This has been the longest, most stubborn progression of spring I can recall in several decades and, as a result, a lot of fishing opportunities are just now starting to emerge. Where as most anglers would still be waiting for the warmer spring weather, many of my angling friends and myself have already been out and caught fish this early season.
Just in the past few weeks, I have had the chance to catch bass, bluegill, crappie, trout and carp at local lakes. And there are still better options yet for catching species like chain pickerel and northern pike. You don't have to wait until mid-May for the fish to bite - it's happening now. Here are just a few early season options that you might want to consider.
Local Farm Ponds:
One day last week I visited a local pond in the afternoon as the air temperature approached 60 degrees. Amazingly, there was some sort of an insect hatch coming off and I noticed bluegills actually feeding off the surface on these insects I didn't have a fly rod, but I am sure that a well placed dry fly would have scored, big time. As it were, I used a 1/64 ounce jig tipped with a piece of worm below a bobber to catch 30 nice bluegills and one bass. Some of the gills were nearing the 10 inch mark, many were over nine. March and April have traditionally been my best months for big, early- season largemouth bass on over-sized spinners and spinner baits. Look for several days of above average temperatures to spur a hot bite.
Although sporadic, several of my friends have been doing well on early spring crappie fishing at Loch Raven, Liberty, Piney Run and Marburg Lakes. With water temps in the mid to upper 40's, the fish never really went deep this winter with many hanging around shallow brush and existing weed beds. Much of the weeds didn't completely die out this winter, and a variety of gamefish used them for food sources and cover. Marburg also has had a good cold water bluegill bite around the Route 216 bridges on garden worms in 15 to 18 feet of water. Though the gills are somewhat smaller than the glory days back in the 1980s and '90s, this is still worthwhile panfishing.
River Smallmouth Bass:
My friend and guide Dave Neuman, of Koinonia Guide Service, told me that the recent warmth has ignited an early blitz on the Susquehanna River for quality smallmouths. Hairjigs, tube baits and football jigs in Ã ounce are accounting for many three-pound class fish, with occasional trophies approaching five. Numbers seem to be up as well with 20 to 40 bass per trip not unusual for his clients. The Juniata is good as well. Watch river levels with the spring rains looming.
This winter I spent some time fishing with Marburg Lake carp guru Bob Elias for these golden giants. Word on the street was that they pretty much shut down after late fall, and few anglers pursued them during the cold. But with the mild winter, Bob kept catching fish all winter long, to include numerous 20 pound plus fish. Not bad, when you consider that most of us are just sitting home and waiting for warmer weather. He has banked over 50 carp this winter, and has helped me get a number of 20 pounders in the past two seasons. As waters warm, this fishing will get better and better.
Bottom line: don't wait 'til it gets warm, get out and fish now.