This Month with a Susquehanna Fishing Guide

By Lance Dunham

This month has been very busy for this old fishing guide. I say old, because at the end of the month marks another unavoidable birthday for me. As one of my long time clients put it, I’ll be 39 years old for the 20th time! In all those years 33 of them have been as a fishing guide and I’d like to think that I may have learned a few fishing tricks and lessons along the way. I’ve certainly seen just about everything there is to see on the river. I noticed that the boats are getting bigger and faster and that everyone is in a hurry to get ahead of the other guy to catch the fish first. This always amuses me and makes me think of that old country joke , and I’ll try to clean it up for print here, where there are two bulls in the pasture, an old one,(me) and a young one, (them). They spot a bunch of cows (the fish) down in the meadow (the river). The young bull says “let’s run down there and attend to a cow” The old bull says “let’s walk down and attend to them all”. In other words, it isn’t how fast you get to the fishing hole, it’s what you do once you arrive that counts.

I see guys jet here and there to get ahead of the next boat, cast their lures a few times and jet to their next spot as if they are in a Bassmaster tournament. Some guys like to fish that way but I’m not one of them. I like to quietly arrive at an area, analyze the river, and pick it apart. I don’t care if another fisherman has already fished the area because the fish have a brain the size of a marble and if it hasn’t been hurt or exhausted it will strike again within minutes of being caught the first time. I have also noticed that more and more of the sportsmen anglers have switched to catch and release fishing because a trophy smallmouth bass deserves to be caught more than once. I personally carry five to six “All Pro Rods” every day set up with every lure needed from top water surface lures to bottom bouncing jigs. This is so I can quickly adapt to the conditions facing me so I can find the pattern or lure style for my clients to use without wasting time tying on different lures. Not every client is proficient with every style of lure so I try to have them use a lure to suit their style of fishing and I try to keep them in areas that will match those styles they can best use. If we have an overcast day with little wind and semi stained or clear water the surface lures are the most fun and everyone can use them with little difficulty. It’s great when the client arrives very early in the morning and we can use surface lures like the Hubs Chub. To see that smallmouth bass come up from the shallow rocks and smash that floating lure is exhilarating!

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Matching the lure to the conditions faced is key to catching fish on a constant basis. A case in point, a couple of weeks ago we were fishing along around noon with a bright sky. We came upon a very small area with some slack water and some tree shade in the back of the hole. My clients were using crankbaits which are a universal and effective lure to use and also very easy to operate. They fished the hole first which is customary procedure with a guide. I noticed way back in the shade where the water was very shallow a small bass splashed against the shore line. My clients didn’t have a shallow lure tied on so I put down my crank bait and picked up a spinnerbait which I knew would not get caught in that shallow water. I mentioned to my clients that I’ll get that little fish in the corner and gave it a cast. The second the lure hit the water I started to reel and WHAM! A big fish hit it! At first I thought I had snagged a small carp but it turned out to be a huge smallmouth bass that was after the smaller fish! A spinnerbait is a big lure and I had it tied to my 7ft All Pro medium/heavy Crankin Rod outfitted with a Shimano Chronarch baitcast reel loaded with Stren 16 lb Magnathin line. I really like that rod and have since ordered another one. That old smallmouth bass was 22” long, weighed 5lb 2oz, and was about 12 to 15 years old. She was spawned out so I can only imagine what she might have weighed pre-spawn. That was the second largest smallmouth bass I have ever caught in the river and folks, she is still swimming because when I released her she swam away strong. You can see a photo of her on my web site or just maybe in the newspaper at a future date. If I didn’t have that extra rod already set up I may have never had a chance at that fish. I don’t catch a lot of fish with a spinnerbait but when I do it’s usually a quality fish. So guys, there is a perfectly great reason, (not excuse) to buy yet another rod.

I recently saw my first river otter for this year, it was cleaning itself on an island as we were jetting up some fast water. There are not many of them and it’s always a pleasure to see. The young eagles are getting ready to fly, they were perched on the edge of the nest flapping their wings the other day. I also noticed a large abundance of Baltimore Orioles up and down the river, their orange and black plumage easy to pick out of the green trees. And before we got this last cold snap, the frogs were singing for a mate all day long. The river is alive with wild life now and I never get tired of it. Well that’s all for this month, remember to practice catch and release for the future of this great sport, boat safe, and I’ll see you “On The Water”.

For daily reports along with photos and charter information please visit me on my web site at www.ldguideservice.com or on Facebook.