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Some early-season fishing options

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.

Whereas most anglers would still be waiting for the warmer spring weather, I and many of my angling friends have already been out and have caught fish this early season.

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Just in the past few weeks, I have had the chance to catch bass, bluegill, crappie and trout at local lakes.

And there are still better options yet for catching species like chain pickerel and northern pike.

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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 you might want to consider:

• Local farm ponds. One day last week, I visited an area 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.

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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 oversized spinners and rattle baits. Look for several days of above-average temperatures to spur a hot bite.

• Reservoir crappies. 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 temperatures in the mid-40's, the fish never really went deep this winter, with many hanging around shallow brush and existing weed beds.

Despite the harsh winter, much of the weeds didn't completely die out, and a variety of game fish used them for food sources and cover. Marburg also has had a good coldwater bluegill bite around the Route 216 bridges on garden worms in 15 to 18 feet of water.

Though the gills are somewhat smaller than in 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 1/8-ounce are accounting for many three-pound class fish, with occasional trophies approaching five.

Numbers seem to be up, as well, with 20 bass per trip not unusual for his clients. The Juniata is good, as well. Watch river levels with the spring rains looming.

• Monster carp. Carp guru Bob Elias recently put five of these golden giants on the bank at Lake Marburg. Word on the street was that they pretty much shut down after late fall, and few anglers pursue them during the cold. But Bob knows better — his fish ran from 12 to just over 20 pounds.

Not bad, when you consider that most of us are just sitting home and waiting for warmer weather. He has helped me get a number of 20-pounders in the past several seasons. As waters warm, this fishing will get better and better.

Bottom line: Don't wait until it gets warm: Get out and fish now!

Jim Gronaw is a freelance outdoor writer from Westminster. His column appears in the Advocate on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

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