Saturday, July 30, 2011

Susquehanna Fly and Spin Guide Report, July 2011

The fishing has been good during various times of the day and evening hours, if you are at the right place at the right time. Some nice size summer smallies have been making their way to the boat for my clients, with some aggressive visual eats and some high acrobatic jumps as they make their way boatside. Please remember to properly handle and revive them before release as this will help ensure they will be around for others to enjoy.

Until the next report...

Tight Lines!

Susquehanna River Fishing Guide Steve Hancock:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walking-the-Dog (SFM, May 2011)

By Allen C. Winco

From the May issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine.
To download this and all back issues free, visit

Walking-the-Dog is a top-water technique using a cigar shaped surface plug that moves side to side on the retrieve. It is a deadly technique for smallmouth and largemouth bass. Many anglers try the technique, but become easily frustrated when the plug won’t go side to side with a constant cadence. I became fascinated with the technique 20 years ago, and quickly found that all plugs are not created equal, and many fail miserably in moving water. Here are some tips to help you master this technique.

How I walk the Dog

Standing in a stream, I work the spook type plugs with the rod tip at the 10 of 12 or 10 after 12 position. Remember, walking the dog is performed on SLACK line. For every turn of the reel handle, your lure should complete two to four complete left to right maneuvers. Simply, walk the lure …. Left to right, and then take up some of the slack. Repeat. Always cast slightly upstream and work your plug across the current and down. There comes a point working downstream where the lure WILL NOT walk due to current pull and the swing - which removes all of your slack line. When this happens and/or you wish to work a tail-out section of the river, simply raise your rod quickly, pulling up five to seven feet of line and start walking with quick wrist flicks. DO NOT TURN THE REEL HANDLE. Repeat when the SLACK GOES OUT.

Practice in a Quiet Pond / Drifting a slow section in a boat or canoe

Go to a pond with NO wind or current and practice until you can coordinate four left to right walking maneuvers first and one reel turn next. In a lake situation, never try to walk the dog with a strong wind blowing from the side. It takes the slack out of your line and inhibits the side to side action. Drifting a slow section of a river in a canoe or boat is the easiest way to learn. Since you’re drifting with the current, you don’t have to reel the slack up, and can concentrate on your wrist movements to create an appealing, injured baitfish, side-to-side type of retrieve.

Water Temps/Retrieve Speeds/Tackle

I do best in water temps above 70 in rivers and streams. Springtime water temperatures of 62 to 64 degrees can provide fast and furious topwater action BEFORE the spawn. Usually a constant retrieve works best. Folks would be astonished if they witnessed my aggressive retrieves with a 4 1/2 to 5 inch spook-type plug, and watched how savagely smallmouth bass attacked them during weather frontal periods of light winds and overcast conditions. I make up to eight complete left to right maneuvers in a five second period when they are really turned on. That being said, there are many times when the fish want a more subtle retrieve, with pauses between the left to right “walks”. In my opinion, when bass hit your plug with their tail, they are either a small fish or the plug is being retrieved too quickly for their “mood- of- the day.” However, I have experienced many times when four deliberate left to right walks (in a five second period) followed by a fifteen second pause was the “match that lit the fuse”!

A 6′ to 6 ½’ medium-light spinning outfit with 8 to 10 pound test works best on these plugs in the 3 to3/12 inch size. I personally prefer 10 pound Sufix Performance Braid for creeks and rivers) with an 8 to 10 pound mono leader joined to the braided line with a double Uni-knot. The plug is joined to the monofilament line with a Palomar knot. Do not use a fluorocarbon leader with topwater lures – it will inhibit the walking action with the sinking leader. Casting tackle is recommended for the 3 3/4 to 5 inch models. Practice and perfect the technique and you’ll enjoy some of the most exciting and explosive smallmouth fishing of your life.

