fishing the Susquehanna , Pa. ........

-- Last Updated: Oct-08-09 1:02 AM EST --

...... we spent Mon. and Tues on the river from early morning till dark .

37* air temp. at first light but warmed quickly . The river was fogged in solid on Tues. morning when we set out , river temp. was in mid. 60's .

Guage was low (about 3.8' at Harrisburg but had been rising all week) , but this is great for working the main river from one side to the other . In springtime when the water is high and fast flow , it's much tougher to make good presentation in the main river areas we concentrate around ... having to always battle the heavy currents can get to be too much sometimes and will spend most of the time in the creeks or side cuts around the islands ... so it's just the opposite on an autumn trip , creeks and side cuts real low , main river just perfect !!

Mepps #3 , gold blade , yellow buckhair (as always) ... we switch to the spinner after the initial spring run is over , starting to use it 50/50 with the tubes when the water temp. makes 60* , and then ... stick to it exclussively for the rest of the year in the Susqi.

There is a special way to use the spinner in the Susqui. if you want to catch the Smallies , and it's exactly what you would try to avoid if you didn't know better !! ... if you don't , you won't .

We caught many Smallies in the 19"-21" range , just a few 12"-15" , lots in the 16"-18" range ... every fish was fat and heavy for it's size , and with the cool water and quick current they fight like crazy ... many can break an 8 lb. line so you have to give them their way until you can bring them to net , it takes awhile !!

Then there is always those few that absolutely refuse to give in , they break water , bend your rod in half and make the drag sing and eat line up in amazing amounts , swim under and around the boat a few times when they see the net ... and finally get netted !! Every time you hook into one of these , it makes you think it's going to be 6-7 lbs. , but it's not , it's usually one of the smaller 3-1/2 to 4 pounders , go figure ??

Sidenote , the nephew was haggling with one these , it was burning his line and his rod was locked into gigantic fish mode ... he stood and went into serious battle stance ... the fish went double time and near made him loose his ballance , at which time he tromppled every thing under foot in the boat ... and there went a perfectly good Shimano Stradic ... need to get a replacement body for it now and build a new reel ... s**t happens !!

We mostly run the drift with the current while working the spinners , sometimes fall in behind the ledge eddies and hold for awhile ... this is a mega rocky and deep ledge river ... we run up the ledges (in a jon with a small jet) , like climbing a waterfall sometimes to get to next level .

We didn't try to keep count , a conservetive guess is about 80 fish caught and released , enough to make you think every cast had definate potential !!

A great bonus was the numbers of birds of prey we saw this time . I have real nice field glasses (a gift from my sweetheart) , and to see them flying , circling and hunting up close in these is awsome !!

At least 4 Golden Eagles this time (unbelievable majestic bird this is , and to watch them slowly circling up close in the sun , well you can see every color and detail in the feathers , beak , talons and eyes !!) , a half dozen Bald Eagles , one Falcon in full take down action on a small bird (which got away believe it or not), a few Osprey ... plus this area has many Blue Heron always criss crossing the river a water level , and White Swan type birds , wild Turkey and the smaller type of water birds .

A Golden ended up flying to the highest point on a ridge and landing on a high tension electric tower ... a while later along comes a Bald Eagle and landed on the same tower ... the two birds kept an eye on each other but no conflict ... it was easy to see the difference in size between the two Eagles this way ... the Golden was at least a foot taller than the Bald Eagle , and wing spans are at least 2' or more in diffrence !!

There was this one Osprey that we caught site of just up in front of us , standing up in mid-air with it's wings spread full (in the wind) ... it took this stance 3 times adjusting in the wind and then did a dive bomb head first to the river ... just at water level it flipped upright and slamed it's talons into the water ... flew off with a huge fish which was wigglin and thrashin it's best to get away , but no such luck ... the Osprey treed it and chowed down .

The whole point of this bird thing is to say ... wow , great field glasses !!!

now i’m totally envious. wish i didn’t have to work so often. glad you had a nice trip though.

Nice trip
Thanks for recounting it. I’m eager for the days when more small fish are caught. That sounds wierd, but the Susqy is in trouble from having had so many year classes in a row wiped out by the high Spring waters. It makes for some exciting fishing now, though!

  • Big D

have to disagree …

– Last Updated: Oct-08-09 10:05 PM EST –

..... there are so many small (under 12") smallmouth in the Susquehanna , you could probably catch a hundred of them on any given day if you wanted to ... these are found in the shallower water .

For the most part the small fish and the big fish are found in different depth waters and different bottoms .

