After the grueling winter month, fishing in the spring feels like a re-birth, for us, the lakes, and nature in general. As warm days raise the water temperatures, all the fish will spawn. In this blog, we will not publish fishing tips about catching spawning fish, for it is often illegal or frowned upon. To each his own, make your own choice and follow the law. It is however possible to catch fish ethically throughout the spring months.
As we just said game fish are spawning in the spring, but baitfish are spawning too. And that has a major impact on the game fish activity. They will wake up from their winter slumber and follow baitfish to their shallow area spawning sites. This is a short window, from a couple of days to about a month when you can have the best fishing time of the whole year. It will usually happen on the first hot calm and sunny days in April or May. The water temperature typically needs to be around 15 degrees.
It can be a little hard to find as baitfish will select a small stretch of bank, spread out seemingly for no apparent reason. The time invested will pay off year after year as fish tend to spawn in the same area every spring.
Any lure could work really, but I try to select baits that look like a dying baitfish exhausted by the spawn. A large spoon is a great choice providing the spot is free of any obstruction. Make short casts and pump the spoon up before letting it free-fall.
My second-best option is a soft plastic swimbait on a Texas rig hook. I will usually rig the lure with a wide gap weighted hook. I prefer white color for better visibility and matching dying baitfish. This is a great bait for sight fishing and getting the lure right in front of a big pike or silure (wels catfish). It’s also a great option for skipping the lure under branches right where the baitfish are.
Early spring just when the wind pushes warmer water in the shallows, weed beds start to grow but don’t reach the surface just yet. Hard to tell why but that seems to attract big pike after their own spawn. On windy days I will use a spinnerbait with a large willow leaf and a skirt matching the water clarity. On calm days, an oversized square bill or a big swimbait will get the job done.
Perch also seem to be drawn to these diminutive grass beds and will eat small jerkbaits or little crankbaits. On a calm evening, they can already bite a topwater lure. The pike pattern is much more solid, however!
Later in the season, the grass will reach its full size and traditional grass fishing pattern will set and evolve into summer fishing. Carp anglers know this as carp spawn later than smaller baitfish. I don’t know if it’s to eat the carp eggs or because they churn the bottom but carp spawn attracts a lot of smaller fish. They will in turn draw in pike and silure. If you see carp spawning, it’s always a good idea to check out the area.
Except for baitfish spawn, fishing in the spring can be challenging. It’s a very unstable and volatile season to fish. The weather changes on a dime, wind direction shifts, barometric pressure fluctuates wildly and the fish are constantly throwing us curve balls. The good news is that we can have amazing days, with hungry fish biting easily. The bad news is we can also have dry spells where absolutely nothing works. Some fish are still in winter patterns, sluggish in deep water while at the same time we’ll have other fish living the high life in the upper layers of the water.
This is that time of year when it pays to be versatile, where every lure and technique will be put to the test. The pattern that worked yesterday or even this morning is now gone. This is junk fishing at its finest. It is not the time to travel light and pack one small bag of soft bait and a jig head. So be open-minded, try things and stay on the move.
Just because it’s after the dreaded winter, spring fishing is probably my favorite season to fish. Yes it can be frustrating some days. And the cottonwood gunk is getting stuck in the guides but the good times are making it all worth it.