The thrill of summer-time top-water smallmouth bass

Rattles / Tail feathers/Missed Strikes

Rattles will create attracting noise in plastic, hollow models. The pointed nose models are usually poor for creating a spitting, popping noise in wind and wave conditions. Under these conditions, it has been my experience that models with a nose cup do have the advantage of drawing the attention of aggressive smallmouth bass. I believe the addition of any tail feathers to create a target are not necessary and the feathers would interfere with the walking action. If you get just the smallest piece of weed on the tail hook, the walking action is greatly reduced. There are going to be times when fish miss or boil under the plug. When the bass are really turned on to the topwater W-T-D bite, multiple passes (attacks) are normal when they strike at a lure going side to side. That’s the nature of the beast -so to speak. When they boil or slash and miss you plug, keep your retrieve in motion and don’t stop the routine. If they didn’t feel the hooks on a previous pass, cast out again to the same rock or pool and another strike may result. I once hooked and landed four Smallmouth bass (from 16 to18 inches) on seven casts to the same 4×4 boulder in a 3 ½ foot deep, slow-moving riff in the Susquehanna River. I’ve also had some monstrous smallmouth bass come completely out of the water and miss the plug and refuse to give me another pass at the plug. Frustrating, but that’s the reality of top-water lure fishing.

Summer-time, top-water smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are funny and picky fish at times. It has been my experience during the summer months on the Susquehanna River, that smallmouth’s will respond better to a smaller (3 to 3 ½ inch) W-T-D type bait under stable weather conditions. They only seem to give the bait one shot and will not pursue them with multiple strikes. Now when you have an approaching weather front or thunderstorms with a falling barometer taking place, that’s the time to put away the small surface plugs and bring out the big guns. Now the bigger bass will aggressively attack plugs in the 4 1/2 to 5 inch sizes that are splashing, popping and walking 6 to 12 inch side to side in an aggressive manner. The strikes are absolutely vicious, heart-stopping attacks with multiple strikes the “norm” until hook-up. Many times I’ve purposely worked the plugs extra fast to entice multiple, savage strikes. All smallmouth bass anglers should have the thrill and excitement of experiencing this type of fishing.

My younger son Brian with a Susquehanna “football” smallmouth bass

Custom Wooden W-T-D- plugs

I have manufactured my own type of wooden Walk-the-Dog plugs for the past 20 years. I became very frustrated with the available, commercial plastic models. Their inconsistent action and inability to attract strikes during windy conditions gave me the need to create my own type of W-T-D surface plugs. The special angle and depth of the nose cup is similar to but different then a popper. This creates more fish-attracting splashing sounds on the zigzag retrieve. They also have a fixed, internal tail weight and are balanced to sit on a precise angle in the water (they do not stand straight up). I make 4 basic colors in 2 sizes - all have pear colored bellies.

These medium size plugs- 3 - 3 1/2” are the most popular with anglers

Visit Al Winco at at Winco’s Custom Lures:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spinnerbaits for Smallmouths (SFM, May 2011)

From the May, 2011 issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine.
To download this and all back issues free, visit

By Pete Hanford

As the weather gets warmer, so does the water. The smallmouth start looking for areas to move to before they spawn. As the water temps hit the 50 degree mark, it’s time to shine those blades and get ready to start chunk’n and wind’n. The smallmouth will start getting aggressive and start to feed up before they spawn. My spinnerbaits of choice are ¾ ounce white when the water is clear, and when the water is stained I will go to ¾ ounce with chartreuse skirt and chartreuse colored blades. Mainly, I throw them at an angle towards the bank or along islands, as well as behind ledges. When these smallies hit the lure, be ready… they will try to rip the rod out of your hand. Throwing these lures at an angle will get the bait deeper in the water, and closer to the bottom of the river, where the smallies are feeding primarily on minnows.

