And why not? It's a perfect time to hunt them with pleasantly warm weather, spring peepers peeping, the tree leaves greening up, and the fish hungry and seeking some pre-spawn dinners to bolster their milt and egg production.
But if you can't wait that long, remember this: bass bite in every one of the 12 months, and in fact, I've caught them every month of the year, so I can guarantee they're hitting right now!
My first experience fishing for ice off largemouths came a good many years ago. I'd bought a packet of purple plastic worms with twister tails that were six inches long, plus a pack of worm heads and special worm hooks that were and are available in almost any serious sporting goods store. Then I drove out to a favorite farm pond, and started casting. It didn't matter where they were that time since the pond was only one acre and I was sure to find them eventually, but I wasn't certain the fish would hit since ice crystals were still tinkling along shore.
I didn't find any in the deep end, but I did in the shallow part where there was black mud bottom that bright sunlight was warming up a degree or two. Obviously with the water so cold, the fish would be slow and sluggish, and they were, but shortly I had gentle tap, tap, tightened up and drove the hook into a nice two pound bass. It didn't fight much, just surged around a bit and gave up, but I was glad to see it, and quickly released the fish. Was it a red letter day? No, but I did finally catch four bass to several pounds, far better action than I'd have had lying on the couch and watching TV.
I remember other early trips too, one to Grand Lake St. Marys that qualified as one of the most miserable I've ever had, weather-wise. The temperature was well below freezing when two friends and I started working a canal that surrounded the lake. We found nothing in the first stretch, but in a segment where the water dropped off quickly, we began to have action. We were fishing very slowly, important in cold water, and using half ounce jigs with rubber legs and a piece of Uncle Josh's pork frog attached. Each cast went almost to dry land, then we slowly hopped the frogs back to deeper water.
The bass were holding about half way down the slope, and the "strikes" were almost unnoticeable, just a sudden bit of weight or the line shifting to one side or another. But before our fingers nearly froze and guides totally iced up, we caught eight bass, one a fine five pounder. Then hurried off to the nearest restaurant to warm up and try again.
On yet another trip, I was fishing a good sized lake alone in my little canoe and actually seeking early crappie rather than bass with an eighth ounce white jig and a tiny twistertail. I was working right against the shore, bounced the jig for a while, then on the other side of a good sized log saw a bass of at least four pounds just lying there. I dipped the jig in front of his nose, he sucked it in, and I lifted him into the boat before he knew what had happened. On later trips I used the same jig to work riprap rocks and found more bass in just 3-4 feet of water always with deep water close. Summing it up, you won't catch many this early, but you'll catch some. Better than staying home and staring out the window.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• East Harbor has been a hotspot this winter once the ice grew firm there, and anglers all around the area have been hammering bluegills, yellow perch, redears, pumpkinseeds, and largemouth. Not only have the fish been plentiful, but many are unusually large with bluegills to seven-and-half inches even more, and perch up to 11 to 12 inches. The ice might be good again and it might not, but if cold weather returns and safe ice is there, East Harbor will be the place to seek a bucket-full of good eating.
• Many readers will receive a bit of a state income tax refund this year. It might only be a few dollars, but that refund could do good work by donating a portion or all of it to support Ohio's State Nature Preserves. The donations will help the ODNR construct trails and boardwalks, improve parking lots, and help rare plants and strange little frogs and other creatures survive in one of the last habitats they have to live in. It's money well spent.
• Ohioans are invited to offer public comment on the proposed and future hunting, trapping, and fishing regulations at open houses across the state. The open houses will be held between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and the nearest one to our area is the Wildlife District Two office in Findlay. Go there and make your opinions heard. With any questions, call them at 419-424-5000.