My late mother used to say that at least February is a short month. With that in mind, and since it is about the middle of the month, it’s really time to think about fishing.
There might be a few snowstorms and subzero temperatures left in winter but March is approaching the way a bit of land comes upon a shipwrecked sailor. One day, there will be snow covering the ground and the next day the sun will shine. Many outdoors persons will wish they had prepared for fishing. Many anglers even forget they need a new fishing license beginning the first of the year.
The statewide trout season doesn’t begin until mid-April, but there is always the early period in March, when trout are legal in certain waters such as Canonsburg Lake and the Youghiogheny tail race. Another place where early season trout fishing is allowed is Dunlap Lake near Uniontown. All one needs is a license complete with trout stamp, a sunny day and power bait to enjoy an early season trout fishing day.
While April is usually thought of as the month of the trout, fishing season begins for many of us when the ice is gone and the crappie start biting. This usually occurs in mid-March. In other words, there are other fish than trout. A warm March day will find me walking the banks of Cross Creek trying to find a cooperative school of crappie. I might only catch a few but some days, John, Joe and I will be throwing back anything under 10 or 11 inches. The spring crappie is an excellent eating fish as is the occasional early season blue gill that will show up more often as the temperatures rise.
Sometimes, John and I will be found in his 14-foot boat but the park and boat ramps close at 5 p.m. this early in the year and it’s difficult to quit that early when the fish are biting. Fishing from shore eliminates that problem. Nothing fancy is needed but a light rod and reel equipped with light line. The light line casts easier and farther as does a seven foot rod, but one can use what he or she has and still catch fish. If live bait is to be used, minnows are the bait for crappie, though I have caught them on maggots. Most frequent anglers prefer to fish with artificials such as files or small plastic grubs. Of course, there are other lures that in the right hands work equally well.
April might belong to the trout anglers, but the March crappie fishing is welcome after the long winter. The upper parts of Dunlap Lake is good crappie water, and the pride of Washington County, Cross Creek Lake, is as good as any. There was a time long ago when we caught decent sized crappie from Canonsburg Lake but, unfortunately, the crappie in the lake seem to run small.
Nearby is the old water company that straddles North Strabane and Peters Township that holds nice sized crappie and, on the right day, can be productive. This is an easy lake to fish but also receives a lot of pressure on weekends. I often wonder if it is overfished or not fished seriously enough. Many anglers here will be once a year anglers so it is hard to judge the lake.
I know I tend to be more casual when fishing here. As the waters get a little warmer, the blue gill and bass will begin to hit well, and I have taken some nice blue gill from here. You have to search for the big ones but when a hot spot is found, they tend to run the same size. Whatever and wherever, March is the month I start to fish.
• The recent outdoor show at the Washington Crown Center went well, though I would like to see some of our local sporting goods stores take part. S&S comes from Chalk Hill above Uniontown each year and sets up. He seems to find it profitable so why not some of the closer to Washington Stores?
• We had a good deer measuring session with 21 bucks scored Saturday and 19 on Sunday. We had scores as high as the 150s with a huge non-typical taken by Fred Drabeck’s father in the early 50s that scored 188. Incidentally, it was taken in the mountains up north.
George Block writes a Sunday outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.