The thermometer might not be rising as quickly as we'd like, but with a few more minutes of light every day, spring is well on its way. The fish know it, too. As daylight lengthens and temperatures rise, fish leave their hideouts in the depths and come up to hunt. No need to wait for summer - grab your rod and tackle box and make the most of the early season.
Watch the weather forecast for those elusive “unseasonably warm” days. Not only will you be more comfortable outdoors on a mild day, but the fish will be more active. Warmer temperatures speed up fishes’ metabolism, so they’ll be more likely to strike your bait. However, fish won’t bite as hard and fast in early spring as they will in the heat of summer, so keep your bait small and work it very slowly; you also will probably have better luck with live bait, rather than a lure. Wait for a second to set the hook when you get a bite.
Early afternoon is a good time to fish, because the sun will have had a few hours to warm up the water. Breakwaters, seawalls, and rocky embankments, like those around the feet of a bridge, hold the sun’s heat and warm the water around them. The irregular edges of such “riprap” banks also give fish nice places to hide. Some anglers advise that they have the most luck two or three feet from the rocks. Another great thing about fishing riprap banks: you can fish from the bank itself rather than launching the boat.
If you find a patch of water weeds that are still green and growing, try fishing there. Bluegill like to hide among the weeds, and other types of fish come into the shallows where the water is warmest. Pike and muskellunge lurk in the shallows, too, looking for an easy meal. Yellow perch are active early, especially in rocky, weedy shallows.
When fishing in or around deep water, especially in cold weather, please wear a life jacket. It helps keep you warm and can save your life if you fall into cold, deep water. And if you don't catch your limit, just remember: they call it fishing, not catching. Have fun!