Smallmouths Come With Spring

It doesn't feel like it right now, with six inches of decaying, two-day-old snow melting in my yard, but the sun shines a little longer, and spring gets a little closer, each day.  For many Eastern U.S. anglers, spring's arrival brings trout fishing, but not for all of them.  Anglers like my friend Ron McGraw (pictured above) have no interest in chasing dainty mayfly hatches on wild trout streams, or waiting for trout trucks to deliver fresh fish to be stocked in what will become July's marginal waters.  Ron is eager to pursue pre-spawn smallies.

The fish pictured in this blog were caught near the bottom end of a stocked trout stream.  And that's my tip of the day: Many anglers view smallmouth fishing as a predominately big river experience, but excellent fishing can also be found in the lower end of stocked trout streams in the spring.  Get a topo map and look for any sizable tributary to a larger smallmouth river.  Bass will move into many of these tributaries, looking for a place to spawn.

I'm not in favor of pulling any wild fish off of its spawning bed, so please don't do that, but many fish will be eager and hungry before and after they spawn.  That's when you target them.  The same rods, reels, flies, and lines that you use in the big rivers will work in the smaller water too.  I've mentioned this fly before, but I'll do it again.  A black Zuddler can be deadly smallmouth bait.



This one ate a Zuddler.  I apologize for the hot spots on the photo.  There's no good way to take a fish picture when you're by yourself.


Yesterday, PA Fish and Boat Commission fisheries biologist, Jason Detar, and I were discussing the current state of smallmouth fishing in Pennsylvania's rivers.  Much has been lost in recent years with the steep decline of YOY (Young of the Year) recruitment in the Susquehanna and Lower Juniata Rivers.  But there has been some good news.  Recent studies have shown some increased production in Susquehanna River YOY smallmouths.  The fishery will not fully recover this year, or even next year, but at least, for now, it seems as though the River's slide towards smallmouth oblivion has slowed.

Jason told me that low springtime water levels combined with higher summertime flows create excellent conditions for smallmouth YOY survival.   He also said that, much to some anglers' surprise, water can get too warm in the summer for smallmouths.  And that's been a problem in recent years.  I don't think there's much we can do about the weather, we get what we get, but let's hope we get a break for the next couple years.  The bass could really use it.

Amidst the Susquehana's decline, the middle and lower Delaware River has risen to perhaps the best smallmouth fishery in the northeast.  The fishing has been so good that some Upper Delaware trout guides have now begun guiding for smallmouths after the trout fishing slows in the summer.  Captain Joe Demalderis, the 2010 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year, is one of the people taking advantage of the Delaware's smallmouth bounty.  Joe, another friend and frequent commenter on this blog, has told me about many terrific trips with his clients last year.  And there's no reason to expect anything less this year.  Here's a link to Joe's web site:


http://www.crosscurrentguideservice.com/

I also found the link below to be very interesting.  It's a recently published study of the smallmouth YOY survival rates for the Delaware River by the PA Fish and Boat Commission .  You can read it here:

http://fishandboat.com/images/reports/2012bio/dela_yoy_bass.pdf


p.s. If the photos of Ron make you wonder how someone holding such big, beautiful fish could look so miserable, don't trouble yourself.  Ron usually looks much more angry than this.  He was almost bubbling after catching that fish, or at least as bubbling as he gets.  I asked him to smile, asked him to remove his sunglasses.  He grunted in my general direction.  Ron is like the weather: you get what you get.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game. Fly Tying

Perdigon Nymph

Charlie Craven - January 15, 2019

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game.

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done. Fly Tying

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin

Charlie Craven

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done.

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream. United States

Saving the Chattahoochee River

Ross Purnell - April 23, 2019

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

A backhand cast is when you use your backcast to deliver the fly.

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in United States

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado

Steven B. Schweitzer - May 03, 2016

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in " Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado."

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp flies! Flies

The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp...

See More Stories

More Bass

Sight fish for stripers in the surf. Bass

Sight Fishing Stripers

Alan Caolo - October 15, 2014

Sight fish for stripers in the surf.

Fly Fishing Striped Bass in freshwater, and hybrids are an inland alternative to saltwater fish famous for exciting takes and strong fights. Bass

Fly Fishing Striped Bass

Dan Blanton - February 25, 2014

Fly Fishing Striped Bass in freshwater, and hybrids are an inland alternative to saltwater...

Our most aggressive, accessible, and widespread gamefish. Bass

Fly Fishing For Bass

Fly Fisherman - January 15, 2015

Our most aggressive, accessible, and widespread gamefish.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.