Going Fishin'

Going Fishin'
Red Sunset

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Our Saturday morning largemouth attempt failed.  As feared, Friday's cold front and cold rain dropped the temperature on our favorite largemouth lake from 50 to 42 degrees.  After two hours of fishing in air temperature around 25 degrees without a bite on the flats or drops, Marilyn and I headed for a hot lunch and then onto the Allegheny River.

Water temp had dropped 5 degrees from my last trip; we quickly checked staging areas with  jerkbaits to be sure, but the smallies had not moved up.  So it was back to the wintering spots...which paid off with some incredibly nice smallies, including a 20.5 inch, 4.6 pound beauty. 

However the fish were finicky.  Draggin'-n-shakin' tubes on the bottom was the only way we could draw strikes.  Although we rotated through different brands and different colors, only one color produced all the fish -- Yum's Green Pumpkin/Copper Flake dosed with garlic scent.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Unexpected Bite

I had been looking forward to the annual early spring creek-channel-jig bite on my favorite nearby largemouth reservoir.  After our smallmouth river adventure last week, I had promised Bryan this would be great opportunity to field test his homemade jigs on largemouth.  Just over a week ago there had been a thick cover of ice on the lake.  With ice gone, I had assumed water temperature would be in the low to mid 40s for our scheduled fishing trip - perfect for dragging jigs over channel-edge stumps in the headwaters area of the impoundment.  Driving to the lake, piles of snow still lingered in shady areas.  But once on the water, the temperature guage registered 50 degrees! What a surprise!

Still, that was a surface reading and calendar said March -- it seemed to me that jigs on channel wood should be the ticket.  Within about 15 minutes I boated a 16 incher on a jig and pork chunk -- not exactly the size of bass I had promised Bryan.  For another 30 minutes we worked the drops from 8 to 14 feet without a bite.  

The very noticeable swirls with occasional skipping minnows we attributed to feeding crappie.  But we remarked some of the swirls were rather large.  Finally, we investigated the shallower flats.  Bryan tied on one of Sebile's Soft Swimmers while I picked up my lipless rattle bait rod.  An 18-incher that pounced on a 'Trap was quickly landed.  But Bryan's next cast doubled his heavy action swimbait rod!  With a 5.5 pound bass in the well for photos, Bryan nailed another near five pounder on the next cast.  Testing of Bryan's jigs had to wait for another day as we made the switch to swimbaits in four feet of water...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rollin' on the River

With the Allegheny River level dropping below 8 feet and a sunny day forecast for Friday before return of cold rain early next week, this was an opportunity to get my buddy Bryan Stuyvesant out for his first river smallmouth experience since he was a young lad.  Bryan, an avid bass angler and veteran of such largemouth fisheries as Falcon in Texas and Clear Lake in California, had not been fishing since last July due to back surgery and a long recovery period.  During recovery he turned to making lures -- Sonar-type baits, skirted jigs and an assortment of leadheads.  I believe he has personally kept Do It Molds in the black during this economical downturn.

The Allegheny was the color of a coffee milkshake but at least it had dropped enough that we could ID places to fish.  The river was running a temperature of 43 degrees.  However boat control was hampered by a 15-20 mph wind blowing against the strong river current.

Within the first 30 minutes we each scored a chunky smallie by slow-rolling swim jigs with grub trailers along a cobble bottom shelf that dropped into 18 feet of water.  For Bryan, it was his first Allegheny smallie in three decades...and taken on one of his homemade skirted jigs.  That was an exciting moment for him!

In the next hour we boated two more smallies and missed three strikes on a different shelf.  But as the sun dropped low in the sky, the bites dried up.

Next Going Fishin' trip?  Well NW Pennsylvania lakes are now ice free so there are lots of options.  It will be late next week, but I'm undecided where to go and for which species...largemouth, crappie, pike or steelhead.

Oh yes, one final note.  I've had questions about the photo on the header of this blog, especially from my close fishing buddies wanting to know where in Northwest Pennsylvania it was shot.  Well, it is the northwest - the Great Northwest.  This is the Columbia River in the Columbia River Gorge - perhaps the most scenic place I've ever fished for smallmouth.  The smallie fishing was excellent during late April when I was there several years back, and the Columbia River certainly ranks as one of the better bronzeback fisheries in North America.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

Last Tuesday, river rat buddies and I caught our first 2010 Allegheny River smallies under extreme low, clear and icy water conditions. We complained the water was too low for this time of year, hoping it would go up about 4 feet. Mid week we had our first back-to-back 60 degree days, accompanied by a large yellow globe in the sky -- something we had not seen all winter. The snow pack disappeared quickly, the river gauge went from 3 feet to 10 feet in 48 hours. The rush of high water down the Allegheny is like flushing a toilet -- no eddies, no current seams, and no shoreline boulder cover to fish. However, with no rain in the forecast for the next several days, I expect the level to drop to what I consider a fish-able flow. When river is good to go, you can see the types of lures I'll be fishing in the second photo. To learn more about river smallmouth location and lure presentation in the early spring, check out my article "Early Spring On A Smallmouth Stream" in the 2010 In-Fisherman Bass Guide currently on newsstands.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Winter Thaw

Our third jetboat trip on the Allegheny River in the past five days was the charm. My first river smallie of 2010 was a 19.5" 3-3/4 pound beauty taken on a small profile Venom Tube. It was followed by an 18-incher taken on a Jimmy D River Bug hair jig. Accompanied by Dale "Captain Dinger" Black and Dave "Hermit" Lehman, we tallied seven smallies from 17 to 19.5 inches from extremely clear, extremely low, extremely icy waters by shaking jigs on the bottom. Although ice still covers some eddies and creek mouths, warmer air temperatures and rain in the next few days should bring water temperatures into the low 40s, add some color and raise the river level - thereby triggering a stronger bite.