There are so many companies that sell spinnerbaits, and most work as well as the next. The ones I typically use are Picasso spinnerbaits, as well as War Eagle and Strike King. If you see that the smallies are working the surface, chasing minnows, then it’s time to change to ¼ ounce spinnerbaits, and start burning the baits just under the surface to imitate the minnows. This high speed action will get the smallmouth fired up to hit the bait really hard. So when the river gets back into shape and down to a safe level, get out there and throw some spinnerbaits. I use baitcasting reels for spinnerbaits with 17 pound test. The heavier line doesn’t affect the action of the bait at all. I use the heavier line, so that it doesn’t break when fishing over rocks and with the smallmouth trying to throw the bait out of their mouths. You don’t want to lose your lure. My rods are all 7 feet long, to make those long distance casts when the water is clear. You can also use spinning rods, if you don’t feel comfortable with baitcasting reels. I would recommend a medium-heavy action rod as well.

Pete Hanford is the tournament director for the Mountain Valley Bassmasters.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Susquehanna River Fly and Spin Guide Service Fishing Report, Week of July 13, 2011

From Susquehanna Fly and Spin Guide Service:

The summer season is upon us here on the Susquehanna River. The water has been stained to slightly stained and is improving in clarity every day. Gin clear water is soon to come . The river is in its summer fishing patterns and the smallmouth and even a few walleye have been aggressive at times, chasing insects, baitfish, and crustaceans.

We have had a variety of fly and spin anglers both young and old, novice and avid. On the hot days we even managed a quick swim in the rapids. For you fly anglers, this is a great time to get a good size smallie or a large carp to eat a properly presented fly with low and gin clear water setting the stage.

Practice proper handling and catch and release techniques, especially during the warm water periods. Get bent and sling some string with us this summer on the beautiful Susquehanna River.

Tight lines, from your Susquehanna River fishing guide, Steve Hancock.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Elements, Part V: Bait (SFM, June 2011)

From the June 2011 issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine.
To download this and all back issues free, visit

By William Milheim

What bait do I use? That’s the question I get asked most often. I can understand why it’s asked. We as fisherman are bombarded with television shows, magazines, seminars and books, all promoting new baits. Each year I wait to see how they will better themselves from the year before. Promotion and marketing keeps the fisherman interested in our sport, the sum of which is a fisherman armed to the teeth with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic, and so on. I’m fine with that all of that. It’s a huge industry giving the fisherman the cutting edge.

In previous articles we’ve looked at weather, water temperature, dissolved oxygen levels and lunar tables, now we’re ready to select bait. As a smallmouth guide, I use these factors for selecting bait: size and weight, available color, color patterns, action and price.

Smallmouths prefer smaller sized artificial baits for the most part. Big flashy noise making baits will scare a smallmouth in clear water conditions. They also tend to strike bait that is moving slow, completely different from their close relative the largemouth bass. Smallmouth will look bait over and size it up, unlike the huge reaction strikes of a largemouth. Smallmouth will follow bait awaiting the right time to strike. When I select spinnerbaits I purchase the micro size. The big willow or Colorado blades on the larger size spinnerbaits are too much when river fishing. But, there are exceptions to size. I’ve found that four or five inch crankbaits are more productive than the two inch sizes. This is very true, as it relates to plastic baits. I’ve caught more smallmouth on five inch wacky worms than the shorter sizes. Same is true with jigs and tubes – the magnum size seems to be the best bet. I will start with a smaller size and gradually move to larger sizes while I’m prospecting for a strike.

We as river fisherman have many issues to address before our first cast. One of them is current speed and high water. Automatically our mindset is to throw heavier bait. That’s not the best rule to follow. The heavier the bait, the harder it is to control. As a rule I try to keep my artificial bait around a 1/8th ounce. Heavier baits work too fast in high and stained water conditions. When water is moving at normal speeds I will try to use as light of an artificial bait as possible.

Color is a huge factor when selecting bait. I always keep this phrase in mind when I’m fishing, which helps me when I’m purchasing bait: dark day use a dark color, bright day use a bright color. So, when I find bait which appeals to the smallmouth fisherman in me, I make sure the bait comes in both dark and light colors. If you have a go-to bait which works most of the time, try to purchase it in other colors. Smallmouth can be very color sensitive; being armed with a rainbow of color is your best bet.

