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Spring begins the circle of life

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Spring bluegill are fun to catch, especially on ultralight tackle. This bull bluegill inhaled a mini-tube jig I worked over a weed bed in a pond near Princeton. Even a fish this size can pull hard against light tackle. That is what makes it so much fun!

I’ve mentioned this concept before, but for you to be more successful at fishing in the spring, you need to think small. The cycle of life starts over again in Nature each spring and all species begin small. Fish are even smaller than most.

For most fish, especially species like bluegill and bass, this cycle begins in shallow and the dark water that Mother Nature provides. Stained water and shallow places warm up the quickest as the days grow longer. New vegetative growth happens quickly in these waters. Vegetation provides cover for newly hatched insect and structure for small mollusks to cling to, which attracts minnows, pre-spawn fish, and later, spawning fish.

Tiny minnows always seem to find this feast first and gorge themselves on emerging insects. At this time of the year all fish feed on their smallest food sources because they are small as well. A one-inch bass or walleye can’t swallow a two-inch Rapala lure that crosses its path. This is why you need to think small and fish small. Cast micro-jigs into places you fish early for more results. Match your baits/lures to the size of the fish that are present.

Why do you need to fish small? All predator fish are programmed to look for and feed on smaller food sources in the spring. Yes, a mature walleye will hit a 4-inch lure in the spring, but many millennia of evolution tells the predator that the most abundant food sources in the spring will be small and they tend to look for these first.

As minnows in these bodies of water grow bigger they attract bigger predator fish to feed on them. As the spring growing season continues, baitfish get bigger. By mid-summer it is time to pull your bigger lures out of the tackle box and toss them into your favorite spots. The biggest lures should be saved until fall.

At the present time, many species are in their spawning cycles. The cycle of life continues and a new crop of fish will be waiting. Just as a side note, the next time you are cleaning a fish, open up the stomach and look at how many small snails are in there. Bluegill and trout loves these small snails. This might show you how important aquatic vegetation is for our waters.

Location, Location, Location

Another tip for fishing right now is to look for places where water flows into a bigger body of water. Most anglers take advantage of this springtime trait by fishing inlets to reservoirs. There are many spots where water flows into lakes or rivers, sometime as only a trickle. Be sure to check these places out as you fish. It may surprise you.

Look for those areas with a small rivulet of warmer water that may come from melting snows or overflow areas off of fields and pastures after a rain. Most lake maps you find do not show areas of inflows from spring runoff, just established creeks and streams. These are generally found by exploring the shoreline of any body of water. Many times crappies and bluegills will be there gobbling up any food sources that are washing into the lake. A canoe or kayak can be a great asset to get to these small waters.

If you have marshy areas where you fish, check out any spots where seepage occurs from a bog or wall of cattails. These areas typically have shallow slow moving water that is warm and fish are drawn to these areas looking for something to eat. River backwaters are exceptional panfish lairs. Shallow and current-free expanses can be fished all spring and into the summer. Look for high water pools formed behind stretches of shorelines bordering pastures or timber.

Pipes that carry runoff from streets and parking lots are places to search after a rain. If I can find the discharge from a water processing facility I will explore that area too. I had a great afternoon of fish once when I found the pipe that carried the runoff from a municipal golf course and city park pond. The pipe discharged into a creek and that ‘hole’ was full of fish. I have caught some nice fish from spots like this over the years!

Standing weeds, particularly an inside edge between the shore and open water, are often overlooked by anglers because they feel the spot isn’t big enough or deep enough to hold fish. These spots are perfect of panfish. The water is warm, there is protection from the wind, and an area like this provides some safety from bigger predators. Spend a little time exploring these spots.


Fishing small waters early in the fishing season requires small tackle. They can be difficult places to maneuver a rod…tree branches can catch your lure and weeds can grab your lure as you try to retrieve.

In really tight places I use my extendable jigging poles. I’m talk eight to ten foot poles with no more than the same length of line tied to the end. I can do pinpoint short distance casts or simply lower my bait into an open pocket in the vegetation. The smallest pencil or cone bobber I have is attached to the line and adjusted to the depth I need to get my bait.

I think you will be surprised at the fishing that can be had in bodies of water you have probably overlooked many times. Good Luck.


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