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.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discuss the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty.

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.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

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

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

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...

Best Panfish Flies Flies

Best Panfish Flies

Skip Morris

Best Panfish Flies

American River California United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

Golden riches in Wyoming's high-country heaven of the Wind River Range. United States

Wind River Range Wyoming

Greg Thomas - July 27, 2015

Golden riches in Wyoming's high-country heaven of the Wind River Range.

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

Here is a brief list of the Best Smallmouth Bass Flies available today with some insight on pattern design and, presentation. Bass

Best Smallmouth Bass Flies

Ben Romans - May 02, 2014

Here is a brief list of the Best Smallmouth Bass Flies available today with some insight on...

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies. Bass

How to Catch Smallmouth Bass on Topwater Flies

Dave Karczynski and Tim Landwehr

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies.

Our most aggressive, accessible, and widespread gamefish. Bass

Fly Fishing For Bass

Fly Fisherman - January 15, 2015

Our most aggressive, accessible, and widespread gamefish.

How to find smallmouth bass in stillwater. Bass

Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass

Dave and Emily Whitlock

How to find smallmouth bass in stillwater.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now