APRIL19, 1996


Understanding spawning behavior will give the angler an edge this week with bass spawning at its peak and crappie spawning beginning. Bass and crappie are nest builders that search out shallow rocky substrate. The male builds the nest and invites females in to deposit eggs. She then leaves the male to guard the eggs and fry as they hatch. The male chases away anything that comes near the nest. He is fearless in the face of tiny bluegill, large carp, or fishing lures. An individual male may build 4-8 nests each spring. Nests are built when water warms and abandoned when water quickly cools after a storm front. Additional warming causes the male to renest.

Smallmouth build nests in 2-3 feet of water on flats and terraces. Largemouth search out the same substrate but invariably place the nest at the base of a bush. Smallmouth fry use rocks for escape cover while largemouth fry instinctively flee into the bush for safety. Crappie are much like largemouth but need even thicker, denser plant material to protect the vulnerable fry.

Males can be easily caught by dropping a lure directly on the nest. After being captured repeatedly he gets smarter and picks up the lure by the tail instead of the hook and quickly moves the lure off the nest and drops it. It is fun to watch. It is recommended that males taken off nests be released. Removing the male fish means that his nest will be fail and future generations of fish will be lessened.

Females will be near spawning flats but in deeper water. They can be harvested without harming future generations at all. It is difficult to distinguish male from female bass unless a fish can be seen guarding a nest or emits milt when gently stroked on the sides. Crappie can be easily sexed by color. Females are light colored while the males are quite black.

Expect spawning bass to be found lakewide on flats with deep water access nearby. Long casts make it easier to catch spooky fish in shallow water. Fish seen directly under the boat can also see anglers in the boat and will not bite. Mark the spot and return later trying a more stealthy approach. Plastic grubs and crankbaits work well now.

Striped bass are still very well fed on the abundant shad population which survived the winter. Stripers ignore other food and baits when shad are present. Striper catch should increase as the water warms and increased metabolism requires stripers to eat more often. Do not expect good striped bass fishing until mid May. The buoy barricade is still in place at the dam and talks continue on a temporary opening at a future date.