This Month with a Susquehanna River Guide

By Lance Dunham 

This month was not your typical July of dry weather and low river levels; as a matter of fact the first six days the river was too high to fish even for me. It was a muddy mess but on the 7th and 8th day I tried it out with a couple of equally crazy friends. We caught some fish and on the 9th day I took out a couple of clients on a four hour evening charter. The river was still high and muddy but I felt confident that I could find some fish for my clients. With the river in such a condition I knew that we needed to use dark lures and go as slow as we could so the fish had a chance of finding the lure. I chose a black Rage Twin Tail Menace rigged on a Moaner Predator Jig. It wasn’t long before I landed the first bass in the slower eddy waters next to the fast river, or the Seam as it is called. This gave us all hope that we would land a few bass that evening. On the next cast as we worked the Seam I felt a violent hit and knew it wasn’t a bass. It was a musky and a pretty good one at that! The battle seemed like an eternity but in fact lasted about 10 minutes. I had to maneuver the boat with my foot on the trolling motor to keep the line from breaking off on the blades while keeping the big fish in the slow water eddy because if it got out into the fast current I’d never stop it. I was using a medium weight All Pro casting rod with a pistol grip, which puts all the pressure on your wrist and forgive the pun, but the fish was a handful! My client was great in that he held the cradle net while I led it into the open end. He closed the net and brought the musky on board. While it wasn’t my biggest Musky I ever caught, the 44” fish was indeed a trophy fish. After a couple of photos I revived the fish and released it back in the river to thrill another angler on another day. The fish had to be at least 20 years old and it would have been a shame to kill it. About mid-month the river started to clear up nicely to a dark green stain and the fish numbers climbed. The best day of the month was on the 23rd when I had two new clients who had already fished the river down on the main stem around Harrisburg but had always waded and used mostly small crank baits. It was time to introduce them to multiple rods for multiple uses and depths. In a relatively short span of the river we used a Rage Baby Craw rigged on a Moaner jig hook for the 5ft to 10 ft depths, then a suspending jerk bait for the 4ft to 2ft depths and picked up an LD jig spinner for the fast water flash. After a while, all I had to do was to tell the guys what depth and speed we were at and they would pick up the correct rod and bait for the area. Like clockwork we caught 152 fish that day, our best day so far this year.

 

Everyone lives down river, the saying goes, and while we were catching fish in the rain that day here, New York was getting heavy rain and here we go again! I arrived at the river the very next morning to find the river had jumped up 2ft, muddy, and was still rising. I had a 4 hour charter in the morning and we struggled to get 15 fish. My worry was that we were to film for a new DVD on extreme summer hot weather fishing the next morning and I wondered what I would find. Well the river came up yet another foot, it was muddy, very fast, and a cold front went through. Folks, that’s tough fishing in anyone’s book. The title just changed to “Extreme summer mud water fishing”! I met professional cameraman Jerome Sulkoski at 5:30 AM that morning and we did the DVD intro filming before my guests, Matt and Nissa Wilson, arrived. They own the Moaner Hooks Company. They make unique lead jigs that hold plastic baits for fishing. The Wilsons are some of the nicest people you will ever find and they love to go fishing. Matt has created some very interesting jigs that work very well and are reasonably priced. I was impressed with the way Nissa handled a baitcaster rod and her ability to jig fish along the rocky bottom of the river in the heavy current. She was better with a baitcaster rod than most men that I fish with. We had just gotten started and Nissa landed her first fish, then the second and then the third before Matt and I had caught our first! She was using the new Rage Cut-R Worm on a Moaner Predator jig and it didn’t take very long for Matt and me to switch to it. Nissa had caught several more fish than I had, but I was catching some very nice quality bass out of the mud. We were having a great time laughing all day long and I made the mistake of telling Nissa that she may have caught more fish, but I had caught more fish weight than she had. That was my mistake because she promptly caught four, nice quality smallies in a row. I bow to the Queen! That evening I ordered a dozen packs of the new Rage Cut-R Worm by Strike King but I was put on a waiting list. The stores will begin to get them in by the end of next month and I can’t wait! I was really impressed with them and the way we caught the fish out of the mud that day. The other rig we used was the weighted Stroker jig by Moaner Hooks combined with the Rage Baby Craw with a skirt. It is sort of like the old “Jig and Pig” but improved. The weight is under the bait instead of in front of it causing the Baby Craw to fall in a slow horizontal motion, giving the fish more time to locate it and when rigged “weedless,” it is harder to get caught on the rocks and you can go slower which is a key presentation in river jig fishing. If you are ever fishing with me I’d be glad to show you and if you see me waiting for a client off the river just come on over and say hi and I’ll show you then.

Well, that’s all for this month.  Remember to practice catch and release fishing for the future of our sport, boat safely, and I’ll see you “On The Water.”

For further reports, photos, and charter information please visit me on my web page at www.ldguideservice.com or on Facebook.