Wednesday, March 13, 2013


    Despite the occasional snowmagedon, thermometers across the state are showing increasingly more red.  

March is rolling in like a lion; the shadbush is budding; and the fact remains that our furry friend, Punxsutawny, found himself alone by his groundhog hole on that prophetic February morning.  Spring is almost upon us.

Organize and Simplify

    Winter offers a perfect time for anglers to take stock of their fishing tackle and prepare for the upcoming season.
    Reorganize that terminal tackle box that was shaken to chaos over the course of the summer; and replace the items that are running out.  Return all lures to their homes—whether organized by color, type, or target species--, for they were surely mixed up for convenience’s sake.
    Take critical inventory of all lures, paying attention to those that were put to good use in the previous season and those that were not.  Those that were could be considered confidence baits—those that you turn to when times are tough—and should be amply replaced.  Exclude or pack away any lures that were neglected last year—they were for good reason.  The freed space will provide more room for the lures that continually produce for you, and will make your tackle box altogether more effective.

Time for Shad

    The annual migration of anadromous shad is the first rite of spring in the angling world.  Sexually mature adults begin their run up Virginia’s large coastal rivers when tidal temperatures approach 55 degrees, and offer great sport for the light-tackle angler.
    There are two species of shad to be caught from Virginia waters, the hickory shad and the American shad, the first arriving first and the latter arriving last.  Spawning hickory shad often weigh one to two pounds, smaller in comparison to the larger American shad that average in the three to five pound range.
    Small, flashy minnow imitations like the shad spoon and famed Shad Dart are time-tested shad lures, and routinely yield the most fish.  The angler will be well-equipped with one of these lures rigged with a light spinning rod and six-pound line; but don’t go much lighter.  Spawning fish frequent strong currents and use them to their advantage in a fight.  A fisherman wielding a traditional ultra-light setup would be outmatched against a five-pound fish in heavy current.
    Favored fishing spots include the tidal James River at Richmond, the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg, and the Potomac in the far northern region of the state.  Brackish tributaries to these major waterways, like the Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Nottoway, and Pamunkey rivers, also provide good action.
    Blueback herring and alewife follow the migrating shad on their own spawning runs, but responsible anglers should note that, as of March 2012, it is illegal to have in possession either of these two river herring.

Time for Big Bass

    Shad aren’t the only fish feeling the urges of the spawning season this month.  Largemouth bass, too, will begin to move from their stable wintering waters to the spawning coves where they will spawn this time in April, when the water temperature climbs past 60 degrees.
A solid largemouth taken by the author's 
brother from a grassy point on a windy 
march day.  Read more at Blustering Bass.  
Photo by Matt Reilly
    Many anglers prefer this period.  As nature instills a common goal in the bass’ movements, they become very predictable; and, still stocky from their winter lethargy, this pre-spawn window is often recognized as the best time to catch big bass.
    In lakes, these bass will relate to long, sloping points on the main lake that lead to shallow coves.  These points provide transition zones for fish to move along as the surface temperature warms.  In true reservoirs, a similar point providing access to the main feeder creek is a hotspot.  Still, movement is largely dependent upon water surface temperature; likewise, northern banks, provided they have the correct structure, will be the most productive because they receive the most sunlight.
    Productive lures include Texas-rigged soft plastics, swimbaits, jigs, and spinnerbaits.  Working a lure slow, but covering water quickly and taking note of the depth at which you get strikes will help in putting together a fishable pattern.

    Stay organized about your tackle and your plans, and the end of this month could hold many memorable adventures afield.

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