River or Reservoir?

Payne Outdoors

A newly made friend at work smiles at me from the far end of a long hallway.  He’s walking toward me powering up his smart phone and pulling up a photo.

“Dude, wait ’til you see what my buddy caught Tuesday!”

He hands the phone to me and it’s a photo I saw on the Maryland DNR website earlier that morning.

“You know this kid?  Where did he get it?”

The photo is a grip n grin of a smallmouth caught on Liberty Reservoir in Maryland, a body of water where I’ve permitted a kayak since 2006, but have only been on twice in the last three years.  The fish easily hits six pounds, and my buddy says his friend weighed it at 7-4.  I have my doubts on that weight, but nevertheless it gets my blood pumping to hit some flat water.

The following Tuesday, I land a five pound two ounce smallmouth.  Certain that a river six pounder is a likely catch in the next several weeks, I fill out more vacation requests for mid week day trips early next month.  The problem is that by then, the reservoirs are open.  The big ones fall there in March, usually second and third week.  My reservoir trip log tells the story.  But the same photos of big fish in my river log book tug me back to moving water.

Last Saturday, I planned a cataraft trip with my boys.  The chosen location was Lake Marburg in Pennsylvania.  The night before, I rigged a rod with a blade bait and another with a deep diving suspending jerkbait, two reservoir specific lures for late winter.  Half way up there, partly from forgetting the GPS to direct me to the right ramp, partly because I know I can park the cataraft on top of loads of four pounders, I drive the extra half hour to the river.  The decision pays off, as my kid nails a 4 lb 5 oz smallmouth on a shallow suspending jerkbait, and has been talking about it all week.

Tuesday, I’m driving to Baltimore to pick up a repaired appliance for work.  I cross the upper end of Liberty.  It’s full.  I glance down reservoir to see if I can catch a glimpse of the point where I caught a 5 lb 3 oz largemouth five years ago in early March.  The problem is that I remember that fish and not all the early March skunk trips where I paddled over 17 miles in a day just to see the upper end of the reservoir.  Places like that bequeath you with an occasional big fish, you are sucked into the chase and then it goes cold.  Toward the end of a third full day on the reservoir, you are thinking “If I was on the river now, I’d already have twenty fish, and 3 of them would be bigs!”  Then a last hour bite draws you back in.  You take the photos, paddle back to the ramp with renewed energy and resolve, and you’re back on the reservoir the following Saturday.

That cycle was broken for me five years ago.  The last five years, I have been faithful to the river, and the rewards have been non-stop.  So why the thoughts of starting the roller coaster of emotions of reservoir fishing?  I don’t know, but it’s coming on.

Jeff Little teaches kayak fishing skills through his DVD series available at Confidence Baits LLC.



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2 thoughts on “River or Reservoir?

  1. Great article Jeff. I share many of your sentiments in this debate. When I fish lakes, I typically do quite well, but something always feels like it is missing…flowing water perhaps.

  2. Jeff;

    You can always call me..I know Marburg like the back of my hand, since I used to live in Hanover..I think I’ve fished most of the accessible shore line areas around Marburg.. And, I’m good friends with B&B Lure owner Gordon Brady. He knows where the greenies are being caught. I actually want to try Long Arm—I have it on good authority (from people and their pictures) that there are good sized largemouth in there. There are also good sized walleye in both.

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