By Nick Simonson
It’s that time of year, and while all the insanity focuses on a bouncing ball for the next few weeks, the shift going on in the outdoors will tick up to a maddening pace as well. Being prepared for everything spring has to throw at an angler is key to success and a shot at a big fish, as the temperature and seasonal shifts come on quickly, spurring hot bites around the region. What follows are some preparatory tips to help manage the madness that March can bring.
1. Gear Check. Look over those rods and reels, greasing the latter with the appropriate oil and removing any bits of grit from under the spool. Check eyelets on rods for any chips, dings or damage and replace or repair them with new ones. The pre-season is the perfect time to re-spool reels with new line, making sure a fresh offering of strong mono or superline will be there to connect with that first big fish of the season.
2. Better Boats. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself project, or it goes in to the local marina to get ready for open water, getting a craft ready for those first forays assures a smooth transition back onto the water. Check and charge batteries and test them to see that they hold their power levels. Inspect motors and the hull for any dings, damage or concerns, along with trailer connections and lights to ensure safe transport and launching. Finally, attach and test electronics to confirm operational status, and pick a calm weekday afternoon for a practice launch and a first on-the-water adventure, to get everything in order before the action picks up.
3. Plan Ahead. Spring does come on fast in the upper Midwest, so pull out old journals and maps and start cataloging the places that produce best this time of year. Whether it’s in the tailraces of the various Missouri River reservoirs or under dams along other regional rivers or the channels on the north end of Devils Lake or maybe just a small farm pond that loses its ice early and produces crazy panfishing, mark those places to monitor and get ready to move when news of a bite picks up, or the conditions align as in previous years. State agencies like Minnesota offer ice out maps on their websites, so follow that information and extrapolate east and west for a general idea of where things are at.
4. Tackle It All. Give last season’s stash of openwater tackle a once-over, and pick out those bent, beat-up or rusty offerings and get rid of them or repair them if possible. Stock up on reliable spring lures like hair or flash jigs, suspending stickbaits, and slow-moving soft plastics for the species that can be pursued, and grab those faster, flashier offerings for summer as well. With the solid covering of ice on lakes and streamside deposits of snow, there’s still time to tie up plenty of flies and lures as well, but be ready for a quick melt and get those finishing touches on each fly box done soon.
5. Pen a Friend. Make it a goal this spring to set up plans with a buddy who doesn’t fish or take a new angler on the water. Set a concrete date that only bad weather can move and introduce someone to the fun of fishing. In continuing the call for clean water, conservation and the future of fishing, increasing the size of the angling public and getting new generations into the fold is key to sustaining and protecting the many resources enjoyed across the upper Midwest.
This handful of helpful suggestions is just the start. Make a checklist of those last things to get done now and add those other items of importance to ensure a successful spring once the melting madness of March moves on and angling options open up…in our outdoors.
(Featured Photo: Cool weather, hot bite. The start of spring can produce incredible outings, especially for panfish like crappies. Add taking a young or new angler out to your list of things to do this season and help expand the sport. Simonson Photo)