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Anglers rejoice as normalcy returns

Normal. Everybody wants it. We love normal.

The COVID pandemic disrupted our routines in 2020 and taught us to appreciate every gain we make on the return trip to normal.

Anglers want normal, too. It’s good when we go to the lake and find everything the way we expect it to be. When things are normal, anglers can expect to fish successfully.

The heavy rains that soaked our region in July added a lot of water to our rivers and lakes. Many of our region’s reservoirs were well above their normal summer levels, pushing popular species like bass and crappies up into the newly flooded cover.

Shenango Reservoir, in Mercer County, Pa., took a lot of run-off two weeks ago and its level went up more than eight feet above normal summer pool. The Corps of Engineers had to close the Mahaney launch ramp due to high water. The new shorelines were well up in the hardwoods.

I decided last Saturday to fish Shenango for bass and arrived to find the lake still three feet above normal. I managed to catch just four bass as the extra volume of water added many acres of flooded cover for the fish.

I returned Thursday and was pleased to see the water had fallen to its normal summer level. Shenango was within its normal banks and the water clarity had improved from the muddy murk I’d seen during my previous visit.

The normal conditions gave me a dose of optimism. As I pushed the Mercury into gear and throttled away from the dock, I was brimming with excitement about the prospects of a good day on the water.

It didn’t take long for the first bass to bite. It was a fat 13-incher, short of keeper length, but long on attitude as it attacked my lure.

The next bass grabbed my Texas-rigged soft plastic creature bait with a solid thump and churned powerfully as I worked it out from under the water-soaked log where it had been lurking. It was a fine three-pounder, providing yet another bit of evidence that Shenango was back to normal.

Five more bass, all exceeding the Shenango 15-inch length limit, joined the party over the next hour, all falling for the soft plastic bait.

Pleased with the results up to that point, I decided around 11 a.m. to explore another portion of the lake to see whether I could expand on the pattern that had produced the day’s first six fish. Soon enough, however, it became apparent that if I was going to catch any more bass, I should return to the portion of the lake where I’d enjoyed earlier success.

That was a good move. I finished with six more largemouths, including the day’s largest at four pounds 13 ounces. The big fish was an acrobat, jumping twice even though its belly was stuffed with shad.

It had been a remarkable trip. I finished with a total of 12 bass, including six that topped the three-pound mark.

Shenango was back to normal and I was one happy fisherman.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, was released in May. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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