You wish you could shove Old Man Winter down a flight of stairs as he makes his way out of our house? Us, too — 80 degrees and sunny sounds pretty darn magnificent right about now. But short of a minor miracle we’ll have to keep bundling up for the next few weeks of fishing. Fortunately, if you brave the late winter/early spring weather March does in fact hold some fabulous fishing opportunities in the Mid-Atlantic region. So grab your gloves, find a warm hat, and get ready to head for:
Eastern Shore Tribs at the upper points of their tidal range. Areas like the Tuckahoe near Hillsboro, the Choptank below Red Bridges, the Wicomico in and around Salisbury, and the Pocomoke north of Snow Hill, which are mostly freshwater but still have a tidal influence, hold a number of fishing cards at this time of year. They have populations of freshwater fish like bass, crappie, and pickerel, which never leave. But in March those spring yellow perch may begin to invade as well. Think: bull minnow on shad darts, both under bobbers and cast and retrieved along bottom. If you need a refresher on how to be successful during the perch run, just click below and check out this video.
Easter Shore Millponds for bass, crappie, and pickerel. We’ve covered these in the past in detail, and you can find more detail “Winter Fishing at the Millponds” and “Eastern Shore Millponds: Fantastic Freshwater Fishing,” which detail how and where to fish ‘em. Again, we’d recommend getting some minnow because all the species in these ponds generally respond best to live bait at this time of year.
Western Shore Tribs near the cities. Yes, the cities. Visit the Potomac near Washington, D.C., the Rappahannock downstream of Fredericksburg, or the James below Richmond, and you can enjoy some spectacular catfish action. Again, this is a fishery we’ve covered quite a bit (see “Cat Food: Fishing for Catfish All Winter Long” and “Hot Action on Cool Catfish”), but suffice it to say that those whiskered critters will bite no matter how warm or cold it may be this month, and they represent the hands-down winning option if you want to have a shot at catching very large brutish beasts at this time of year. All you need is a set of stout rods, some large circle hooks, weights, and chunks of cut fish or chicken livers.
Lake Anna for freshwater striper fishing. Not only does Lake Anna have a population of stripers and wipers that will be chasing bait all winter long and then moving into the shallows in spring, those rockfish can start busting water at just about any time. Plus, while the lake’s winter fishing is famed for the “hot side” waters warmed up by the North Anna Power Station discharge (which doesn’t have a public access boat ramp), don’t let that deter you. The hot side may be best for bass but the main lake is where the prime striper action is (generally from The Splits down to the dam). Finding them can be difficult if birds don’t give away their location, but in that case you can hunt ‘em down with the fishfinder then drop flutter spoons, resin spoons, and plastics, to get them snapping.
Added Lake Anna Bonus
On top of the striper action there’s rock-solid bass and crappie fishing in this lake. And once we get into March crappie will begin to move shallow and look for good areas to spawn; check out shoreline structure like docks and deadfall, and you can get into a mess of ‘em.
Multiple Area Rivers have a great smallmouth bite at this time of year in our region, like the Shenandoah, the James, the Rappahannock, the Potomac, and the Susquehanna. The big variable right about now is precipitation — you’ll want to time your trip when there’s good water quality, which spring snow or rain can muck up a bit. After a big rainfall allow for a few days so the water can settle out, then head for upriver areas armed with three-inch jerkbaits, spinners, or a fly rod and streamers. Look for relatively deep pockets and holes, especially around boulders and rocky shorelines, and keep your presentation relatively slow to match the cool conditions.
So there you have it: five top freshwater fishing opportunities. Just flip to the next page, if you simply can’t wait to go after some saltier species. And as for you, Old Man Winter, would you like some help finding the door?