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Hardy few anglers still taking to the waters

The calendar is on a relentless march toward the end of the fishing season for many anglers, but a hardy few are still working the water in pursuit of their favorite species.

Animals sense the approaching winter and eat as often as food presents itself as they pack in the calories that convert to stored energy. Anglers respond accordingly, going to the water as often as possible, knowing the time is coming when it will be too cold to enjoy a day on the boat.

There was a time when no day was too cold for me to enjoy outside fun. I once teed up for a round of golf when it was 15 degrees. I’ve cast fishing lines through iced rod guides, but those days are behind me.

I prefer warmer days for golfing — and, of course, for fishing.

The freshness of a frosty morning is all well and good, but bundling up in multiple layers and risking a slip off an icy deck into frigid water are experiences I’d prefer to avoid now that I have a few more seasons under my hat.

I’ll be putting the BassCat up for the winter soon. But in the meantime, I’m taking advantage of our remaining mild days to enjoy October action.

Three deer greeted me at the road into the Mahaney launch at Shenango Reservoir on Thursday morning. I arrived just as the sun was putting color over the treeline to the east, hoping to tease a few smallmouth bass into striking my popper.

I interpreted the grazing whitetails as a good sign. As I readied the boat, squirrels and chipmunks romped in the dry leaves near the ramp, no doubt gorging on the bounty of acorns. If the deer and rodents were eating, the bass should be chasing baitfish.

Out on the lake, evidence of the healthy baitfish population was everywhere. Dimpling young-of-the-year shad spread across acres of slick water on the lee shoreline. Here and there, splashes gave away the fact that crappies, bass and hybrid stripers were working through the schools of baitfish.

At two of my morning stops, anglers working minnows under floats reeled in keeper-quality crappies.

The popper didn’t produce, but it wasn’t long before a big fish walloped my shallow-running crankbait. An oversized smallmouth bass rocketed out of the water and splashed down after a spectacular aerial somersault. Then it was gone, as suddenly as it appeared, and my lure slingshotted from the bass’ jaw back to the boat.

Guessing the size of a fish that escapes is risky business. Nevertheless, I’m calling it a 5-pounder and will carry the memory of that frenzied moment in my mind’s eye throughout the winter months.

Twenty minutes later, three largemouths residing on one submerged tree trunk ate that same chartreuse crankbait on three consecutive casts. Catching multiple bass off one piece of cover is not uncommon this time of year — one reason I love October fishing.

I finished my day working familiar cover near the Mahaney ramp and added three more bass that measured more than 16 inches — one again on the shallow-running crankbait, another on a black and blue jig and the third on a black and blue beavertail lure.

All things considered, it turned out to be a great October fishing day. The day started under a beautiful peach-colored sunrise and produced some memorable action.

I drove home with the satisfaction of another successful outing and felt good about the fact I was one day closer to my next fishing trip.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who fishes all of the waters in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He also appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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