*** I thought this was posted on Feb 1st, but it never made it.. Better late than never!

Fishing in February

          February marks the middle of the winter season, the point mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Here in the Northeast fishing is slow at best and cabin fever has infected manyanglers. Despite temporary cures such as fishing and outdoor shows,  spring time remains the only real cure.
The weather determines February’s fishing opportunities. Will winter become more entrenched or is spring just around the corner? Fortunately for us we have Groundhog Day annually on Feb. 2nd and we’ll get a reliable forecast on the remaining winter weather from two of nature’s best prognosticators; renowned woodchucks Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil and Georgia’s General Beauregard Lee.

what's the weather gonna be??

What’s the weather gonna be??

Lore has it that if the groundhogs see their shadow when they emerge from their borrow they’ll scurry back in as there’s six more weeks of winter to come but if they don’t  they may remain out for a while as an early spring is forecast. These two woodchucks have been forecasting the weather for years with an accuracy rate that is probably higher than that of radio and TV meteorologists. Gen. Beauregard Lee claims to have an amazing ninety-four percent accuracy record. Over the years I’ve come to trust Ole’ Beauregard Lee’s forecast and remain skeptical over that of Punxsutawney Phil as no self-respecting northern Groundhog would ever be caught out of his borrow in early February as they’re still hibernating.
Down on the salt the fishing is as if the groundhog saw his shadow and things are pretty much at a cold standstill. About the only fishing being done is in minds of anglers replaying memories from last year’s outings. Of course a trip to warmer climates like Florida can provide plenty of fishing opportunities.
Freshwater fishing is possible in February. A cold January will bring plenty of February ice fishing, Trout fishing in rivers and streams is always an option. Trout will be sluggish but streamer flies worked deep and slow will take an occasional fish. If the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and an early spring becomes a reality, small lakes and ponds can become ice-free and offer a chance to try for warmwater species. Black bass, pickerel, and black crappie (Calico Bass) are always willing to strike. During years when February was a real sweetheart I‘ve put my canoe in several small shallow ponds to try for pickerel or whatever else would hit. I’ve always done well with pickerel but have also done surprisingly well with largemouth bass. Fortunately for me the largemouths I catch can’t read and didn’t know that books say they should be near the bottom in a sluggish, dormant state slowly digesting last November’s prey. I like to use a fast sinking line and a Chartreuse bunny fly with an orange collar during this late winter/early spring warmwater fishing. I usually use a slow-med retrieve but there have been days when I couldn’t move it fast enough.
Regardless of the groundhogs accurate forecast there’s things to do in February. Build a rod, tie some flies, order materials and hardware and check your tackle are a few indoor projects. Of course there’s several fishing shows and some fishing opportunities should you do need to get out. As I write this something came to mind that I truly miss this time of year;  the fishing shows and films of the late Paul Kukonen, a fly shop owner and exceptional fly tier and fly fisherman from Worcester MA.

Paul Kukonen's Cardinelle

Paul Kukonen’s Cardinelle

During my childhood my dad took me each year to Paul’s fishing shows. Paul, a champion fly caster would show 16mm films of his fishing trips and provide the ad-lib narration. His informative wit and wisdom made these films a treat and if they couldn’t stir you into a fishing frenzy –nothing could. I can still recall his films of the fantastic Atlantic salmon fishing up on the Penobscot River in Maine. Pictures of big Atlantic salmon jumping and cartwheeling down the Bangor salmon pool is something I’ll never forget. I consider myself fortunate to have gone to many of Paul shows to see his films. Hopefully some of you have had the good fortune of seeing them also. Paul Kukonen and his films are another example of one of the things we take for granted in life and so often fail to realize what we had until it’s gone.—–Ray