In this week's FLW Fishing Report Scott Ellison says fishing conditions will improve as the water level rises.
This time last year I was talking about catching bluegills and shellcrackers around flooded picnic areas and other grassy spots that had been covered by spring rains. What a difference a year makes. This time around, there’s not much chance that the lake is going to come out of its bank. Up until now, we haven’t had a lot of rain and maybe that’s why the fishing has sort of tailed off from good to just so-so in general. There’s something about falling water that makes fish nervous and puts them off their feed anyway. Maybe they feel less secure; certainly, if they’re preparing to spawn, it instinctively makes them more sensitive to change.
At least the lake isn’t creeping down anymore. The water was supposed to start coming up again on April first and be at summer pool or thereabouts by the end of the month. This, and the rain that’s coming, is going to help fishing, though it might take a few more days to kick in.
Bass are in a little bit of a funk. The experienced fishermen are still catching them on a variety of shallow- to medium-depth baits such as soft plastics and crankbaits, but there doesn’t seem to be any well-defined patterns at work. You catch a bass here, then keep fishing and catch another one down the bank somewhere. A lot of the fish are still cruising around and moving toward their spawning flats, but the stagnant weather has made them slow down.
Plenty of crappie, still, though you have to go through a lot of little ones to get a decent stringer. The black crappies are pretty much all done with the spawn now, and the white crappies are about half through. Of course, they’ll stay inshore for quite a while before they start moving to the offshore ledges, so fish for them while you can. Start shallow with small jigs, beetle spins and the like, and then fish out to about the 8-foot mark. You should find crappies somewhere in between, especially in the big bays like Jonathan Creek and Blood River or anywhere else feed by a creek.
I mentioned bluegills and redears earlier, and while the circumstances for catching them are a bit different this year, they are starting to bite. Redears, especially, are starting to congregate in their spawning areas, which typically are small out-of-the-way coves where there’s a good hard bottom and at least a bit of scattered wood cover. Bluegills are still somewhat spread out along the banks, but they are moving shallow and taking a variety of small jigs such as phyllis’s bluegill bugs in 1/32- or 1/16 ounce. If you want to take your chances and try to catch redears or bluegills, just use night crawlers under a bobber or by tight-lining. Pinch off about a three-quarter-inch piece and put it on a no. 8 or no. 6 aberdeen hook. If you’re just on bluegills, you might try crickets.
As the water comes up, the catfishing is going to get better, too. Fish for channel cats along the drops with cut bait or prepared bait. Keep watch of the water depth. If the lake continues to rise slowly, look for the bass fishing to really pick up as the fish head into shoreline cover to spawn.
That’s all for this week. This is Scott Ellison signing off for FLW, wishing you a great Easter holiday and good fishing.
Scott Ellison is a lifelong fisherman and FLW College Fishing Promotions Manager.