If At First You Don’t Succeed

Change species

       I had arrived on this narrow section of the river just after dawn, my breath clearly visible in the still chill morning air. With fingers trembling from the cold, I lip-hooked a small minnow on the shad dart positioned about 18 inches below a small, weighted, orange casting bobber. Yellow perch were on my mind.
      Having fished this site before, I knew my challenge was casting the rig precisely to the center of the narrow current that twisted among the small, submerged boulders littering this section of water about 50 feet away. Too far to one side or the other risked a snag on the rocks, a loss of my rigs and lengthy re-rigging.
      Over the next hour or so, I lost two complete rigs without a single bite. After carefully tying yet another setup, I set the spin rod down and picked up an alternate outfit rigged quite differently. It was adorned with a No. 6 Mepps spinner in gold, its sizeable treble hook dressed neatly with grey squirrel tail.
      Walking downstream some 25 yards to where the streambed broadened into a larger and deeper pool, I made a cast out toward the center, then slowly reeled in my lure. Working the bait first to one side then to the other in a somewhat calculated manner, my earlier disappointment dissipated in placid contemplation of the methodical vibration of my spinner cutting through the depths.
      A pull on the line startled me. Responding with a firm strike, I was rewarded by a mighty splash at midstream as a long iridescent-green flank showed itself in an angry burst. It was a chain pickerel.
      The spunky jackfish headed downstream toward a tangle of downed trees near the far bank as my reel drag buzzed and my body jolted awake with a burst of adrenaline. Managing to slow the fish’s run and stop it at the last moment, just short of the submerged tangle of timbers, I carefully worked the pickerel back.
     The Mepps spinner is one of the better lures to entice pickerel, but it does have one drawback. When landing the fish, the angler takes a risk with those nasty treble hooks. With water high on the river after the recent rains, I slid the fish onto the bank and without injury to man or fish, freed the treble from its needle-lined grin. Its very bony structure limits table appeal, pretty much mandating release.
      In compensation for its lack of scales, the long, slender grass pike has a thick coating of slime, so I barely touched the fish as I nudged it back into the water.
     Returning upcurrent, I resumed my pursuit of the yellow perch with no more success. About noon, with no yellow perch but more releases of pike, I picked up my gear and headed home. My fishing need had been satisfied.
     It’s always wise to have a backup species in mind, I reflected, especially in the early spring.
Fish Finder
      With warmer weather and frequent rain showers, yellow perch are beginning to run. Fishing will become more rewarding as the season develops. Larger white perch won’t show up in any numbers until next month, but smaller and mid-sized males are arriving near headwaters. 
     Pickerel are just about everywhere, and anglers are getting some nice messes of crappie in the impoundments and some of the rivers. Catfish are also beginning to run in the tributaries.