Will March Start Like a Lion?

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

Most people are ready for spring, except maybe the ice fishermen. Signs are everywhere that we’re about to experience a season change. The geese are pairing, the diver ducks are starting to show up, there’s a lot of open water on Lake St. Marys, and creeks have been running because of rain and snow melt. Today, the temperatures are supposed to be well above 50 degrees, and tomorrow heavy winds leading an approaching cold front should move a lot of ice. All in all, we’re still on track for the lake to be open by the middle of March. Unfortunately, I just checked the Weather Channel’s 15 day forecast, and if that is anywhere close, there could be a spell of sub-freezing temperatures which would be highly unusual. Below average temperatures are predicted to start the last week of this month, and during the first full week of March, the temps aren’t supposed to get above freezing. Hopefully, this isn’t the case.

Die-hard ice fishermen would disagree. Since this is marginal ice-fishing country, those who enjoy the sport want to get as much ice time as possible. Unfortunately, as the season winds down getting on the ice is unpredictable and dangerous. Currently, it’s almost impossible to get anywhere near safe ice. There is weak ice or open water along most of the shore lines, and the ice color alone warns people to stay off. With cold temperatures expected to continue, the ice will probably refreeze. However, no matter how cold it gets, the ice will never be as strong as new ice. The thickness will be uneven, and the hardness will vary. Those are conditions when fishermen get into trouble. Those who are on the ice a lot know this. From what I’ve been told, always check your own ice, and a bucket of fish isn’t worth losing your life.

Since there is always some open water available, depending on conditions, spring fishermen start getting the itch to wet a line. The main tributaries running into Lake St. Marys, for example, have brought out a few early fishermen testing the water. I watched a catfishermen tight-lining the other day, and a couple of crappie fishermen working open water around some docks. Many fishermen concentrate on the tailwaters below dams or spillways. First, they are always ice-free when running water is present. Second, fishing is usually the best under those conditions. Finally, excellent fishing and trophy fish are available in those locations at all three of our area’s canal lakes.

In Beaver Creek, below the spillway at GLSM, fishermen have been picking up both crappies and saugeyes. Although the bite isn’t always on, fishermen will usually concentrate during the morning and late afternoon. I’ve heard that a few fishermen will be on the water when it’s even later. The cynics say that it’s easier to get away with landing a snagged fish in the dark. I have no idea how true that is. Either way, it is illegal to keep a snagged saugeye, and I’m sure a number of them are accidentally snagged. Saugeye fishermen I’ve watched are using tandem three-inch twister tails. Chartreuse seems to be the popular color. They throw the jigs downstream and slowly work them back against the current. Losing jigs is a common occurrence and the price one pays for fishing areas filled with rocks, snags, and broken lines. In spite of the handicaps, a few wall-hangers weighing eight pounds or more seem to show up every season.

Crappie fishing can be extremely good when the bite is on. Small jigs and bobbers are the common offering. Fishing depths vary, but three feet is a good starting point. Popular tail colors are chartreuse, white, and pink. With a heavy current, usually when one of the 60 inch tubes is completely open, many fishermen will concentrate on the south bank of the creek where the water is calmer. Fish seem to hang where the current breaks. Fishermen should use extreme caution, especially when the temperatures are below freezing. Climbing on icy rocks is a quick way to get a bath.

Fishing below the spillway at Lake Loramie has been spotty because of the heavy runoff. Lake Loramie has a huge watershed for its size, and Loramie Creek can be difficult to fish under these conditions. The Miami River below the spillway at Indian Lake has been producing some nice saugeye. Twister tails are the usual bait of choice and chartreuse the most popular color. Some fishermen swear by Big Joshy swim baits. No doubt they catch a lot of fish because they’re a confidence bait to many. They’re sculpted and have a bulbous tail that gives it a lot of action. The baits are made in Ohio and there is a large color selection.

So, take advantage of what fishing there is and don’t put away your cold weather gear. I’m not going to predict when our lakes will be totally ice free. I do know two things for sure. The first catfish tournament at GLSM is March 23, and I don’t fish when the water is hard. Enough said.