It has been a rough start to the year. I think I've already suffered through a cold, 2 sinus infections, and am currently getting over the flu. I really have not been able to get out fishing as much as I would have liked, but have still been able to take advantage of a couple early-spring fishing traditions.
Reston Kids' Trout Fishing Day
My friend Mustafa let me know about an annual free fishing event in Reston for kids. They stock several pools in a stream with trout, and have kids fish for them. I've heard mixed reviews about the event, the main criticism about it is that it's usually packed with hundreds of kids lining up on the shoreline making a ruckus and just being kids. Still, I thought it would be fun to take my two boys to meet Mustafa and his boys, and also to catch some trout. We used waxworms as our bait, and we did pretty well! My boys ended up with 4 fish on our stringer. The largest was caught by my oldest son, Caleb, entirely on his own. I had turned around to help my younger son to re-bait his hook, when I heard Caleb yell that he caught a fish. Everyone kind of gawked at him jealously, because it was one of the bigger ones in the pool. Caleb just said he dropped the worm in front of the fish's face, and it ate it. Needless to say, I was super proud of my boy! We'll try to make this an annual tradition to go to this event.
Shad Fishing the Occoquan
At work, the Friday before Easter is always a company holiday, so a few coworkers and I made plans to fish the Occoquan to try for some shad. I felt like it was still a bit early for the shad to be there, but if it was, at least we could fish for some bass or crappie. We gave it a shot anyway, and while the shad were there, the catching was not really that hot. We tried everything we had, from shad darts, to spoons, to small curly tail worms, to spinners... It seemed like the shad were very picky, and also very isolated in select areas. We saw very few shore anglers doing pretty well, and also one father-son duo on a boat really killing them with gold spoons. Eventually, we figured out that we could catch them in a deep hole just above the walking bridge, and were able to get the skunk off with some shad.
There is a saying that when the dogwoods bloom, is when the shad are running and you should go fishing for them. Well, by Good Friday, the dogwood tree by my house had not bloomed yet. So maybe the shad were starting to come in, but just not there in large numbers yet.
I went back to the Occoquan the Saturday after Easter, and by this time the dogwood tree was in full bloom. I wanted to take my dad to experience shad fishing, because he can't understand how one could enjoy fishing when you can't even keep it! It's also been a while since I've fished with him, so my wife graciously gave us the Saturday afternoon off to go fish together. We took my 15'4" Gheenoe to Occoquan Regional Park, and slowly motored up toward the walking bridge. We slowly made our way to the deep hole above the walking bridge, as we casted and reeled in our gold spoons. I was the first to hook up with a shad, and my dad soon got the hang of it and was reeling in shad too. I was using my ultralight rod, while my dad was using a medium heavy rod that I normally use for jigging for larger fish. At one point I offered to trade rods with my dad, because I felt like the fight was much more fun on the ultralight. Yup, shad fishing is so much more fun on ultralight tackle. It was still fun catching them on the heavier rod, but it just didn't feel as exciting. Anyway, it was a real joy to watch my dad's expression every time he hooked up with a fish. Even though I got my love for fishing from him, he has always fished using live or cut bait, and never used lures before. The way you connect with a fish from the rod and reel in your hands as you're reeling in a lure is so much more satisfying than setting the hook on a rod that was resting on a pier. I think he understands the feeling now.