Same Place, Different Conditions, Different Tactics, Same Results

Same Place, Different Conditions, Different Tactics, Same Results

On what hopefully will become an annual tradition, for the second time in two years, Tony, a grandson (a different one this time), and I headed for the Connecticut River on the fourth Saturday in April; a day that for 20+ years has meant fishing on a local trout pond because it is opening day of trout season.

Last year we had some success in a very limited amount of time, and hoped to expand on what we learned last April. Last year’s trip resulted in several firsts. The most noticeable was Grandson Sam’s first pike. We were hoping the same would be true for Ian this year.

Upon our arrival, we realized quickly that this was a different year. The most important difference being that the water was much colder, mostly 42 degrees this year, as compared to 50 degrees last year. That’s a huge difference to a fish, especially a spawning fish, like a pike in April.

The Water Was Much Colder

The Water Was Much Colder

We started in the same setback where we had all our action last year. We raised several fish then. It was entirely different this time. Almost an hour of fishing resulted in just one swing and miss by a pike at Ian’s spinner.

What that one fish told us was several things. First, the fish weren’t there in the numbers they were a year ago. Second, they were not as aggressive, so we had to mute the color and reduce the speed. Third, the fish were not as tight to the bank this year as they were last year.

The good news is that this situation forced us into finding some new spots to fish. I had seen on a topo map a setback on the opposite bank about a half mile downstream. So we headed there to check it out. It looked perfect! It had everything a pike could want.

We were still faced with dealing with the cold water, but we hoped this bigger, deeper cove would result in a fish or two. It did. Ian got his first pike, and he had another strike. He did so by reeling slower over deeper water.

Ian's First Pike

Ian’s First Pike

Tony and I were still fishless, so we decided to check out a cove upstream that we had seen from the road. It paid off. Using what we learned earlier, Tony and I each landed two nice 30”+ fish.

31" Pike

31″ Pike

We have all the more reason to go back, now that we added these two new spots to our inventory of pike waters.

The lesson here is to learn not only from the fish you catch, but as much or more from the ones you don’t catch.


A 32-Inch Surprise

Tony, Bear, and I went to Half Moon Pond on March 29 for what we hoped would be our last trip out on the ice this season.

Bear's First Ice Fishing Trip

Bear’s First Ice Fishing Trip

Well, if we are to do any fishing over the next few weeks, it will definitely be on the ice. I couldn’t believe it as I drilled the first hole.

Drilling the First Hole

Drilling the First Hole

I thought the auger was not going to be long enough.

We're Going to Need a Bigger Auger

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Auger

We finally broke through and hit water after 32” of ice! That’s easily the most I have ever seen this late in the season.

Three years ago, I was open water fishing on March 12 in central Mass., and many years I have been open water fishing on the Cape the first weekend in March. I have often fished open water in lakes like Granite, the first week in April. Not this year. I had earlier predicted ice out here to happen on May 1. I now think that is being very optimistic.

So it became clear to us that we were in for a lot of work—not just drilling the holes, but clearing them of ice so we could get our bait through the holes. On average it took us about 5 minutes to drill and 15 minutes to clean the hole. We never got the 12 traps in that we could have had legally.

That said, as we were working on the second hole, the flag went up on the first hole. We were rewarded with a beautiful 13” black crappie, which I prefer to call by the name I grew up calling them, calico bass. I think that is a much better and accurate name and description.

Black Crappie (aka Calico Bass)

Black Crappie (aka Calico Bass)

All in all, considering we were fishing by bankers’ hours, not fisherman hours. Starting just before noon, we had a great day. Tony caught a beautiful 18” largemouth that had a 12” girth putting him at about 3.24 pounds.

18" Largemouth Bass

18″ Largemouth Bass

We caught a couple of pickerel, including a very fat 17-incher.

17-Inch Pickerel

17-Inch Pickerel

We managed to jig up a small yellow perch and miss a few others.

Monster Yellow Perch

Monster Yellow Perch

In all we had 17 flags. That would normally be good full day.

We missed many of those fish, largely because our bait was too big. This late in the season, and with the best local dealer retiring, we could not get the bait that we would have preferred.

All in all, it was a well spent 3 hours.

Unfortunately I think there will be ice fishing going on for at least another month. We’ll have to make lemonade from this lemon of a winter.