The rating on a box of shotgun shells reads 1,180, 1,205 or more than 1,300 feet per second, the speed at which the pellets are disbursed in pursuit of a thrown clay or an incoming goose. The bent coil at the base of a tip-up flag is precariously held in place by the notch in the T-bar at the top of the plastic and metal fish trap, ready to go off with the tug of a pike below the ice. In that moment to begin the first openwater foray, the weight of a jig and twister suspended in the air of a back cast waits just a moment for a forward fling toward its destination. While all of these examples represent the principle of potential energy likely learned and forgotten in the blur of ninth-grade science class, they can be realized with the pull of a trigger, the turn of a switch or the snap of a rod converting what could be into what will be. More than just a physical phenomenon, each embodies the start of something new and the possible opportunities to come in a season so aptly named spring.
For the shotgunner, spring has become synonymous with clay target shooting as high school leagues grow and expand across the map. As soon as ice and snow are cleared from the walkways and around the trap houses, the crack of shotguns echo in the air. With the melt of that same snow in the fields and the breaking of ice on sloughs and small lakes, the return of snow geese through the region provide waterfowlers with an opportunity to get on the X and find spring success. As daylight lengthens and triggers the biological clocks in many breeding species, turkey hunters will find their place in the riparian woods or along the edge of an open field to call in a tom that just can’t resist the manufactured mating sounds of a receptive springtime hen or is maddened by the presence of a competitor in the form of a foam decoy.
While the ice remains thick at the start of this time of transition, each passing day suggests that the stretch of adding to surface cover on area lakes is at its end. With the heightened sun angle, the top turns from looking glass clear to a foggy white honeycomb and signals a shift under the water as well. With tip-ups deployed in the upper reaches of bays and feeder creeks before instability sets in, the possibility of pike makes the start of spring a memorable time for ice anglers as they close out their season. Additionally, other species pick up their pre-spawn activities and the bite improves with each warm-up, giving late ice a rush comparable to start of the hardwater season.
With the shift of the calendar from February to March, it’s also hard not to plan for those openwater adventures to come. From early runs of pike and walleyes in the first warm melting flows of the season to panfish rushing the shallows to spawn, a calendar of angling options is setting up and the power stored in the flex of a casting or jigging rod and the stash of tackle loaded into a spring adventure box for those quick trips after work as the late day sunlight expands, provide the means to connect with a number of soon-to-be-experienced opportunities. Where chilly evenings in late March trying to detect a bite through gloved hands give way to warm sunny mornings with fish in full pre-spawn feeding mode in April and May, the seasonal shift in spring makes for great fishing which often pops up at a moment’s notice. Preparing for it now and making it a point to take advantage of those times when a hot bite develops is important in getting the very best out of the upcoming season and its varied opportunities. From shooting sports, spring waterfowling and unique upland opportunities to late ice and early openwater options, whether we experience them while struggling through snow or in the sweet sunlight under a greening canopy, the potential of the coming season is always welcomed … in our outdoors.