The new year started off with favorable weather conditions for anglers in the Shenandoah Valley. Scotty Kline got into a mess of Shenandoah walleye with three citations. The biggest measured 30.25 inches and weighed in at 12.14 pounds. The other two weighed in at 8.11 pounds and 5.13 pounds. Interesting enough, there were several other boats on the water that day with each getting blanked on smallmouth. The toothy critters were eating though, with Jeff Miller hooking a musky.
Speaking of Walleye, fun fact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources stocks 20,000 1-2” fingerlings in the Shenandoah River each spring!
February will obviously follow a winter pattern with cold, crystal clear water. Remember you won’t always catch numbers of fish in the winter, but the overall size of the fish you catch have the potential to be bigger than usual.
To improve your chances for success consider downsizing your line to six-pound test line. Make longer casts and plan to fish slowly. Start in the deeper wintering holes of the river, but as we’ve mentioned in previous articles, it’s a good idea to fish the entire river from bank to bank. Always consider boat positioning when you’re fishing any given hole. It’s never a good idea to run right up to the hole. Approach it from the down river side and pay attention to the direction of the current and how quickly its flowing.
Depending on where the fish are holding you have to get the lure down to them in the strike zone. Pay attention to your rate of fall and how your line and lure track. You may have to adjust your boat positioning to get it right.
Keep in mind tubes, hair jigs, blade baits, jerkbaits, and Ned rigs are traditional cold water choices. Work the bottom of the river thoroughly before moving up in the middle depths.
The small paddle tail swimbaits are a versatile option as they can be fished at different rates of speed throughout the entire water column. Put these on a small ball head hook on light line and let it sink before bringing it in on a slow steady retrieve.
If no luck, keep your same hook but throw on a 2.5-inch Gulp! Minnow and twitch it around in the clear water. The Gulp! will catch them when a lot of other things won’t.
This takes me to downsizing your presentation when the bite is slow. Consider anything the crappie or trout angler would throw. How many times have you experienced or heard of guys crappie fishing and hooking a big ’un?
The Berkley Powerbait Atomic Tubes and Atomic Teasers give you the tube look and action in a much smaller profile. I’m also a fan of the Arkie 1.5-inch paddle tail minnow on a small jig hook. Nikko, Freaky Franks, and Bobby Garland Crappie Baits each have a good selection of small plastic natural looking forage options.
The power fisherman reading this right now are puckering up at the thought of hooking a solid fish on such a light set up. I would challenge it may be the only way they’ll eat when the fish are tight lipped and the bite is tough.
Prayers go out to the families and friends of the two young anglers that passed away at Smith Mountain Lake doing what we all love to do. Same for the waterfowl hunter from the Warren County area that capsized. These tragic events remind us to always practice safety on the water by wearing a properly-fitted life preserver. Use a kill switch on motorized boats. Have a throw cushion accessible with a rope tied off to it in windy conditions. Always tell friends or family where you are going and when you plan to be back.