Jack Wollitz: April fishing calls for extra preparation

April can be a bit tricky for anglers who like to kick start their fishing year while others are still trying to remember where they stored their tackle last fall.

Who can blame us for wanting to get out on our local lakes before they are overwhelmed? Mosquito and other Mahoning Valley waters are at that magic temperature where most of the favorite species of Youngstown-area anglers are biting.

If you want to catch walleyes, crappies and bass, now is the time to get to your lake. But just like the Major League pitchers have been doing for the past week, April can throw some nasty curveballs.

I know. I have whiffed on more than a few April opportunities over the years. Mistakes in April can be dangerous and costly, but they also can teach you a lesson or two.

One of those lessons is to always be prepared and never take the details for granted — especially when the water is cold. There is no such thing as a “routine” day in April when the water is not yet 50 degrees and anglers have gotten a bit rusty in their boat-launching procedure.

Many Aprils ago on hearing the crappies were moving up to the willows in Berlin Reservoir, Barb and I launched and motored to the flooded brush west of the railroad trestle. It wasn’t more than a minute after we stopped the boat and set the anchor when we noticed the carpet was squishy.

The plug had popped out of the drain hole. It apparently had not been screwed in tight enough and it worked loose during our trip to the crappie spot.

Cold water was gushing through the transom and our little boat lacked the handy gadget I wouldn’t dare be without today: a bilge pump. It was a silly little detail I could have readily addressed with a $10 investment.

Inexperience and my it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude ruined that fishing day, and we went home with wet shoes. But I can tell you that I never ever put the BassCat in the water now without double-checking that the transom plug is secure and the bilge pumps are in top-top operating condition.

I also went home with wet clothes one brisk day in April 1995. It was the first bass fishing trip in my then-new Ranger. The combination of a shiny new boat, great fishing and the excitement of getting out on the water may or may not have contributed to the misstep.

But a big misstep it was. Overboard I sent, all the way to the shallow lake bottom, where I pushed myself with enough force to vault with relative ease back to the deck. As water drained from my soaked jeans and sweat shirt, I thanked my lucky stars I had dry duds aboard. Lesson learned: Never go to the lake in April without spare pants and shirt.

Experienced anglers learn, but sometimes forget, that anything can happen. And when it happens in April, it’s double trouble.

Most accidents can be avoided. Pay attention to the details. Take nothing for granted. Before you dip the boat, check the battery, make sure the fuel tank is full and the cap is tight, unhook the transom straps, twist the plug tight, and put your vehicle in “park” and apply the parking brake before you get out to shove the boat off the trailer.

Then go have a great day on the water.

April is time to go fishing. But be careful out there.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who loves to write about fishing in Northeast Ohio. He appreciates emails about his stories and your experiences. Email him at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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