Fishing you don’t want to miss

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Once winter breaks, some great fishing immediately follows. Like a lot of the best fishing, weather conditions are not always great. But it is warmer than winter, even though a good ice fishing season did make this winter seem mild.

Even if you were not ready to stop ice fishing, and I was not, take whatever nature dishes out and deal with it. This is hardly a sacrifice. Ice-out fishing is fishing you do not want to miss.

March, for whatever reason, has long been my best month for catching big Allegheny River brown trout. Many anglers have caught larger trout from the Allegheny River. My largest brown trout and rainbow trout have been in the 6-pound to 8-pound class. A few 17-inch brook trout, the best time also in March, have been equally prized.

Outflow from the Kinzua Dam has a lot to do with river trout fishing. The maximum outflow for wading is about 2,000 cfs. Float fishing can be very good when the outflow is as much as 6,000 cfs, although 2,000 cfs to 4,000 cfs is better.

Fly fishing with streamers is my preferred river trout fishing method. But if I really want to catch big browns I usually use spinning gear, casting stick baits. That is unless I am really serious about catching big browns, in which case I use shiners for bait.

Remember that trout must immediately be released unharmed during March in the Allegheny River special regulations section from the dam to the mouth of Conewango Creek. But then, why would you want to keep one of these big trout at any time of the year, not when reproductions are just as good as mounts.

Late winter also is the best time to try to catch very large walleye in the Allegheny River. Use large, live minnows, or cast 6-inch stick baits. We have only until March 14 to do this.

Do you want to catch some fish for the dinner table?

As soon as there is open water along the shoreline of Presque Isle Bay, perch fishing from shore will be good. And then when the ice clears so boats can get on the bay, there will be perch fishing that probably is equal to any in North America. To top this off, it has been a better than normal winter for perch fishing.

We can not get away from big fish after ice-out. This late winter to early spring period is the time when a new state record perch is most likely to be caught. The egg laden females are pigs.

Be sure to try shore fishing for perch. ‘Bucket fishing’ is one of those things that has the appeal of minimalism. All you need is a bucket to carry live minnows, preferably emerald shiners, a couple of rods and reels, hooks and sinkers. I also suggest some slip bobbers. Perch often suspend well above bottom, particularly when they are actively feeding.

Be sure to check the Lake Erie fishing regulations, which are different from statewide regulations.

Of course I have not overlooked steelhead fishing. We have about six weeks of good steelhead fishing in the creeks remaining, maybe less. This has been a very good steelhead run with good numbers and fair size. No huge steelhead have been reported during this run, yet.

If you are a bait angler, you should carry egg sacks or skein, shiners and nightcrawlers. In stained water try nightcrawler halves. When the water gets low and clear, single eggs or shiners likely will be most effective.

If you are liberty to do so, try to time your steelhead fishing trips to coincide with the better stream conditions. I will say the best conditions are while a creek is rising and gaining color, before it gets too high and muddy. Low and clear are the most dreaded fish-able creek conditions, although many anglers like low and clear because they can see the steelhead so well. Fairly hooking steelhead than can be clearly seen is very difficult.

We are also nearing another of the subtle pleasures of fishing, spring sucker fishing. This should get going during March. When I was a kid, Ray Bimber and I would fish for suckers at the edge of a current, within easy walking distance of his home. As the Seneca had taught his parents, Ray would bury a sucker, or half a sucker if fishing was not very good, under every corn mound. He grew the tallest corn with the sweetest kernels.

Use small red worms for bait. Anchor that bait on bottom with a slip sinker on the calm side of current edges below riffles and at tributary mouths.

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