This Month with a Susquehanna Fishing Guide

By Lance Dunham


The last 30 days hasn’t been overly easy fishing, to say the least, with the water temperature changes, flash rain storms, and light stained to dirty muddy water constantly changing. And of course, when the river turns muddy, that would come from the river level going up, which also means a faster current to contend with. Many of our local anglers will wait it out until the river clears up, however that is not a choice I have, because if it is safe to be on the river we will go fishing. Now, since I guarantee that the person that books the trip will catch a fish or they get a free trip, you can bet that over the years I’ve learned how to fish in dirty high waters and I will show you how. Using a base ball metaphor, you must keep in mind that we can’t hit home runs every day, but we can at least get to first base! In other words we might not catch a lot of fish in the dirty water, but I do expect to at least catch some.

Case in point, I had a husband and wife team on board a short while ago, both were getting close to retirement age and the wife, who had never fished before or even handled a rod, finally told her husband she would give it a try. We were getting a late start, and before we launched a local fisherman was just leaving the muddy river. He had been out for about three hours and did not get even a bite, and had made a point of telling us that it was no use to even try. Well, that was not an option, so we went fishing for a half day and though we caught only ten fish, we at least got on the score board and the first part of the day was just teaching the lady how to cast, which she picked up rather well I might add. She told me that the jet boat ride on the river and seeing six different bald eagles made the day even more fun so I guess we at least made it to first base that day!

I keep what I call the “starting lineup” of lures already rigged, on the seven or eight rods which I keep by me at all times while fishing behind my clients. I want to find out as quickly as possible what pattern to use and what the next one will be, as the river bottom contour changes along the way. You can bet that in dirty to muddy water, there will be mostly dark to black color lures used, because the color black is the best contrast color there is in muddy conditions.

My starting lineup in dirty to muddy water will usually be a big black woolybugger hair jig for muddy conditions and a thinner bear hair jig for dark stained conditions, both from JJ’s Hair Jigs. Next, will be a black Rage Baby Craw on a Moaner hook jig, along with a black Rage Menace or black Rage Bug rigged on a Moaner Stroker or Predator jig in a heavier weight. Next, I need a loud crank bait, and I’ll use an Adams Custom Lures crank bait in the new Dirty Water Devil color, and I’ll also put on one of their new bright Kay-Dee Special color pattern cranks for the dark stained and lighter water areas. And lastly, a spinner bait or a LD Thumper jig spinner.

Now, if you don’t have a black or dark lure in your tackle box for the muddy river, that’s when you get out your black “Sharpie” marker, and using the lure color you use the least in your tackle box, you can paint it black or a partial black as I do with the Sharpie. I call those the Sharpie Susky Selection. I want both a shallow and deep dark crank bait tied up, because in the faster high water, those fish are hugging the bottom of the river or the shore line to escape the fast current and I want a crank bait that will go along the bottom or side of the river and not get caught very easily. I’m more than happy to sacrifice any lure in my tackle boxes that will function the way I want it to and paint it dark, so I can fish the dirty water of the North Branch Susquehanna and I don’t care if it’s a $5.00 lure or a $25.00 lure, if it doesn’t fit my need for that day it gets changed.

Most fishing guides would like to have Sponsors with a product that benefits them and helps to keep their bottom line cost down, and I’ll admit that I’m no exception. It really helps to get a Sponsor who’s product works well for both you and your clients and one that not only communicates with you but listens to your suggestions or as I call it my wish list. Now they can’t always act on your suggestions, because of production, cost, or distribution problems, or your idea may not be a good one , but at least they will listen. I’m fortunate to have several Sponsors that fit that description and I’m proud to say that their products are all “Made in the USA”! They are all listed on my web site, but I’d like to mention my newest sponsor that I pro-staff for, and that is Adams Custom Lures. They are a local company right here in Pennsylvania. I won’t go into their background or how their lures came about right here, because I made a DVD with them last summer that explains all that. Each year I try to have a meeting with my sponsors to get caught up with what’s new with their line of products right here on my boat, “The Beast”. This year, Adam LaMay, the company’s owner, was here when the river water was dirty to muddy, as it often is, and I had one of my Sharpie Selections made from one of his color patterns tied up on my “All Pro” cranking rod. We caught several bass with it along with another new color pattern he had brought along. So much so that he is going to add those to his line of color patterns.

This month is also when we see all of this year’s new born animals and birds along the river. The young eagles are flying now and there seems to be deer fawns all over along the river and on the islands. We were fishing last week and I could hear what sounded like a kitten crying. Looking around it was getting louder and louder. I looked down by the boat and it was a young beaver, no more that 15 inches long with a tail no wider than 3 inches. It swam right up to the boat, looked up at us and slapped that small tail then dove under the water. I’m sure that its mother wasn’t too far away.

Well, that’s all I have for now, remember to practice C.P.R., catch, photo, and immediate release, for the future of our sport, boat safe, and I’ll see you “On The Water”.

For further reports, photos and charter information check out my web site at or on Facebook.