Fontana in the Spring

By Capt. James McManus

There is something about spring fishing on Fontana that almost everyone enjoys. In fact, there are lots of things folks enjoy about it. Let’s start with the weather. Except for some nice days mixed in, you will almost always need to come prepared for cold, wind and wet, or maybe frozen wet, through January and February. Once spring arrives, you can at least leave a few clothes behind. Our fish are in a great mood in the spring and so, they respond to the dinner bell with a vengeance, needing to continue eating while finding that “special one” to propagate with, in order to continue the species. When actually in the act, they may have clouded views about chow, but any time, outside of “the moment,” they are generally hungry. This urge to find members of the opposite sex often moves them to the shallower haunts and banks, making them much easier to locate and reach with our baits. No more trolling 100+ feet looking for the scattered pods of fish, any likely looking bank or point or flat can hold great numbers looking for mates.

One of the things I like best about spring fishing is that all baits are back in play. During winter, you occasionally get a topwater bite, but most days, a shallow jerkbait will not reach very many fish. There aren’t many lures that are more fun to throw than small jerkbaits like the Rapala x-raps, small crankbaits like flicker shad, or topwater spooks and poppers. Everyone can be caught throwing to the bank or points, with these versatile lures. We have caught walleye, smallies, spots and whites on consecutive casts in the same areas, on the same lures. If they are still a little deep then switch over to my favorite, a small jig with a mini zoom fluke. I have said it before, but these will catch all fish, all year, all over. So where to fish…

Fish will naturally head towards the river mouths as the spawning urge overtakes them. Walleye and whites are especially drawn into the shallow river areas. Spots and smallies may still be found upriver but can also stay downlake because they use gravelly points and banks and don’t need that running water to spawn. Any rounded gravel point with maybe a few scattered boulders are prime areas to look for. Some points around Greasy Branch and the areas around Forney, Goldmine, and Noland can all hold fish. You may see fish by just cruising and looking with electronics but many times they are holding tight to the bank and you can’t go wrong pitching a few just to see if “anyone is home”. This is the one time of the year when I may head down a bank for a mile or two and just continue to fish “old school,” without relying much on my electronics. They can be spread out over a general area and, as long as the bank composition doesn’t change much, they may just continue to move and find their own niche.

Personally, there is one thing I try to avoid, and that is catching what walleye we have left, when they are really in spawn mode up in the rivers. I feel like they need the space and opportunity to be left alone so we can enjoy them for years to come. After they spawn, they stay shallow for several weeks until it gets to be summertime and they return to their suspended time. During this interim, they are fairly easily targeted maybe a mile, to a couple of miles, back from the river mouths. They, again, will hit the abovementioned baits and night crawlers fished on jig heads. You will pick up a little of everything with crawlers including some really nice channel cats. So enjoy the nicer weather, take off a few clothes, get out your larger tacklebag, buy more rods, and enjoy one of the greatest gifts God has given this area.

Later, Capt. James