By Tim Lesmeister
This time of year, if you are a hunter or an angler, no matter where you are at in the United States, everything is in transition. Turkeys are gobbling and strutting, tempting and teasing. These big birds go from highly predictable to completely unpredictable. Hunters can now use calls to bring a big gobbler into shooting range and the countrysides are littered with men and women clad in camo imitating a sultry female just starving for a mate.
Bass anglers love this time of year. In the Deep South the big bass already are bedding and sight fishing is in full force. Farther north the bass are in a pre-spawn mode and when the fish are in this condition they are shallow and feeding. You find some huge bass this time of year.
Crappies are easy pickings during the transitional period. Crappies like to suspend when the water is warmer and this can make them more difficult to find in the summer months. In the spring crappies head right to where the forage is thick and that is in the shallow bays and on the shallow flats where there is some vegetation that makes great cover.
Up north the northern pike are well past their spawning phase and are actively feeding in the shallow regions where the minnows have attracted the panfish and created a spot where the pike don’t have to hunt hard for an easy meal.
Walleye anglers load up on the rivers and the boat landings are packed before the sun even hits the horizon. The spawning cycle is pushing the walleyes upstream where they are either entering a tributary or getting held up along the way by a dam. Bait shops on the rivers don’t sell minnows by the dozen, they sell them by the pound. Jig manufacturers realize that it’s the river anglers that keep them ramping up production. Every year there are hundreds, maybe thousands of huge walleyes that get photographed and released while for sure it’s thousands of pounds of river walleyes that make it to the frying pan.
On the lakes, the walleyes are transitioning to their spawning zones and this consists of tributaries, rubble flats, and rocky humps. Anglers using methods that worked for them all summer long struggle while those that understand how to decipher the early spring walleye code will have plenty of success.
On the Great Lakes the salmon are still cruising the shallows while the brown trout are moving into the shallow rocky regions to set up for a spawn. Lake trout will be mixed in with the browns and trolling boards are going to be the go-to presentation to get the crankbaits spread out and covering water.
This transitional period will last about six weeks to two months and vary on the calendar based on where in the country it’s happening. It’s a great time to be afield or on the water because with some knowledge of how a particular species reacts to this time period, it can result in some of the best fishing or hunting of the year.