We know now that color is a big factor; color patterns are just as important. While one color gets the smallmouth’s attention, the others within the pattern might not be as palatable. It’s hit or miss when selecting color patterns. I feel that artificial baits catch more fishermen than fish. If it looks good to you, it might not to a bronze back. Trying to match the natural bait via color and color patterns works some of the time. Really outrageous colors and patterns that would look good on a race car, but have no business on bait work great other times. Don’t be afraid to try outrageous color patterns.

Action is the way the bait moves through the water. Action will mimic a wounded aquatic animal or erratic swimming creature. There are several types of action on bait. There is tail action, body action, and spinning action. All will attract the attention of a small jaw. There are fast action and slow action baits, all are effective.

Finally, it will boil down to price. I don’t know about you, but if I lose a nine dollar crank bait I’m upset. Some manufactures are proud of their baits and the price reflects it. Don’t get me wrong – nothing beats quality, but there are cheaper manufacturers out there, so shop around.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty cheap; frugal might be a better word. I fish more than most, so I’m purchasing bait all the time. Before I’ll buy a bait in several different colors, I’ll purchase just one to decide how the weight and action are, then if it’s a successful bait I’ll purchase it in different colors. Take it from a frugal fisherman, I’ve got bags of bait that don’t work and never will. Try the bait before you buy in bulk.

Oh, by the way, the bait I use on the river ninety nine percent of the time is plastic. I use grubs, tubes, and wacky worms. They come in a million different colors, sizes, and weights. They have great action and can be fished fast or slow, and are relatively inexpensive.

Next month we’ll look into live or natural bait, what’s good, how to catch and keep them and put them on a hook.

Bill Milheim has been fishing and guiding the North Brach of the Susquehanna River for over 25 years.

Monday, July 18, 2011

You Know it’s Time to Toss a Spinnerbait When… (SFM, April 2011)

From the April 2011 issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine.
To download this and all back issues free, visit

By Juan Veruete

I’m not a big believer in absolutes when it comes to fishing. I think fishermen sometimes limit themselves by making statements like, “suspending jerkbaits are clear water baits” or “big baits catch big fish”. These kinds of statements and beliefs can be our worst enemy if we cling to them too tightly. I’ve seen fishermen stick with a bait that just isn’t working on a particular day because “It should work”. I’ve certainly been guilty of this at times. That being said, it’s always good to have a few mental guidelines as a starting point to help us make decisions about what bait may work under certain conditions. Since the spinnerbait is one of my favorite lures for catching river smallmouth, I thought I’d outline some of the conditions that tell me it’s time to toss a spinnerbait!

Rising Water

Rising water initiates of a variety of conditions that are perfect for spinnerbait fishing. First, the water is typically stained or muddy. The bigger profile of a spinnerbait and the vibration the blades produce is perfect for these water conditions. Also, fish feeding behavior is very often activated by rising water. When the fish are in a feeding mood and willing to chase a bait down, a spinnerbait can help you cover water quickly and catch the biters. Pay close attention to feeder creeks on the river system you are fishing. Sometimes they will receive a “blast” of water that the main river has not. This will often create a “mud line” several hundred yards downstream. Fish will move along the mud line to feed, creating another great opportunity for spinnerbait fishing.

Cloud Covered Days

Despite water conditions, cloud cover can create low light conditions that are conducive to fishing with spinnerbaits. When it is sunny, fish tend to hold tight to shade that plant life, wood, or rock can create. In sunny conditions, fish may be hesitant to move from their position to chase down a bait. When cloud cover moves in, fish will often begin to roam and feed. I’ve seen this happen many times when fishing rivers. If I notice that the day alternates between sun and intermittent cloud cover, I’ll often make sure I have a spinnerbait tied on. When the cloud cover moves in, I start chucking the spinnerbait!

