The first few weeks of March in the Shenandoah Valley saw high winds, cold temperatures, and scattered snow showers! Anglers that weathered mother nature found success with average numbers and good size. Travis Edens with Kingfisher Guide Service has landed some good Shenandoah River smallmouth out of his raft. Average 15-20 fish days with a few citation smallies per trip. Travis’s largest on a March snow squall outing was 19.5 inches weighing just over 4 pounds. He caught it on a white Jerkbait. Brad Carter year after year finds good quality fish on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. An early March float saw water up and moving and he managed a couple good ones on the bottom. I decided to look back in the the vault since I’ve been writing and reports from 8 years ago show consistent quality year after year. It is true the river system has seen it’s ups and downs but anglers still manage to find the good ones. 2015 Brad Carter catches a 22 inch walleye and 2023 Scotty Kline hooks 3 citation walleye. Thanks to the VDWR for stocking 20,000 of these toothy critters each year in the Shenandoah. 2015 angler catches a 6.5 pound largie out of a canoe on the South Fork and 2021 Rick Nugent catches an 8 pound largemouth at Egypt Bend. 20+ pound bag of smallies in a river tourney back in the day, 20+ pounds of smallmouth in 2023. We are fortunate to have 3 distinct rivers with hundreds of miles on the North & South Forks and 57 miles of river on the Main Stem of the Shenandoah!
Water temperatures will continue to rise during the month of April. Break out the reaction style lures as fish should become more aggressive with their feeding. The first couple weeks we would recommend working from well off the bank before moving to the shallower water. Fish will have moved out of the deeper wintering holes and will be pushing up in preparation for the spawn. Pre spawn patterns will begin to emerge when factors start to come together. An overall warmer winter may initiate this earlier than in past years. Keep in mind, not all fish will go through this process at the same time so there will be an extended window depending on what section of the river you are on, the weather, and the fish. Regardless, start off by throwing crankbaits in the 5-7 foot range and 3-5 foot range. Always a good idea to bounce these off the rocks and bottom. Other moving lures to try would be the chatterbait and spinnerbait. Run these in the middle to bottom of the water column. Vary your retrieval speeds as you may find the slow roll technique can be productive. Run these in the channel seams just off the shallow flats. Plastic paddle tail swimbaits are always a good versatile option that can be thrown in a variety of ways. Rigged on an exposed jig hook or weedless style hook is the standard. Swimming it at any level of the water column can trigger a strike. Dragging it slowly along the bottom is a technique that is seldom used but can produce biggins. Add your favorite paddle tail to an underspin for a little more flash and vibration. The jig and trailer is another excellent way to catch big fish. Drag it around the bottom until you get a thump, it gets heavy, or starts swimming off and set the hook! Bass can resist a crayfish meal. From middle to end of the month, push up shallow and consider throwing creature baits, lizards, drop shot, or a bluegill looking swimbait. Fish a hard bottom in and around current breaks. It is important for anglers to be good stewards of our fishery. Part of this we believe has to do with working your caught fish up quickly and getting it back in the water sooner rather than later. Avoid, keeping multiple fish in your livewell for that multiple fish picture. We all love catching that picture quality citation fish. We are also up in arms when those fish aren’t swimming around. It is one thing if mother nature due to high or low water or natural predation negatively affects a spawn class. It’s another thing if we have disrupted this critical reproductive process as a result of our desire to pull a big male and/or female off the bed. If you want to sustain a healthy fishery, do your part and protect the young of class during this time. Notice, we’ve not said don’t fish, just be smart about it! Much appreciated.
A short window of time for this announcement but author Bruce Ingram will be at Jake’s Bait & Tackle on Friday April 7th from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for a meet and greet. He will be selling and signing his river books and will be doing a seminar during the second half. IF you can’t make it but are still interested, you can check it out on the Fishing the DMV YouTube page. Grab your rods and get on the water in the next 2 months to catch quality fish before the summer bite sets in.