|The Statue of Liberty replica stands on the Susquehanna River.|
I went out again Friday with Jason Shay of Ken Penrod's Life Outdoor Unlimited on the Susquehanna River. If you remember,my friend Kirk and I went out with Jason in April and had a blast. This trip would be a little different.
|Always get a picture of your |
first fish of the day.
Karen and I were going to camp at the Riverfront Campground in Duncannon, so we dropped off all our stuff, set up the tent and headed to the alternate boat ramp to meet up with Jason. The first thing I noticed when we were at the campground -- the place we launched from in April -- was that the river was way lower than before. Lots of exposed rocks where they didn't appear before. I wondered if this was one of the reasons we were going to be fishing in a different area.
We reached the boat ramp a little early and I set up the rods for me and Karen. She has her own fishing rod now but I sacrificed my old Shimano reel with an Ugly Stik so she could have two rods with two different lures tied on and ready to go.
Last time Rapala Shadow Raps and tube baits were the hot ticket. Prior to this, Jason had called this trip a "spinnerbait trip." I was pretty excited because I have never had much success with spinnerbaits, and I was hoping to refine the technique. As it turned out, we didn't use spinnerbaits (water temps were too high) but we used two lures I had never used before.
|Karen's first Susquehanna smallmouth.|
The other lure we would be using was a Whopper Plopper -- a topwater plug with a rotating prop on the back. This thing looked ... interesting.
The plan was to start with the swimbaits and try topwaters until "the topwater bite" was on. I'm not sure if I've expressed it here but catching fish on topwaters is my absolute favorite technique. It's usually not the best way to catch a lot of fish but there is nothing like seeing the swirls and explosions -- or a lure getting punted through the air -- from an attacking fish. Even if the fish doesn't hook up, it's still exciting!
Jason pulled into the boat ramp, we loaded up our gear and hit the water. He has a boat with a jet prop, and the underside of the boat has some kind of rubber matting. This setup makes it easier to navigate through the rocky shallow waters. He said this time of year there aren't as many boats out because of the water level.
About 10 minutes later we arrived at a spot with lots of protruding rocks. Oh and The Statue of Liberty was there. If you travel on 22/322 north of Harrisburg, you might have seen her before. It's a replica (not actual size) of The Statue of Liberty standing atop an old bridge structure in the middle of the river. It's an interesting story and worth an internet search.
|My biggest of the day, about 15 inches.|
I mentioned how clear the water was. We would often see swarms of small smallmouth trailing or attacking the swimbaits when they got close to the boat. At first it was kind of fun to slow the retrieve to entice some of the fish, but then we kind of got bored with it and would pull the lures away from the smaller fish.
We also saw a lot of carp roaming by and a few catfish. One catfish that must have been 20+ inches even followed my swimbait back to the boat.
|Casualties of war -- swimbaits that got too torn up|
from enticing the smallmouth.
The fish was hooked and was causing a ruckus on top of the water. It made a couple jumps and we could see it was a nice smallmouth, probably in the 18-inch range. Jason grabbed the net (first time we needed it today) as Karen fought the fish. Finally she got the fish to the boat but it swam underneath the front and the fishing line looked to get caught in the trolling motor. Jason grabbed the line and was pulling and like Keyzer Soze the fish was ... gone. I saw it swim away back downriver. That would have been a nice fish for Karen to have on her first trip to the Susquehanna. Jason said, "Don't worry, there are more like that here."
|Cooking sausage at the campground.|
We all caught some more fish but nothing like the one that got away from Karen. I tied on a black/silver Hub's Chub just to be different and caught a couple fish.
Finally the sun had gone down behind a hill, and we headed back to the boat ramp. It was still light but Jason had to navigate the river through the minefield of barely submerged rocks. Idling downriver, he pointed out a couple areas that always claim boats each year from people going too fast or not knowing the underwater terrain. At one point we were coasting through fairly smooth water but it was only about a foot deep!
I think I ended up with 19 smallmouth -- 15 on the swimbait and four on topwaters. Karen probably had 15 fish and of course a great story about The One That Got Away. While we didn't hook into a lot of nicer fish like in April, it wasn't a bad tally for just under four hours of fishing. Plus they were smallmouth bass with the typical attitude!
|Z-Man worm tricks a Juniata smallmouth.|
Having no swimbaits or Whopper Poppers in my arsenal, I tried the Z-Man Finesse worms hopping them across the bottom. After a couple hours, I landed four "cookie cutter" smallmouth on Z-Man Finesse worms hopping across the bottom. I had one that felt a little better but it got away.
Karen also got a "cookie cutter" on a Bass Pro Shops Stik-O worm.
Jason was telling us that the smallmouth bass population reportedly isn't considered very good because there aren't a lot of smaller fish, which is why the river is closed for smallmouth fishing from May 1 to mid-June so the fish can spawn without intrusion. But I guess the people who have made that decision have never really fished the river.
|Both of us were on the lookout for |
smallmouth bass but for different reasons.