Susquehanna River in the Freeze
By Chris Sanno

 By this time of winter most anglers can be found in their basements pitching various plastics into cups, telling stories of the previous season, and enjoying the warmth of a woodstove and the latest fishing program--just itching to get out and wet a line.

But for a few anglers that can brave the cold and purchase hand warmers by the dozen, smallmouths can still be caught.  Anglers just have to fish the warm water discharges along the banks of the river since the main river is typically frozen solid. Cold water is pulled into a power station then is discharged down river at a warmer temperature. Discharge water temperatures typically are around 55 degrees, but will fluctuate. I find fishing to be at its best when discharge temps peak.  Add a overcast day to the mix and anglers can rejoice.  I like to keep it simple when fishing this type of scenario, typically carrying 3 rods and a small tackle box filled with proven favorites.  On one rod I will have rigged a Mizmo teaser tube in the Penrod Purple color pattern. This is one of my favorite tube colors and most productive.  The biggest thing to remember is to fish the lightest jig possible.  I like using eighth ounce when possible, because it generates a slow fall.  Keep it slow because most anglers fish tubes way to fast in the winter.  These lures are designed to sit on the bottom allowing current to move the skirt.  The more patient you are with this bait the more rewarding it will become. A typical cast takes a minute or two on average, and does feel like forever.

 My second rod would have either a 3 or 5-inch curl tail grub.  With this lure I tend to use a slow steady retrieve.  You want the bait to move just fast enough to feel it dragging on the river bottom deflecting off of whatever it strikes.  This deflection generates a reaction strike, and along with smallies it is proven to work well for walleye and musky.  Good color choices are black, blue pearl, chartreuse and Mardi Gras. I like using a 3/16 ounce jig head painted either white or black when possible.  Be creative and change colors often when fishing tough.  Even the slightest difference can make or break a angler in the winter months. 

When I carry a third rod, a jerkbait will be tied on to it..  I tend to use the Rapala XR8s and 10s in various colors. Basically in clear water use clear baits like the glass ghost.  Any other scenario, silver and hot steal work well among others.  Once the bait is in the water at its suspended depth a jerk, pause technique is used. Experiment with the time between pauses to give the bass what they want.  What happens is there tends to be dead bait fish in the discharge area, and this technique simulates dying or injured bait.  Also at times a still bait works good (deadsticking).  Some other baits I tend to carry are spider and paddle tail grubs along with flukes and swimbaits in various colors and sizes.  The swimbait can be a deadly winter bait, and is know for producing big smallies.  On the other hand the right lures are only as good as the line that connects them.  For this I have one simple rule. Sufix 832, 10-pound braid with 8-pound fluro in clear water, and stained water use 30-pound braid with 14-pound fluorocarbon.  This heavier line is a safety thing in case an angler would hook up on a toothy critter.  Other thing to remember is know the local rules and boundaries. And always play it safe.

 Look for our weekly fishing report at www.penrodsguides.com beginning the middle of March. I fish the Susquehanna 12 months of the year. Iíd love to teach you the ropes. Book a trip with me and Iíll help you improve your skills.

Good Fishing
Chris Sano, PA Licensed Guide
Guide: Ken Penrodís Life Outdoors Unlimited