Chutes and Ladders

I use the term “chutes and ladders” to describe sections of river that have either ledge rock or rock accumulations that create a cluster of eddies and water chutes (downstream V’s). I call them “chutes and ladders” for a reason. The “chutes” are the downstream “V’s” that bring food to the fish holding in eddies. The “ladders” are the small eddies created by the rock where the fish hold… kind of like resting on a rung of a ladder. Spinnerbaits are great for fishing these types of waters for a couple of reasons. First, you can move the bait fast through the chutes, which triggers the fish’s instinct to hit the spinnerbait before it misses the opportunity. In this situation I’m really looking for a reaction bite, so I will fish “chutes and ladders” with spinnerbaits even if the water is clear. The other reason I like fishing spinnerbaits in this type of water is that you can quickly “strain” water as you pass through the fast water. Basically, the spinnerbait allows you to hit many targets quickly and accurately.

Over the years I’ve been able to boat some really nice smallmouth using spinnerbaits in the types of waters and situations I’ve described. There is nothing like having a smallmouth bass slam your spinnerbait so hard it nearly rips the rod out of your hand! That’s one of the reasons I love fishing spinnerbaits. Fish seem to have a lot of animosity for this bait. I often wonder what it is about the combination of metal and rubber that makes smallies see red. Regardless, I’ve had some heart stopping moments tossing a spinnerbait. I’m always eager to tie one on the end of my line!

Juan Veruete is owner and operator of Kayak Fish PA, LLC ( and offers Guided Kayak Fishing Classes on the Juniata River and various other waters of central Pennsylvania. He has nearly 40 years of fishing experience on the waters of Pennsylvania and is on the pro-staff of Temple Fork Outfitters, Winco's Custom Baits, and

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Choosing a Kayak for Fishing (SFM, May 2011)

From the May issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine.
To read the current and all back issues, visit

By Jon Shein

You’d have to be blind not to notice the increase in kayaks being used for fishing. It’s the fastest growing part of both the kayak and fishing sports. Most anglers, however, aren’t sure how to get started. If they have a friend who’s already an enthusiast it’s a big help, but often that isn’t the situation. More often they go down to the local kayak shop and tell salesman they want to fish from a kayak. However, unless someone at the shop is a kayak angler, it is often a recipe for disaster. That’s because the only thing a person that is a recreational paddler and kayak fisherman have in common is the kayak. Just like vehicles, kayaks come in a wide array of sizes and configurations. If you were buying a car would you go to your local dealership and just ask for their recommendation without them knowing anything about what your needs were? If you need a pickup truck you don’t settle for a 2 seat sports car; it’s the same with kayaks. When you go to the car dealer to buy a car you already have a good idea what you want. By answering a few questions and doing a bit of research you can do the same with a kayak purchase.

There are several things you have to ask yourself and consider before you choose the models that make the most sense for your needs. The first consideration is you: your height, weight and inseam. If you’re tall then you need a model that has lots of leg room. At a recent kayak show, a buddy wanted to get a pedal-drive kayak. I’m 5’9” with a 30” inseam and my favorite model from that company didn’t have enough legroom for him. They didn’t have the 16’ model on the floor and got one for him to try. He fell in love with it and now owns one.

The next criteria has nothing to do with the kayak directly. It’s your vehicle and how you plan on getting the kayak to the water. For instance, if you plan on doing all your fishing in your backyard, because you live on a lake or river, then there isn’t much to consider, but most of us transport our kayak to where we fish, so your vehicle becomes a major factor. If you have a pickup truck and plan on using the bed it’s simple. By law the kayak can’t stick out by more than a few feet. Each state’s law is different, so check, but figure that more than 3’ needs a bed extender. As long as you can get the kayak into the bed of the pickup, you can transport any kayak. I get lots of people asking me about the Hobie Pro Angler. It’s a really cool kayak, but I tell them unless they’ve got an empty pickup truck bed or a trailer to consider another model. Most of us transport a kayak on the roof using a rack. So you have to be able to physically get the kayak on the roof without hurting yourself or the vehicle. Again your build and strength is important. If you’re 5’6” and weigh 150 pounds, getting an 80 pound kayak onto the roof of a Suburban or pickup with a cap is going to be somewhere between difficult to impossible. So choose a kayak that you can handle. The weight and your size matters.

