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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Fishing season is heating UP

Last week’s column about curing the itch started an itch in me while writing it. Temperatures that flirt with the 70s and 80s always get me going.

The problem with spring is that there are too many chores outside that interfere with fishing! Regardless, one must have their priorities in order and take some time to wet a line and cook up some fresh fish.

There usually is talk about fish spawning early when we get a warm string of days. I must be gathering some years under my belt

because I can recall hearing the topic broached a dozen times or more and have even taken it upon myself to ask various fisheries biologists over the years about the possibility of an early spawn.

Warm weather is not the only factor in getting the fish to spawn. Water flow impacts anadromous species such as white perch, striped bass, herring, and shad. The amount of daily sunlight is a huge factor in just about anything wildlife does to include breeding, spawning, antler development, migration and many other things.

So, the short answer to the question of fish spawning early during a warm spring: is they don’t really spawn earlier. However, some biologists have told me that fish will sometimes go to prespawn mode earlier but for the most part the fish wait.


If God had not made them react primarily to the amount of light then they might spawn too early and that could be catastrophic to the species if we had a serious cold snap. I have seen it snow more than a few inches in April around here!

One thing that readers who are anglers might want to consider is getting on the Rappahannock now if you like white perch. Last week they were reportedly at Hicks Landing. The biggest white perch tend to run upriver first. The little ones follow. By now the white perch might even be hitting the City Dock area.

Find some bloodworms and a good hole to fish in during a moving tide.  Yellow perch or ring perch have been spawning already and anglers are taking them now in headwaters of tribs and creeks.

Crappie are in prespawn mode now and they are prime for the picking. One of the biggest stringers of crappie that I have ever seen was out at Lake Orange and it was exactly mid March when they were caught. That lake is fertilized regularly and produces some HUGE fish. The lake and concession are well managed too. If you like big crappie, a quiet little lake and a place to put your small boat in and try for a few citation fish mixed in with some good eater fish then give it a try.

Take plenty of minnows or buy some from Darryl, who runs the concession, out there. Lake Anna is not a bad choice either. There are plenty of crappie out there and they are relatively easy to find. Look for structure. Be sure to check our fishing report. McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service is a good place to start too!

Last weekend my kids and I went to a pond and found the bass very hungry. Minnows worked very well but so did jerkbaits and spinnerbaits. The fish were the perfect size; all were less than three pounds and they fried up beautifully. That brings up a good point too. While some readers might not agree, it is a fact that most bass anglers are catch and release anglers these days. It is also a fact that bass, or any other fish, need to be harvested to keep the numbers in check. Some bass anglers get pretty upset when they see a stringer of bass or someone cleaning these fish. That is too bad. Taking a reasonable amount of the smaller fish home for supper is a good idea. This is particularly true of a closed ecosystem like a pond or small lake.


Sizes can get stunted quickly without some harvest. I do make a point to put back any truly large fish. They won’t taste good anyway and they are good at eating, which keeps the other species, such as panfish, in check. So, my advice is take a few smaller fish home from time to time and ease those big fish back into the water to fight another day.


Catfish are also biting very well now. With all the upcoming bait in the form of perch, shad and herring, the catfish are really starting to turn on. Use fresh cutbait and large minnows to catch the bigger fish. No matter which river you are fishing in, the general consensus is to keep all the catfish you want and legally can take home. The Rappahannock is said to be overpopulated with blue catfish and most of them are very slow growing. On the Potomac River there are high numbers of blue catfish of all sizes. If the trend follows that of other rivers, the Potomac will top out in growth for these voracious eaters and then a decline in growth rates will occur, leaving us with millions of smaller fish. Although there was talk by some agencies or groups of eradicating catfish because they are reportedly non-native, many other game fish are non-native too. There is no reasonable way to get rid of the catfish even if you wanted to. The smart thing is to enjoy what we have, manage the population the best we can and that means taking some of them out of the river.


With all the warm weather occurring, now is a good time to get out and wet a line. Take a jacket with you, and wear your PFD. It is still quite cold and swimming in the river right now is not a good option.


Good fishing!

Mark Fike

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