There are more than ample numbers of all size ranges ... the small fish out number the med. to large ones . The large ones are mostly female and they produce a gazzillion hatchlings each year . The Susqi. is big , swift and clean so the habbitat is superb for the fish . That's why we fish it . The quality and quantity of the Susqui. Smallies is world class !!

After many years of hearing about the Susqui. we decided to give a try , that was 13 yrs. ago. ... the first 5 lb. Smallie convinced me , and we've gone back since . Takes awhile to get to know the river , we check out some new areas each year , but still we've just scratched the surface so to speak .

Every spring is high water , a few exceptionally high spring waters over the years did yield some hatches that were hindered , but the impact was hardly noticed ... probably best anyway , call it population control ... the river can only hold so many fish and at present it's probably overloaded !!

Sometimes I think you're the doomsday man there Big D ... my moto , go catch fish when and where ya can , let mother nature take care of the rest ... if the sky falls in who can do anything about it anyway ??

Then there are quite a number of Muskie in there too , but they have literally a gazzillioin creek chubs to eat . The creek chubs are an indicator of river health , and these chubs often break 20" .

So I don't buy the buzz about river floods have severely hindered the Susqui. ... it has never let us down and don't ever expect it to !!

was wondering D …

– Last Updated: Oct-09-09 12:07 PM EST –

....... have you ever worked the Susqui. up there in the area we do ??

I know you would enjoy it and make out OK . Even if you don't know the ropes there , you'll catch some nice fish and be happy you went !!

I can give you some insight and suggestions if you want them . We've put lots of years in up there . The time to hit the Smallies is "right now" though !!

Just an offer in case you'd like to give it a shot .

Haven’t yet

– Last Updated: Oct-10-09 2:02 PM EST –

Would love to. The Juniata too. I'd like to get on the Juniata where it's smallish up above the lake. Beautiful country up there. Every time I go to visit my dad and drive over it, I wonder why I didn't plan a couple extra hours and bring my waders along.

On the topic of young of year for various year classes, I am basing my statement on reviews of the electroshocking studies that were done over the past half dozen years in a series of locations (including several in the area you discuss here, but also some further north and some further south). The population trend data doesn't look good. Big floods five years in a row during spawn didn't do the river any favors population wise. Your local observations may indicate that the few fish who didn't get washed out didn't have as much competition in the food base and have grown nicely. I hope that's the case. It'd be good news if so.

At least your river's problems are natural. My river still is having problems mostly from OTHER than natural causes.

- Big D

I shouldn’t discount your concerns D …

– Last Updated: Oct-11-09 8:52 PM EST –

...... and mention of Smallie population declines in the Susqi. so easily ... I believe I have come to know you reasonably well from you words over the past few years . You have always seemed to be on the up and up , show good self control and not fabricating anything you bring to attention and offer in conversation here .

It may well be that I might refuse to acknowledge such a problem with Susqui. if it really does exist , could be to personal and difficult to accept , a state of denial ??

I don't know that this is the case , I'm just offering a possibility as to why I can't see it if it's happening (or has) ... I'll offer this , 10 years ago we had the best banner 2 day trip ever experienced on the Susqui. , it hasn't been matched again to this day , but we just figure that was a couple days of exceptional (and unbelievable) luck , all the planets and stars must have been in alignment , lol .

I don't know D , the Susqui. river always seems to the most exceptional place among all others we fish or have (by a great margin) . It's always made us feel like we actually might have some learned skills and know what we are doing ... we catch lots of fish and probably give ourselves a bit too much credit for that , lol ...

I also offer this D , you're not really the doomsday man , you're an intellegent and well researched person about what you speak ... so that's sorta like an apology for that unthoughtful comment I made prior . Perhaps like a child I sometimes say something unnessasary or improper before I think it all through . Forgive me if caused any offense , I'm not as smart as I think I am sometimes , can be a dummy now and then !!

You didn’t offend me.

– Last Updated: Oct-11-09 9:14 PM EST –

It's an odd message to receive after having had a great fishing trip, that the populations are down. The thing is that the populations are down in the smaller fish. There's tons of big fish. And it's just that the young of year weren't around for certain years. It's possible, I suppose, that with fewer young of year that there was higher recruitment out of the few that were left. Perhaps the muskies and cormorants ate something else instead of baby smallies because the babies weren't there to eat. I don't know. It's possible. I just know that you had lousy young of year for about five years in a row from 2003 through 2008. I'm not saying NO fish, and I'm not even saying there weren't a lot of fish born. Just a lot (not all, but a lot) got swept away in those spring high water events. Fishing's good now, but it's going to be tough in a few years when today's old dudes die out. It's a natural cycle though, so nothing to panic over.

And thanks for the kind words. I shall endeavor to earn them.