Photo caption: Capt. Michael Okruhlik shows off an 8-pound trout. Photo courtesy of Controlled Descent Lures.
Welcome to the challenge of spring fishing.
I know a lot of people struggle to consistently pattern fish in the month of March, so I have put together a few key points that should help out. Although the days may warm up considerably, the water can still stay chilly. The continuation of passing fronts can drop the water temperature quite quickly as it struggles to climb up the thermometer, keeping fish less aggressive.
In March, I still hold onto some of the same structure I key on in the coldest months. Although I may start to mix in more shell and grass into my target areas, one thing that needs to remain from the cold weather handbook is quick and easy access to deeper water. With frequent cold fronts, although they may not have the same punch, the fish will still look to retreat to more stable water temps in the depths of a general area. The warmer and sunnier the day, the farther the fish will stray from that deep-water access, but they will not completely abandon its safety. I like to focus on the outer edge of the guts that lead from deeper water to the flats early, and I’ll follow them up onto the flat as the day warms.
With the fronts comes dreaded high pressure! Here are a couple tactics I rely on in this situation. First, and typically the most productive, is to downsize your lure. This is especially true in the spring when forage is young. I also like to go with a natural or translucent color patterns for a more natural approach. I tend to slow down and work lures closer to the bottom, as well, when the barometer is on the rise.
My next approach, when nothing is working in a high barometer setting, is to do something completely opposite of what I just recommended. When all else fails, I tie on a very noisy lure that creates a lot of water displacement. This could be a noisy topwater, a noisy rattling lure or a lipped crankbait-style plug. At this stage, I am just looking for a reaction bite. If I can aggravate them enough, they just may take the bait.
Although these techniques are polar opposites, I find the fish to be on one end of the spectrum or the other when dealing with high pressure. You just need to experiment and figure them out. Get out and enjoy the weather, and remember to take a kid fishing!
By Michael Okruhlik
Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Controlled Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.