Beginning anglers often ask which species of freshwater fish can be caught during Spring. Fortunately, the list of springtime fishing opportunities is a long one. Each region has a unique array of fish species, although a few types of fish are found in almost every state.
Among the best known fish to be caught during the spring are fish that make early season spawning migrations. These include species such as yellow perch, American shad, river herring and others.
Yellow perch are found throughout much of North America. These hardy fish are actually caught all winter, even in the coldest weather. As the waters warm in spring, yellow perch move up rivers and creeks to spawn. During these migrations, they can sometimes be caught in large numbers.
Unlike perch, that reside in lakes, rivers or brackish estuaries for most of the year, herring and shad are fish of the open ocean. Adults make annual migrations from saltwater, up tidal rivers, ultimately reaching freshwater creeks and streams. These acrobatic fish are highly sought after during their spring migrations. Although herring and shad populations are greatly reduced from historical highs, catch and release fisheries still exist in most coastal states.
Chain pickerel are best known as cold weather fish. These ruthless predators increase their feeding sprees in spring, often startling unwary anglers. They eagerly take lures intended for largemouth bass and do not hesitate to attack panfish that are being brought in by anglers.
Although largemouth bass are generally associated with warm weather, they are actually quite active in early spring. These gluttonous fish can be caught as soon as water temperatures begin to rise, often being found in the same locations where summer catches occur.
In early spring, black crappie begin to alter their behavior. Freshwater crappie seek out traditional spawning areas within their lakes or ponds, while coastal river fish may travel some distance to special creeks or other nursery areas.
Another member of the sunfish family that is known as a springtime catch is the bluegill, or bream sunfish. These colorful panfish bite well as soon as insects and invertebrates start to become active near farm ponds, lake edges or other near shore habitats.