing about brooks and streams for trout and salmon. White perch and crappie don’t get too big, but they usually are quite abundant – and, I still get to work out any fishing gear problems before the best part of the fishing season begins (remember the magic fifty-degree mark).
All in all, anytime a winter-weary angler can get out and wet a line is a good time to fish. We’ve all heard the saying before, “The worse day of fishing is still better than the best day at work.” As a matter of fact, as soon as I finish thrashing about on this keyboard, I’m getting into my waders and heading out to the nearest stream – I just have to answer that screaming call of the wild.