by Chris McCotter

March in the Richmond area means it’s time to start fishing the tidal James for big blue catfish. It’s been several years since the James held the state record for blue cat and now, it would have to be a world record since the 143-pound giant was caught from Buggs Island a few years back.

   Guides and recreational anglers know that in March the big blues are feeding heavily in preparation for the spawn. When the water hits 50 degrees algae really takes off on river rocks which in turn brings in the gizzard shad, and that leads to the big cats coming in to eat them.

  A spokesman for James River Tackle Co. in Hopewell says cut shad on bottom rigs with up to eight ounces of weight to counter tide and current is where it’s at now. Most anglers can catch fish over 30 pounds on nearly every outing now.

  The James River Tackle Co. Sunday Series tournaments will commence March 25, followed by April 22, May 20, June 10, Jul y 8 and August 19. The two-day classic will be September 30 and Octobert 1. All events launch from Hopewell Marina.

   Stop by James River Tackle Co. and see the expansion – as they’ve doubled their space and inventory over the winter.

  Switching over to crappie fishing, it’s also  time to get out on the river and start fishing for freckles. The first good fishing will commence in the Dutch Gap barge pit and perhaps just below the fall line in Richmond around the Canal Walk and old wood structures. Fish slip bobbers and minnows for fish in 4-10’ of water. You can also cast small jigs to locate fish quickly.

   Bass anglers are working the James and Appomattox Rivers now in preparation for the kick-off event of their seasons. Many will fish barge pits where the clearest water is, others will seek out thermal discharges – the places that one can fish are almost endless on the river in March if warm weather and low rain conditions dominate. Pitching a small jig or a spinnerbait to shoreline wood are common March patterns on the river.

   Let’s not forget the annual shad run up the James will get started this month, too.

   Once the river reaches 50 degrees the hickory and American shad will start up the James.

   Anglers will ambush them, usually around the fall line using everything from fly rods and shad flies, to Nungesser spoons, shad darts and Sabiki Rigs. 

   Check with local shops like G’Daddy’s, Castaway Sporting Goods, Green Top and James River Tackle Co. for up-to-date fishing information.

  W2 would like to welcome Pat’s Sporting Goods of Chester, one of our newest marketing partners and distribution points.  

  This shop has a respected archery pro shop plus fresh and saltwater fishing tackle, live and frozen baits and shad fishing lures/gear. They run an annual predator tournment popular among locals, too.

  Green Top Hunting & Fishing is counting the days until the first reports of shad in the upper reaches of the tidal James River. With a mild weather trend and minimal rains, this run could develop earlier than usual, possibly by mid-March, certainly by the end of the month.

    The fish will pool at the fall line in Richmond and anglers by the hundreds will target them. The Ancarrows ramp is the best place to launch your boat, but take care there are rocks and swift currents.

  Green Top wanted to remind shooting enthusiasts that there is up to a  $100 rebate available on over 300 Smith & Wesson firearms.

  And when it’s time to store your firearms safely, Green Top is the area Libery Safe dealer.

  Don’t forget Mondays are Ladies Night at the Green Top Shooting Range. It’s just $12/lane from 3 pm until closing time.

  With grilling season here, you’ll want to inspect Green Top’s selection of outdoor cooking gear. The new Traeger Flatrock flat top grills are awesome!

   Lake Chesdin anglers are catching bass and crappie already. The bass are on bait in creeks like Whippernock, Stoney, Cattle and Namazene. Try a small crankbait or swimbait until the fish move to shallow wood.

  Robbie Patterson and his team at Propeller Dynamics welcome you and your rig to the shop, just don’t wait until the last minute and expect a quick turnaround.

  Patterson is now selling Xpress aluminum boats and Falcon fiberglass bass boats as well as offering marine repairs, marine electronics installation and operating as a factory-authorized Minn Kota and MotorGuide repair job. They will also service, sell and install the new Lowrance and Garmin trolling motors and lithium batteries.

  Over on the north side of Richmond, up 95 you’ll find Central Virginia Outdoors – a unique shop that features an indoor archery range, pro shop and tackle shop, complete with minnows and bass tackle. The owner and staff are archery, hunting and fishing buffs themselves so they know their products.

  If you are heading the other direction this month – over to the bay, you’ll want to stop by JoJo’s Fishing/Hunting Express on Rt. 301 Manquin. 

  This shop is full of the gear saltwater anglers love to shop, plus it carries freshwater tackle, marine accessories, ammunition, bow hunting supplies and more.

  The shop with its finger on the pulse of the York River is Suft N Turf Outdoors near West Point. Call or stop by to find out when the first croaker make their way up the river. There’s also a fun catch-and-release striper fishing around the West Point bridges.

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