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Is this time of year directly before the spawn one of the toughest times to find river smallmouth?


Ohioguy25

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In southern Ohio the water temps have been fluctuating between 43-50 for the past week or so in the river I fish. I’m seeing pictures of people catching but it’s mostly in smaller streams and it seems that they are on the move and scattered, fattening up for the spawn.  
 

I have heard more seasoned anglers describe this initial transition from the winter pattern to be one of the toughest times of year for smallmouth fishing, for the simple fact that the fish are very difficult to find. They are no longer in their winter holes but not yet in the easy targets we can rely on in the summer pattern. 
 

Is this accurate, and if not what areas should I be targeting? Is it too early to be focusing on current seams? Thanks!

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I don’t think it’s too early to be targeting current seams and the high percentage spots of the spring and summer. Since you’re fishing smaller rivers, the water temps swing quickly. Some days may be colder than others but in the grand scheme of things, the water is still warming up as long as your overnight lows are steadily warmer and warmer. I don’t know your weather but take a look at that. Either way, the fish gotta be somewhere, so might as well try for the few fish that have moved up. 

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Yes, coming out of winter and prespawn they are unpredictable.

I watch water temps to give me a clue as to where they are going and what theyll be doing. Hopefully i find a few hungry ones.

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  • Super User

Friends of mine who know the rivers they fish really well are reporting some good catches in the afternoon on days when the sun is out. If your rivers don’t have dams, they are starting the move from their wintering areas toward smaller rivers. IF you can hang out where the larger river joins a smaller stream, you should be able intersect those migrating bass. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

This time of year tests my patience regularly, they'll be feeding great and on the move to shallower water for spawning, then a front moves in and cools everything down, sometimes they pull back, but how far? I tend to lose them for a while and fishing sucks until I figure out how far back out they went, but the good news is that the spawn is just around the corner. 

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I can find them reliably once the water temps are near 50, but yeah if a cold snap hits they houdini.

And I find the biggest smallies in some of the smallest waters. Probably because they warm sooner. Conversely they also cool quickest.  

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  • Super User

High dirty water is my biggest nemesis this time of year for river smallies. When the Tuscarawas does get down to fishable levels this time of year, I do best in slower stretches with lots of chunk rock and rip rap. They'll spawn in these areas in a couple/few weeks.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/30/2022 at 8:53 AM, Ohioguy25 said:

In southern Ohio the water temps have been fluctuating between 43-50 for the past week or so in the river I fish. I’m seeing pictures of people catching but it’s mostly in smaller streams and it seems that they are on the move and scattered, fattening up for the spawn.  
 

I have heard more seasoned anglers describe this initial transition from the winter pattern to be one of the toughest times of year for smallmouth fishing, for the simple fact that the fish are very difficult to find. They are no longer in their winter holes but not yet in the easy targets we can rely on in the summer pattern. 
 

Is this accurate, and if not what areas should I be targeting? Is it too early to be focusing on current seams? Thanks!

As a fellow southwestern Ohio angler I definitely understand what you're talking about. The months of December to May are absolutely the most challenging months for smallmouth in our local rivers. I haven't totally figured them out yet and the coldness and wind of this year so far has not been helping things in the slightest. 

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It can be difficult because they aren’t in their summer spots or spawning spots. Depends on how warm the water is but they should be grouped up in schools. I have seen schools of fish sometimes 20fish (and up to 4lbs) strong in a stream that is under 50ft across.

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SMB in my area do not use the same areas as LMB.  I also have a major invasive fish problem attacking fish nests.  A pike fishing friend Is very negative about almost no pike last year. We have large winter ice contests that have caused a lot of big fish catches.  The favorite winter spots are having a major reduction in the number of big fish in all species in the good old places.  

Good thing I like farm raised salmon. 

 

We are also seeing larger numbers of cute fish eating birds. We can see them take many different types & sizes of summer fish. All the bigger fish are still resting in the upper warm surface waters. 

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