Every year around this time, I fall for the same fool’s gold.
Spring is springing. The flowers are out. The thermometer finally hits 70. It’s time to catch some fish! Surely the bass will be biting. The bluegill will be building their nests. The catfish will be ravenous. Right?
Well, not exactly. You see, it takes more than a week of nice weather for warm-water fishing to turn on. You’d think after all these years, a fella would learn his lesson. But every spring, I find myself making an early spring fishing run the first chance I get — usually to be greeted by less-than-ideal water conditions and fish that aren’t quite ready to shake off the cobwebs.
If you’ve been waiting all winter to put some bass in your boat, you can probably relate. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind for early-season fishing success:
Air warms faster than water
It feels great to be outside right now, but water takes longer to warm up. So far, I’ve made quick evening trips to Lake Lowell, Wilson Springs Pond and Halverson Lake. I have caught a few largemouth bass, but the bite has been slow. A quick water reading revealed a big reason why: Temperatures are still in the low 50s. Bass become much more active once the water hits 60 degrees, triggering more aggressive feeding and the annual spawn. As you plan your early-season trips, keep in mind that smaller bodies of water at lower elevations tend to warm up quickest.
Slow and steady catches the fish
Fish are cold-blooded creatures, which means their metabolism slows when their body temperature cools. In addition to needing fewer calories, the fish lack the energy to chase down lures with their usual gusto. So, fishing slowly with jigs and soft plastics usually yields better results. If you want to throw crankbaits or spinnerbaits, slow down your retrieve as much as you can without ruining the motion of the lure.
Come with a Plan B
Sometimes, the fish just don’t want to cooperate until water temps creep up. If you are determined to catch a bass, smallmouth are more tolerant of cool water and usually turn on first. The same goes for crappie over bluegill. If you aren’t picky about species, targeting trout and Kokanee salmon might be your best bet — those species prefer cooler water and will exhibit more typical feeding behavior. It’s always wise to bring a variety of tackle on your trips, but it might really save your bacon during the unpredictability of spring.
The water isn’t just colder during spring — it’s also higher and faster. Make sure you exercise caution when boating, floating and wading this time of year. Fish with a partner, wear a life jacket and avoid risky situations. In most places, the water is still cold enough to be dangerous if you fall in and are exposed for too long. Pack a change of clothes and play it safe out there!
Spring fishing can be a challenge, but it’s also a great time of year to catch big fish. If you come prepared and put in the effort, you might be rewarded with a lunker.