Light line, small floats and long casts.

Works best for most fish in most places most of the time, but is particularly effective on panfish early in the season.

Bluegills, crappie and their ilk always seem to be ultra-skittish during their first forays into shallow water in spring. And this doesn't necessarily mean near the shoreline as the best ice-out catches are often had near the surface over deep water.

The temperature a couple of feet below might still be in the 40s, but given a sunny afternoon this time of the year the top foot or two often warms well into the 50s. Many of the largest bluegills and crappie in any body of water inherently know this. Better yet, according to the book, is the north side of lakes which receive more sun along with the windward side.

Spooky fish are the norm now. Boat shadows and noise, sloppy casts and even bobber and lines whizzing low over head can make surface-sunning panfish scurry.

These same fish which charge at wiggly leaf worms and fat crickets a month from now often flee the big baits. A single waxworm is king right now. So too are spikes, mousies and other leftover ice fishing tidbits.

My favorite rig, that is when I take the time to restring the fly rod, is a No. 10 or 12-size black ant tied about 30 inches behind a small surface popper. The popper fly is essentially a tiny bobber as few ice-water fish muster the gusto to attack on the surface. It also works as a subtle attractor.

A spike or waxie is often added to the ant when the bite slows, probably due more to me being impatient than the fish being picky.

And whether with fly rod or standard bobber and bait, it helps to fish slower, leave things sit longer than is necessary at other times of the year.

Bass, too, can be more spooky early in the spring. Again, long casts with Rapalas or bladed jigs always seem to work better for me when bass first start cruising shallower water. Many bass pros swear by Rat-L-Traps early in the season, which also allow for lengthy casts.

On the salmonid front, fair numbers of steelhead are spawning in all area tributaries. The usual shallow sites — gravel, stone and other hard-bottom areas, mostly located in the upstream third of Trail, Salt Creek and the Galien River, are the attraction right now.

If night temperatures chill the water, shallow activity slows, but there will still be bunches of steelhead in the first deep holes or runs downstream from traditional spawning areas. Sometimes its 20 yards below and sometimes its 200 yards, but most steelies don't go too far from the gravel at this time of year.

Coho fishing is on, and typically unpredictable. The prime-eating salmon have been caught off and on in the Michigan City harbor this week, although more consistent action has been had on the pier.

Trollers should be able to whack 'em pretty good inside 30 feet of water if the wind ever subsides.

• Licenses expire: Indiana and Michigan fishing licenses expire March 31. See or, respectively, or visit your local tackle dealer.

• Tributaries open: There is no temporary stream closure on Trail Creek and the Little Calumet River again this year.

For decades, an April 1 through June 15 closure was in effect to allow newly stocked fingerlings to adapt then migrate to Lake Michigan unharassed. The closure was removed by temporary order in 2015 and appears to have become permanent since it no longer listed in the 2015 Indiana Fishing Guide.

They're still stocking baby steelies and salmon in the spring, but anglers have become more adept at avoiding and are handling them with care.

• Turkey club: The Galena River chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will hold its' annual fundraising banquet on April 9 at the Best Western Inn, 444 Pine Lake Ave., La Porte.

For ticket information, including early-bird specials, contact Josh Haferkamp at (574) 276-8001 or The banquet helps fund many of the chapter's youth programs.

Indiana's wild turkey season is April 27-May 15. Youth-only weekend is April 23-24.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.