I just finished shoveling about 20 plus inches of “global warming” and there’s a chance we may get a couple more inches before the end of the week. It’s the middle of March when normally I begin to shift gears and begin to prepare for the great fishing that the spring season has to offer. Usually in mid March us ice fishing types are putting our ice-fishing gear away and getting our boats ready or tying flies in preparation for trout season. The early spring season is a great time to hit the lakes for panfish and it is obviously one of the best times to be on the trout stream but this year has been a bit out of the ordinary.
By the end of February my ice fishing gear was already stashed away; late March showed up in February and February just showed up in mid March and with a vengeance. In mid February I was actually preparing my boat to head to the open water on one of my favorite lakes to fish for crappies but time didn’t permit. A couple of fishing friends of mine couldn’t pass up the nice weather though and they were quick to inform me that the fishing was great. They fished from their boat in the same area that we were normally drilling holes in the ice and caught lots of crappies and other panfish.
Now that winter is back for a while I guess I’ll go back to making jigs and tying flies. Believe it or not however some of the best fishing is nearly upon us. Trout season opens in our area on April 16 but if you are really anxious to get out for trout you can head to the southern part of the state where the trout season opens earlier on April 2. Even if you don’t want to head to the southern half of the state you can still get some early trout fishing in our part of the state. There are a number of streams that are stocked early and catch and release fishing is allowed with flies or artificial lures. Consult your 2016 Fishing Summary booklet for the locations of those special regulation streams. If fly-fishing is your thing you will most likely have your best fishing with nymphs or possibly streamers in that early trout water. I have taken a few trout each year in that early March season on dry flies but it’s not real common. You may want to have some number 18 Blue-winged Olives handy just in case.
If trout is not what you are interested in during that early spring period you may want to head to a lake for some bluegills, crappies or perch. When I was a kid just getting into fishing years ago I thought bluegills and the like were only cooperative in the summer when water temperatures were warm enough-not so. Panfish are active all year long including the dead of winter. Some of my best panfish action has been in the middle of February when the lake had 15 inches of ice on it; bluegills, perch and crappies were all part of the catch. Perch and crappies are the two most likely to be taken right after ice out and action can be downright fast at times.
If you plan to do some early season fishing for panfish you can actually use the same terminal rigs as you would if you were ice-fishing; a tiny ice jig with some kind of bait like a mealworm, wax worm or the like will do just fine. Instead of an ice-fishing rod use an ultralight spinning outfit and a small bobber to suspend your presentation just off the bottom. If you don’t get any action try moving the lure up further in the water column until you find some willing takers. Crappies will be moving from the deeper water into the shallower water to spawn; look for wood stickups or rock piles to find willing fish.