Stephen Miklandric made fishing history in the spring by becoming Virginia’s first Master Angler V. Achieving Master Angler V status requires catching and registering a trophy fish for all 25 different species of freshwater game fish in Virginia, a feat never accomplished. (Note: Miklandric releases the fish after he records their weight and length.)
After catching his first citation smallmouth bass on the James River on May 28, 1986, it took Miklandric more than 32 years to achieve Master Angler V status. The last citation species he checked off the list, No. 25, was a freshwater drum caught on the Dan River on April 7.
I reached out to Miklandric to discuss how understanding weather and seasons helps with fishing success. I also learned which fish are his favorite, and his most challenging to catch. The interview, lightly edited, is below.
Capital Weather Gang (CWG): What do you consider the best and worst weather for fishing?
Stephen Miklandric (SM): My favorite weather pattern for fishing occurs with an approaching front that coincides with the first few days of a new or full moon. An approaching front, particularly from the west or south, with falling barometric pressure and cloud cover, I’ve found, brings good fishing.
My most unfavorable weather pattern for fishing is right after a cold front has passed with high pressure building with clear skies and wind.
CWG: How do the seasons factor into your strategy for catching citation fish?
SM: I’ve found that the two most important factors with the seasons are length of day (solar period) and air temperature in terms of catching citation fish, as both elements have a direct impact on water temperature. Fish are coldblooded creatures, meaning that their body temperature is always the same as the temperature of the water. Each species of fish has an active temperature range in which their metabolism is at its highest.
Some species, such as trout, chain pickerel and yellow perch, have a lower body temperature threshold, meaning the colder seasons are better. They prefer water temperatures in a range of 40 to 65 degrees F. While other fish such as largemouth bass, sunfish and gar have a higher body temperature preference, meaning the warmer seasons are better. They prefer water temperatures in a range of 60 to 85 degrees F.
A fisherman stands a higher percentage chance of catching trophy fish when the water temperature matches the fish’s active temperature range.
CWG: Is spring the best season to catch trophy-size fish?
SM: Spring is a special season for fishing because this is when the pre-spawn and the spawn occurs for most species of fish. The act of spawning requires a great deal of physical energy for the fish, and heavier feeding is required to finance this increase in their metabolism. This applies to both males and females, and this is particularly true during the pre-spawn period.
Another aspect of the spring spawn is that fish become territorial and defensive of nesting sites, meaning they will strike out with a protection response rather than a feeding response, thus making them easier to catch.
Fish are more vulnerable during the spawn than any other time of the calendar year, and anglers should practice the responsibility of catch-and-release so as to not damage future fish populations.
CWG: What fishing strategies do you use in the summer?
SM: With the spring spawn over, all of Virginia’s fish are active as summer arrives. The summer season starts off nice and warm, but in short order, it becomes quite hot and so does the water. For most species, they become more nocturnal in their feeding, making evening, night and early morning the sweet times to fish.
CWG: Which fish do you consider the most challenging to catch for a trophy citation?
SM: I would say the sauger is, by far, the hardest citation fish to find in Virginia because the Clinch and Powell rivers are the only places in the state where they exist, and their numbers are not very high. The most finicky citation fish to catch is the brown trout and muskie. They can literally drive you nuts.
CWG: Do you have a few favorite citation catches that you’ve made over the years?
SM: Since May 1986, I have caught and registered 1,392 citations of all 25 species of Virginia’s game fish. All of them are special to me!
I do have some citation catches that really stand out as special, however. The most special would be my very first citation, a smallmouth bass caught on the James River back in May 1986. That catch was burned deep into my soul and set the stage for the fisherman that I have become.