The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 15, 2014

Ken Maurer outdoors column: Thawing out

— It’s coming. You can feel it in your bones and smell it in the air.

This winter has been enough for everyone. It’s time to put away the winter coats and the bloody snow shovel.

I’m hoping maybe this cold weather has killed some of the ticks. Ticks are bad in many areas and the recent mild winters may have allowed the ticks to spread.

They carry various diseases beside Lyme, and it wasn’t that long ago that you didn’t have to worry much about ticks. Now it is wise to inspect your clothing and body after every foray into the outdoors.

I’ve seen several small flocks of robins already and they seem to be looking around as if to say what the heck is going on. I saw my first groundhog the other day and he was waddling along looking a little groggy. I swear he was squinting.

And then there are the fishermen. Last week the river opened up a little and the cabin-fevered anglers were on the river.

Some were in boats and some were on the banks, but a good number of anglers got their lines wet. Some of them even caught fish. Dragging jigs or minnows along the bottom caught some smallmouths and a few guys managed some walleyes. (Walleye season ended on March 14.)

In the next week or two, the water should warm a bit and the smallmouth action should pick up. You can catch them in the cold water, you just have to fish slowly and keep your bait or lure on the bottom.

When the water is cold, they don’t like to chase anything, but they will eat a jig or minnow if you roll it right up to them. As the water warms, they will move more to take a bait and eventually it will get warm enough that they will fire out and smash things.

I like to switch back and forth between a curl tail minnow or grub and a tube this time of year. If that doesn’t work, a black bucktail jig usually does. When the water warms a little more, I like to throw big jerkbaits like the size 14 husky jerk. It’s a bit cumbersome, but big smallies are looking for a big meal when the water is cold.

You have to wonder how the deer and turkeys made out with the hard winter we had. Nature has a way of surviving, and predators may have taken an extra bite out of those populations this year, but it looks like they will be alright.

Turkey numbers are down a bit from a couple years ago, but there are still decent numbers of birds out there. Spring gobbler season is still a ways off, but that, too, will be here before you know it.

The early trout season is just around the corner. Warm weather is coming for sure.

Just think, in a couple of weeks you’ll be knee-deep in a trout stream with the sunshine on your shoulder and a trout bending your rod!

Ken Maurer, Herndon, is a licensed fishing guide and a regular contributor to The Daily Item. Email comments to

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