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It’s here (kind of). Spring. For many, that means the kayaks can finally come out of storage or down from the ceiling in the garage. For those lucky enough to have been fishing all year, Spring means better fishing as the water temps start to rise and fish become more active.
Spring is a great time to go fishing. Warmer weather and longer days make it an ideal season for anglers to get their paddles wet again, cast their lines and reel in some great catches. However, spring fishing can also be challenging as the weather can be unpredictable and the fish can still be finicky.
Let’s talk about some general rules of thumb when it comes to spring fishing. Fishing patterns can vary greatly depending on your location (midwest, south, or the coasts), so you may need to add a few more to your own list depending on where you live.
Tips for Spring Fishing
1. Know Your Fish
Different species of fish behave differently in the spring. Some species are more active in colder water while others prefer warmer temperatures. Do your research and learn about the habits of the fish you want to catch.
2. Check the Water Temperature
Fish are more likely to be active when the water temperature is warmer. Use a thermometer to check the water temperature before you start fishing. You can also ask other anglers or check online for water temperature reports.
This can be trickier in the northern half of the States. Ice out refers to when lakes, and some rivers, are no longer blocked by ice. The further north you go, the longer this takes, sometimes until early May. This obviously means water temps stay much lower for a longer period of Spring. Monitor your lake temps and remember the colder the water, the less active fish may be. Slow your retrieval or try live bait while the water temps remain low.
In southern states, the water temperature can warm up quickly in the spring, and fish will become more active. Plan your fishing trip for when the water temperature is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using a fish finder is a necessity to identifying water-depth transitions.
3. Use Live Bait
In the spring, fish are often looking for food that is easy to catch. Live bait such as worms, minnows, or grubs can be very effective at attracting fish. Match your live bait to what your target species will feed on. For example, fly anglers targeting trout always do best when matching their flies to each specific river or stream and the bugs that inhabit that area. You can dial in even further and research specific bug or bait hatches for that area based on time of year as well.
If you are using artificial baits & lures, it is vital you slow your retrievals. If you are trolling, slow down significantly. Water temperatures are still cold in early spring and fish are still conserving energy and moving slowly. They may view a normal retrieval speed of your lure as not worth the energy. Slowing your retrieval will not only mimic the decreased movement of a baitfish, but make your presentation easier to get for your targeted gamefish. In addition to slowing your retrieval, try minimizing your tackle to simple and small presentations.
4. Try Different Depths
Fish may be found at different depths depending on the time of day and the temperature of the water. Experiment with different depths until you find where the fish are biting. Defined as thermocline, bodies of water, like lakes, have temperature gradients. Where the fish hang out throughout the year varies but it is always related to where their preferred thermocline is holding. It’s a layer of water with a preferred temperature that has different temperatures directly above and below the thermocline.
As mentioned before, fish slow down as the water temperatures drop to conserve energy. In the early days of spring as temperatures are still rising, fish can, and will, seek out areas that are in the sun and offer even just an extra few degrees of water warmth. Shallower areas with any weeds present, flats with rocky bottoms, and water protected from wind or currents will tend to be slightly warmer than the surrounding water. Fish often collect in larger numbers in these warmer areas during the day when the sun is at its peak warmth.
5. Be Prepared & Stay Comfortable
Always bring extra bait, hooks, and line in case you need to replace them. Also, bring a first aid kit in case of any accidents. Dress yourself in layers as temperatures vary greatly throughout a spring day. If water temps are still below 55 degrees consistently, be prepared with the necessary gear if you were to fall in. Let someone else know your fishing flight plan with details like where you are launching from, how long you plan to fish, and when you think you'll be exiting the water.
Above all else, research your area. When you are going to set out for a day of fishing, research the water you will be going on, the bait fish that your game fish feed on and the habits of those baitfish for the current time of year. It may take some trial and error, as all fishing does, but when you do find spring fish they tend to be nice fish and in bunches.
Important Tips for Kayak Fishing in the Spring
Fishing from a kayak always presents different challenges, and dangers, than fishing from the shore or from a larger boat. When temperatures drop both outside and in the water, you need additional gear and strategies to stay safe in your fishing kayak. Here are some things to consider when spring fishing from your kayak:
Ask Questions, Share Strategies & Keep Trying
If you are new to spring fishing, the transition can be surprisingly difficult. If you are like the author of this blog, you may find that your favorite hot spots 'shut off' overnight one day. When it is early in the year, this is a clear sign that water conditions are changing and the fish with it.
Kayak fishing can take you to all sorts of new spots that many boats can't reach. This is an asset in the spring when fish may move to areas that are only accessible by fishing kayaks. But, with that transition, your fishing strategies need to adapt as well.
One of the biggest mistakes anglers can make is being stubborn. Ask for help on sites like our public fishing forum, the Kayak Anglers Resource. Sharing knowledge (like in the discussion, Fall Fishing Tips) is how we grow our sport. If you find something that works for your area, share it. If you have questions about specific areas or fish species, ask those questions! There is a learning curve to every season of fishing, but you don't have to learn alone in the cold!