March may come in like a lion, but by the time it goes out like a lamb, sportsmen should be ready for a road trip. You can match the month’s waning intensity by hunting snow geese in North Dakota early, and laying dry flies in front of trout on small creeks in the Black Hills to close it out.
March can be a tough month because you’re just around the corner from all the excitement of spring. If cabin fever has you going stir crazy, March is a great time to spend evenings putting new line on your reels and a weekend afternoon tuning up your turkey gun.
Yet, don’t make the mistake of spending all of March preparing for what’s to come. There are incredible outdoor activities to enjoy across the Midwest all month long. Here are six options for getting outdoors this month in the Midwest.
North Dakota — light goose conservation order
North Dakota is your last Midwestern chance to make a dent in the overpopulated number of light geese before they cross the border and head back to the northern tundra. If you don’t knock a few more down, they’ll be back in Canada once again causing serious damage to the habitat needed for competing waterfowl, like mallards and Canada geese. The spring conservation order season is open until May 10, so there is still plenty of time to do your part for conservation.
Indiana — Northwest Indiana steelhead
Fishing for steelhead is exciting anywhere. But trying to land one of Indiana’s fresh from Lake Michigan, chrome rockets out of a small, timber-choked creek is an exhilarating angling experience. Steelhead fishing is a manmade bonus in the Midwest. Michigan may be home to most of the action, but Indiana is blessed with great steelhead fishing. Three small tributaries of Lake Michigan with annual runs of steelhead are the Little Calumet River, Salt Creek and Trail Creek. The St. Joseph River is the state’s premier steelhead destination. Spawn sacks, inline spinners and nightcrawlers all produce fish. As do all the regular steelhead flies, like Wooly Buggers and egg patterns.
Kansas — fishing urban lakes and ponds that receive stockings
If you have ever driven all the way across Kansas to Colorado or another western destination, then you know the term “urban” isn’t one readily associated with the state. However, the state is home to population centers. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism manages fishing opportunities for those living in or close to town. Beginning in March, large cities like Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka, along with smaller towns, like Dodge City, Colby and Great Bend receive fish stockings in lakes and ponds. For a list of these waters and their scheduled stocking dates, check out the Urban Fishing Program on KDWPT website.
Missouri — beaver trapping
Long before Lewis and Clark left St. Louis to open the American West, beaver trapping was a major industry in Missouri. Today, fur trappers are fewer and farther between, but opportunity still exists. The season ends on March 31, so you have the rest of the month to bag a few beaver. A Missouri trapping permit is required. A great source of information on how and where to get started trapping is the Missouri Trappers Association. Visit their website www.missouritrappers.com.
South Dakota — trout fishing the Black Hills streams
The Black Hills region of western South Dakota is one of those few special destinations in the Midwest that really has it all. Deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep and mountain lions roam the hills. Swimming in the waters you’ll find crappie, walleye, pike, perch, and of course, trout. Trout are special because they only live in the most beautiful places, and one could argue the Black Hills are as beautiful as anywhere. Hitting the small creeks of the hills in March means you’ll likely have a lot of water to yourself. Check out Spearfish Creek for rainbow trout and Rapid Creek for browns. Keep your eyes peeled while wading. You just might find a nugget of the famed Black Hills Gold.
Illinois — Rend Lake crappie
It’s hard to argue Rend Lake is not the top crappie fishing destination in Illinois. If it’s not, it certainly seems to be the best known. At 19,000 acres with an average depth of 10 feet and a maximum depth of 35, there is a lot of water for crappie to spread out across. In March, crappie anglers find success finesse fishing 1/8th-ounce jigs on sunk brush in 10-12 feet of water. A 2019 study by IDNR showed 35 percent of crappie were over 10 inches and 30 percent were between 9-10 inches. White crappie dominate at 93 percent of the population.
See you down the trail.
For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or anywhere podcasts are streamed.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Driftwood Outdoors: March offers abundant chances to get outdoors