Again this year the "Wanna Go Fishing for Millions?" promotion sponsored by Cabela's in partnership with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will offer Pennsylvania anglers a chance to catch a tagged fish worth a million bucks - or more.
The contest is a national event that starts on May 5 and runs through July 8. Complete rules, prize information and angler registration are available on the Cabela's website (www.cabelas.com). It is most important to remember that an angler must be registered in the contest before the fish is caught to be eligible for any prizes during the contest.
Last year, more than 1,000 fish were tagged and released in 67 selected waters in 19 states that have Cabela's retail stores. In Pennsylvania, eight waters received tagged fish, including Raystown Lake, Foster Joseph Sayers Lake and Penns Creek right here in our region. Others were Lake Arthur in Butler County, Emsworth Pool of the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Presque Isle Bay in Erie County, Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County and Lake Wallenpaupack in Pike and Wayne counties. The species of fish tagged were smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye and rainbow trout.
This year, a list of eligible waters and fish species will be available on May 1 to those who have registered for the event by April 30. One of those tagged fish will potentially be the grand-prize winner, which could pay the lucky angler who catches it from $100,000 to more than $1 million, depending on when and how the fish qualifies. Additional merchandise prizes up for grabs will include boats, fishing gear and Cabela's gift cards. Anglers catching a tagged fish need only remove the tag and then release the fish to qualify for any contest prizes.
While I certainly wouldn't mind landing a fish that could be worth a bundle of money, I plan to spend as much time on the water as possible over the next few weeks purely for the sheer enjoyment of it. And for anyone who enjoys fishing, the month of May is hard to beat, regardless of what you like to fish for, because so many great opportunities are available throughout the month.
Walleye season opens next Saturday. Here in the south-central region walleye waters aren't as numerous as in the northwest corner of the state, but Raystown Lake, Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, Glendale Lake and the Juniata River are a few places where local anglers will have a chance to land some of these good tasting game fish.
I usually try to get in a few days of catch-and-release fishing for largemouth bass during the first week or two of May. Typically, the bass move shallow for a pre-spawn feeding binge about then and will crush spinnerbaits or crankbaits for some exciting action. Those types of lures allow you to cover a lot of water much more quickly than many of the soft-plastic finesse baits I often use for largemouths, so I always enjoy the chance to do some power fishing with them.
The second half of May can serve up some of the best panfishing of the year as big bluegills and crappies invade the shallows for their spawning activities. Live minnows are one of the best baits for crappies, of course, but if you can find them schooled up near brush piles or at the edge of a weed bed, catching them on small jigs can be as productive and a ton of fun. Bluegills will take almost any kind of bait as long as it is not too big. If I can locate a bunch of bedding bluegills, I'll usually fish for them with fly tackle using wet flies or bead-head nymphs.
Speaking of fly-fishing, it probably goes without saying that May is among the best months for fly-fishing for trout. So many of the best insect hatches that bring trout to the surface to feed occur then, producing the classic experience for most fans of dry-fly fishing. This year, the schizophrenic weather patterns we've experienced most of the spring have accelerated the timing of some hatches by almost two weeks earlier than normal.
For example, the sulphur hatch is one of May's greatest fishing hatches and generally begins on local streams around May 5, give or take a couple of days. This year, however, sulphurs have been hatching on many area streams for almost two weeks now. So while fishing this May should be as good as ever, make sure to expect the unexpected.