Next you need to consider where you plan on using it. Keep in mind kayak fishing, no matter what you think it might be, is more than that. I like to use the analogy that you’re like Dorothy in the movie The Wizard of Oz and before getting a kayak you’re stuck in Kansas. After getting a kayak it’s as if you’ve landed in Oz. It’s a significant leap up the access scale in fishing. You’ll be able to hit lots of places shore-bound anglers can reach, along with lots of places boats can too, but the best part are all those neat places neither can effectively fish or reach. That’s where some of the best fishing is, because those fish aren’t seeing fishermen. So consider where you plan on using your kayak and what’s possible. That kayak you’re buying to fish the Susquehanna can take a road trip to the Jersey shore for stripers and bluefish, or can take a vacation down to Florida in the winter for snook, tarpon, redfish and more.

When I was a retailer I used to get a lot of calls from fishermen in eastern and central Pennsylvania. Many wanted a 15 to 16 foot kayak for fishing the salt. A longer kayak is a better choice for saltwater, but I’d talk them into a 12 to 13 foot kayak. That’s because while they’d make a trip to the Jersey Shore once or twice a month, they had lots of opportunity to fish in their own backyard. Many of these places were rivers or hike in-ponds and lakes. For such situations a shorter kayak was a better choice. Still these models performed well enough in the salt, but more important was they could maneuver much more easily in small tight places, environments those longer kayaks couldn’t handle.

That brings us to our next consideration: kayak dimensions and how it affects performance. Two things affect performance the most. They are length and width. The longer the kayak, the faster it will be, and the wider it is, the more stable. Most beginners are willing to sacrifice speed for stability, but this isn’t a good idea. While most fishermen have never been in a kayak before, the learning curve is very fast. It’s similar to learning how to ride a bike. Those training wheels were only good for a day or two. Learning to use a kayak is even faster. So you don’t want to sacrifice a lot of speed/efficiency for stability. The difference between an 8’ and 10’ isn’t worth it. That’s because you’re the motor and your energy is finite. Factors like wind and current have a huge affect on kayak efficiency and it becomes the most important consideration when you have to cover more than a couple miles on the water. This one phenomenon is why I am not a big fan of demo-ing kayaks. A good friend of mine said it well. Trying out kayaks without any experience is a lot like test driving cars without having gotten a driver’s license yet. There’s no point of reference. So most non kayakers buy the slowest, most stable kayak they can (a bicycle with training wheels) and after only a few times on the water they realize their mistake and want to get a more efficient model. Unlike the bike, where the training wheels come off, you’re stuck with the slow kayak. You may ask what the big deal is. So what if it takes a bit longer to get somewhere? The problem is. because you’re the energy source and that energy is finite, it may take more than you have to get somewhere, especially if you have to paddle against wind or go upriver against current for any distance.

To some people color is important. I say either go with a highly visible kayak or a dull one. Either way you can make a dull kayak bright by wearing bright clothes, having a bright paddle blade and most importantly by adding a flag. You can’t make a bright kayak dull, though. If you hunt, using a kayak for this sport is also growing rapidly, and camo or muted colors are the most popular with hunters. Even if you don’t hunt you may fish places where you don’t want to be seen by other people.

Now you’ve got a better idea of what you’re looking for in a kayak. There are some great resources to help you more. Online forums are a great place to ask questions. Also I’ve written the most comprehensive book on the subject, Kayak Fishing, and it covers everything you need to know. Another thing I tell beginners is try to find a used kayak, if possible. That’s because until you’re a participant in the sport, you won’t know what it’s truly all about. Getting back to kayak choice, don’t be an experiment either. By this I mean there are certain kayak models the majority of anglers fishing the same region and waters you do are using. There’s a reason -- because they work well in that environment. Let others test out the new kayak that looks cool, but nobody knows if it’s going to do the job or not. You don’t want to make an expensive mistake.

