March started out like like January and February, more rain. February was a very wet month, 11.05 inches of rain in Athens, compared to a 30 yr annual average of only 4.48 inches, according to the NWS. That extra rain is reflected in the higher lake levels, 1075.18 as of Wed afternoon, 4.18 feet over full pool. Many of the Corp ramps remain closed, check the Corps FB page to see a list of closings. After another brief cool down/dry out through the weekend, the weather forecasts says its back to more rain and clouds, but it looks as though the temps are mild, time to fish! The full Super Moon, the March Full Moon is called the full Worm Moon, occurs on the 9th at 148.PM. According to the Old Farmers Almanac, this is the Moon on which the ground begins to thaw enough that earthworms reappear, energizing the Robins to feed, a sure sign that Spring is here! The water has stayed at a very constant temp, right around 50 degrees.
The Striper bite has for the most part stayed true to the downline bite, and I made a note of that unchanging temp, I think unchanging, or at least slowly changing features in the deeper water have created very stable water conditions with an abundance of bait. No reason for the fish to do anything different? There were a few fish showing up in the creek backs in shallow water, but that may get squelched again with more rain and cooling temps. So, the primary method stays the same, find the deep bait, send ‘em a downline, start drumming a little and if the fish are there you should get a response pretty quickly. The fish are generally moving around these bait schools, so often they will be under the boat, disappear, and then return. If you go more than 15 to 20 minutes without seeing fish on the sonar, move to another bait school. Often, you will not have to move far, too locate more Stripers. The bait may show up anywhere from 35 to 80, suspended or layered across the bottom, either is a good situation. How deep should you fish? Well, that’s a very big variable, and is subject to change from day to day. If the trees will allow, drop the bait to the bottom and reel up a couple of feet. I generally like to idle around an area until I find the bait on a clean bottom. Often the fish that are holding on or near the bottom, basically roaming around in the bait schools, are pretty catchable. However, don’t rule out catching the fish that are suspending up in the column, hang the bait where the fish are until you tweak the bite. The Herring seems to be the overall best producers, but a Gizzard or a Shiner may also produce.
Trolling the big rigs will account for some pretty good numbers, the Capt. Mack’s 3 oz rigs, with 9 baits fished 100 to 140 feet behind the bait should be very effective on the fish that are up in the 20 to 35 foot range. You will be more likely to find that situation up in the rivers, or in the back 1/3 of the lower end creeks, so keep the rigs handy for those areas. We will likely have some more mud lines and dirty water to contend with after the recent rains, try and use the mud lines to your advantage and watch for nice breaks in color or temperature. Once the rain backs off for a couple of days and the incoming water in either river stabilizes, you may be able to run past the muddy/stained water and into the clear water that is feeding the lake.
There are some Stripers showing up in either river, that bite is sporadic based on the fluctuating river conditions, but there are enough fish showing up in either river to make a trip up worthwhile. This bite should wake up with just a little stable weather and warmer water temps.
Bass fishing is good, and should only improve as March brings some mild weather and subsequently warming water temps. Watch for more Bass to move into shallow water any time we get we get stable, warm weather for a couple of days. The patterns on the Bass have also been fairly stable, still good numbers of fish in 15 to 25 feet, and targeting structures in this depth range will provide the greatest numbers and most consistent bite. I think many of the bigger fish are shallow, and while the numbers are not as good, the fish have responded to rising water levels and gotten on the park benches and picnic tables. I think Soft plastics have been solid producers, and a variety of baits will produce. Finesse worms, Senkos, and Keitech swim baits are all good choices, and you can fish them on almost any type of rig/jig head. The hula grub on the Booger Head has also been accounting for some nice catches.
The dock bite remains very good, with plenty of fish on rocky points or rock formations off of the points. A worm on the weedless Wonder is a top producer on the docks, but Senkos and jigs are all a good choice. No changes in the dock pattern, move fast and visit lots of docks and you’ll get the numbers. The soft plastics will also do well on the rocks, and cranking over rocks and points is also a good technique. Crank baits that fish in the 8 to 15 foot range have been producing well, the color varies depending on what part of the lake you are in and the water color in a given area, so match the bait accordingly.