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Noting fishing experiences

During the year, I jot down noteworthy fishing experiences in a notebook I keep handy. With 2022 concluding its final chapter, I referenced said book to see what I learned over the course of the year. Three lessons stood out.

River Smallmouth Migration – I’ve long theorized that Allegheny River smallmouth bass, during late fall, make significant migrations to deep habitat in which they winter over. By significant, I’m talking many miles.

Over several years I’ve developed a milk run of deep spots that produce from late March through late April, after which time bass vacate the deep water in a movement to shallower areas suitable for spawning.

Spring of 2022, however, found my 200 hp river boat in the shop for an extended period, largely due to supply chain issues with needed parts. My fishing was limited to areas I could cover with my 20 hp lake boat. With my range severely reduced, I was forced to pick apart areas I might otherwise not have bothered with. Though I wouldn’t hope to be limited this way in the future, the experience unveiled a bunch of productive new spots.

Seasonal Crappie Movements – Crappies are challenging fish. Last year I spent more time rising to their challenge than in any prior one.

Outside of the spring spawning season, during which time you can consistently find them in specific shallow areas, they seem to be always on the move.

Once summer sets in, the fish largely move away from shoreline- related cover. Submerged wood often collects them, but these spots change from day to day. On the plus side, crappies are quite easy to spot on sonar as they suspend in and around sunken tree branches. So, the first lesson is to idle around examining wood cover before fishing it. If the fish are not there, keep looking.

Finding crappies is just the first step. Once located, they can be exceptionally fussy. If you want to catch fish consistently you must be willing to experiment with jig colors, sizes, and shapes, as well as speed and cadence of retrieve. And what worked yesterday may not be productive the next.

Hyper Rattles on Pymatuning Walleyes – During the past couple of seasons I’ve had modest success on Keystone Lake walleyes with Acme Hyper Rattles, a glide jig similar to the Rapala Jigging Rap.

Last summer, I made a concerted effort to give Hyper Rattles a try on Pymatuning Lake, a water with a much higher walleye population than Keystone. The results were encouraging.

During mid- to late-summer, when the local reports of the walleye fishing were poor, I, as well as my frequent fishing friend Sid Brown, caught good numbers of walleyes on the Hyper Rattle. Nearly all the fish came from relatively shallow water, usually the tops of small humps that topped off in 10 to 15 feet of water.

As learned last summer, walleyes either hit Hyper Rattles immediately, or they ignore them. If you don’t get a hit on the first few casts, pick up and move to the next potential spot.

White bass also love glide jigs like the Hyper Rattle, but they hit them differently. Walleyes pin them to the bottom. White bass tend to intercept them as they glide toward the bottom. You simply lose contact with the dense, heavy lure as it drops.

I look forward to learning new lessons during 2023 and wish the same for all of you as well.

Jeff Knapp is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle.

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