Within each class there are going to be several kayaks that will do the job nicely for you. Now your choice often comes down to a variety of criteria. Availability is one. If the shops in your area carry the model it’s easier to buy local, but keep in mind you can have it shipped to you. However, you can’t sit in it if it’s being mailed to you. So that’s a consideration. Each model is going to have different features. Some kayaks have integrated seats, while others allow you to add one. Some have accessory systems where you can attach things easily or have surfaces that allow you to mount things. It’s a lot like choosing between a Honda Accord and a Toyota Camry at this point. They both do the same thing, but people choose one over the other every day.

Whatever you do, don’t let paralysis stop you from getting started. Most of us who fish from kayaks wish we’d started sooner. You will too.

Jon Shein is a veteran kayak angler. His recently released book, Kayak Fishing, can be purchased at the following website:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Elements, Part IV: Lunar (SFM, May 2011)

From the May 2011 issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine.
To download the current and back issues free, visit


By William Milheim

I learned to fish from my father; he was an early morning and after dinner fisherman. We would consider a mid-day fishing trip to be a time-wasting endeavour. Our mindset was fish feed early and late. Around 1980 I was reading an outdoor magazine and towards the back of the publication were the lunar tables, giving me the best time to fish for each day of the week. That particular day indicated best time to fish was from 11am to 1pm. Since it was a Saturday I decided to give it a try. What an eye opener, it was almost like magic. Fish were actively feeding in the middle of the day. I caught more fish in that time frame than early in the morning. Since that day I refer to the lunar tables to enhance my fishing success.

Still to this day some fisherman discounts this piece of information and look at it as if it were some type of voodoo magic.

The theory is that there are four periods (2 major and 2 minor) each day when the gravitational forces created by the alignment of the sun and moon become strong enough to have an influence on the activities of fish and wildlife. As we learned from previous articles, fish will react to weather changes and do react to gravitational forces. The fish’s lateral line (a nerve that runs on either side of the fish and down its length) is very sensitive to changes in the fish’s surroundings. This includes water temperature as well as barometric pressure.

The actual times published are when each major or minor period begins. Major periods will last from 1 to 2 hours, while Minor periods last for 1 hour or less. In most tables, a symbol is used to flag the days preceding and following a NEW or FULL moon since research has shown that fish and wildlife activity is greatest during these periods of each month.

When the lunar times fall within one hour of SUNRISE or SUNSET, this is a good time for daily fish and wildlife activity. This doesn't occur very often during any given month - but when the lunar times fall within one hour of sunrise or sunset and the lunar times are within one hour of MOONRISE or MOONSET - you have an "absolute best day"!

The lunar times are calibrated for the centre of all 50 states. The times will change 1 minute for each 12 miles E (-) or W (+) of the location. By adding or deducting 1 minute for each 12 miles from the base point you can achieve 1 minute accuracy for any location. The distance N or S does not affect the lunar times.

Again, the lunar tables are a theory which I believe is fact as it pertains to fishing. If you consider lunar tables, you will quickly notice that during a major moon phase weather patterns change. The fact is we receive a full moon each month, so we should be able to see it twelve times a year. Most often we’re lucky to see it four or five times because a full moon cycle has a tendency to bring inclement weather. Lunar tables are used for tides on the ocean and I know for certain it works in freshwater.

When referring to the lunar calendar, in most of the fishing seasons the best times are not early in the morning but trend towards late morning and early afternoon. I see so many fishermen calling it quits and going home right before the cycle begins and miss a feeding frenzy.

I always refer to the lunar tables if I’m booking a trip, and I try my best to be on the river when the times indicate good fishing. This is a key element that should not be over looked. In next month’s article we’ll look into bait.

Bill Milheim has been fishing and guiding the North Brach of the Susquehanna River for over 25 years.