Shenandoah River

by Jared Mounts

   Many good reports streamed in from anglers in the Shenandoah Valley for the month of April.  Twenty to thirty fish days were not uncommon with several of citation size.  

  Josh Lambert landed a personal best 5.3 pound smallmouth on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River on a float trip.  We know of at least two, five pounders caught in the month along with many three’s and four’s.  

  Pre-spawn patterns started emerging by mid-month with fish pushing up shallow and a few of those making beds.  These numbers will have increased by the end of April.

  By the time you are reading this article most of the smallmouth will have spawned out or laid her eggs on the nest.  It is possible in certain areas you may find both the male and female up shallow, but it is more likely the female has moved off and you’ll find the male guarding the nest.  If you are fishing at this critical time period in the bass’s life, we ask that you return caught fish as quickly as possible to the water.  

  We learned several years ago when searching for a hatchery to stock smallmouth in a private body of water these smallmouth hatcheries are few and far between across the entire country.  Smallmouth reproduction success is difficult.  It is true the Maryland DNR is developing a smallmouth stocking program while Virginia is researching it.  The smallmouth bass lays considerably less eggs than the largemouth counterpart.  Natural predators will kill eggs and small fry when given the chance.  Not to mention the diversity of a river system with current, high and low water levels, and drastic temperature swings that can eliminate even more future fish.   It is a miracle for young of year smallmouth to make it to adult size when you consider all these factors.    

  With water temperatures in the sixties, everything in your tackle box can catch them.  As I often say, work the river bank to bank throughout the entire water column top to bottom.  Always throw to visible structures like submerged wood, rocks, and ledges.  Consider dragging jigs and creature baits. 

  Speaking of creature baits, be sure to check out Bill Siemantel’s Nature Series Line with Fish Lab Tackle.  He wanted to provide more realistic detail to the “creature” lure.  Together they created the Kickin’ Craw, Flutter Nymph, Flippin’ Frog, and Cover Bird.  These plastic life-like imitations were designed for punching into heavy cover or flippin’ into the river current for hungry bass.  

  As the water temperature continues to warm from mid-month to the end of May look for fish to find moving water and current.  The beginning of a summer pattern will emerge on the rivers.  Warm low water pushes the fish to find the more oxygenated water in and around the rapids and riffles.  Current lines and eddy’s begin to come into play.   

  Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and paddle-tail swimbaits fished along these seams can produce good strikes.  Don’t forget about the topwater bite during early morning or late evening on the sunny clear days or all day if it’s overcast.  The buzzbait, Whopper Plopper, or Spook are all good choices.  

    Jake’s has brought on young talent Cade Bailey to tie trout and bass flies for our local angers.  Some should be thrown on a fly rod while others can be fished on lite spin tackle.  Check him out on Instagram @ dead_drift_fishing to see his fly tying talent as well as the trout and big smallmouth he’s catching on his creations.  Trout, crappie, bass, and musky anglers understand how feathers and hair can fool even the wisest fish!  Stop by Jake’s and check out the selection of flies, fly tying materials, and new fly reels.

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