Sunday, May 16, 2010

April Chasing White Bass

April is without a doubt the best month of the year to catch fish. Paul Henry taught me how and when to look for white bass in April. These days are usually warm and pleasant to be out on the water looking for fish. Paul and I would fish Bull Shoals Lake, Stockton Lake and the steams flowing into these reservoirs lakes. The white bass run is predictable in the spring, if you know the ideal conditions. The conditions include temperature, water level, fishing pressure and a few more variables to add to the confusion.

I was able to get out for ten outings with my cousin Mel and Sean, my son for the month. Mel is from Kalamazoo, Michigan; he drove down to fish with me for the week in early April. This was Mel’s third trip in the past five years. The past trips he made in early April were cold and it was difficult to find white bass. A number of cold fronts did move through again, but for the most part the weather was good. Sean drove down from St. Louis for a four-day weekend to fish for white bass towards the end of the month. 
We were successful finding fish with the trips rated from good to a few excellent outings.

4/6/10: For our first trip, Mel and I left Springfield in the afternoon and drove to Galena to fish the James River, accessing Blunk public access and paddling up stream to Taylor Shoal. We took the canoe with the oars and a kayak. The James was up several feet according to USGS Real-Time Water Data for Missouri. There was a 20 to 30-mpr wind blowing down stream. I took the kayak and met Joe Simecek and Norm Collison half way to Taylor Shoal. Joe was having trouble with his boat and not able to get the gearshift into neutral. After some shaking and tapping on the cable, Joe had the boat underway and took it up stream. They had already caught a few small white bass. Norm’s brothers came in another boat an hour later with everyone catching fish. The white were small one-year-old fish with excitement by all hooking and landing white bass. Mel and I went up stream a little farther ad around the bend. We managed two limits of white bass, which were released. ***

4/7/10: The next day our next destination was the Little Sac. The water gauge was at 3.5 ft. Mel and I left after lunch and headed for the Little Sac River near Morrisville. This was my first trip to this water for the year. The conditions were normal water flow with the water cloudy from silt erosion. There was little flow at Taylor Bridge indicating a trip up stream would be necessary to find fish. Jim Ludden drove in, as Mel and I were about to get in our watercraft to go upstream. We invited Jim to fish with us. We stopped at the first shoal and found a few white bass right off. Jim wore hip waders and had a difficult time wading deep enough to find fish. We fished near the power line hole and had moderate success catching twenty plus white bass and keeping a limit for Jim. ***

4/8/10: Day three with Mel, I decided to show him The Pot Hole filled with water. The lake level was at 662.0 and starting to drop. It would still be too deep to wade and we took the canoe and kayak. Mel started right off catching white bass
 from the kayak and discovered how uncomfortable casting from a sitting position can be. We stayed in the three-tree area covering waters near the edge. It was after eight PM, when we found two walleye catch five minutes apart. We stayed until 9 PM before calling it a night. ***

Mel showing off a pair of walleye

4/9/10: This was Mel’s last day to fish. He made the decision and we returned to the Little Sac. The water level continued to drop and was at 3.3 ft. Charlie Erickson asked to join us and sat in the canoe as I rowed it up stream. Mel took the kayak and had a good time setting the pace. Charlie and I fished below the power line hole. Mel went upstream around the bend and out of sight. Charlie found white bass and caught ten for the day; in addition Charlie released one small mouth and a bluegill. I managed nine white bass. Mel had left us and was upstream of the power line hole. The sun had set and it was dusk, Mel finally came down stream to report having just caught and released 2 walleye with one over twenty inches and eight white bass He released the walleye remembering the 6 p.m. curfew on the Little Sac. In addition, Mel met and fished near John and Dorothy Prugger for a short time. Charlie kept his white bass for a future fish fry, Mel and I released ours back to the river. ***

Charlie Erickson showing how to catch white bass in the Little Sac River

4/10/10: The lake level (661.2 ft) at the Pot Hole continues to drop but remains too deep to wade. Mel left this morning and started his return to Michigan. I decided to fish the Pot Hole hoping to find a walleye after dark. Since it was Saturday, figured there would be a fair number of fishermen in boats populating the lake. I arrived and started fishing at 3 p.m. There were plenty of fishermen with a number of the boats near the dam. At dusk, the serious walleye fishermen came in their slow boats with poles angled off the stern, trolling for their catch. I positioned myself on my knees inside the canoe casting buck-tail streamers to the trees. One of the boaters asked if I was fishing for trout, and I replied fishing for walleye. Needless to say I finally caught a walleye in the night after nine p.m., a boat passed by moments later asking if it was a keeper; they’re watching the crazy guy with a fly rod. I had been fishing on my knees for six hours and the knees were stiff, the back had an ache and I was worn out; another successful night at the Pot Hole. **

4/11/10: My last day of a six day vacation and I decided to finish on the Little Sac River. The gauge was at 3.2 ft with Stockton Lake dropping its level, so the set up will be downstream from the power line hole. There were many canoes and kayaks passing through this evening some had fish on their stringers and others were still looking to catch a fish. I managed a limit of small white bass, which were released back to the river. **

4/17/10: I spent the morning and early afternoon at the Tri-lake Fly Fishers expo in Brighton, MO helping as a casting coach. I took my kayak with me and planned to drive another fifteen minutes to Morrisville to get in some evening fishing. That evening, there was not much of a crowd at Taylor Bridge; the stream level is lower than last week. I decided to go back to where I had some success on previous trips. Again, I found a few white bass catching and releasing a dozen. **

4/23/10: Sean drove down from St. Louis and we decided to dine for lunch at Pizza House. After lunch, we packed up and drove to Little Sac River. There was a forecast of rain when we left Springfield and we did break out the raincoats for several rounds of rain showers while we fished. We went above the power line hole and fished through the bend and below wading gingerly between large rocks and tricky currents swirling around those large rocks. Before the first round of rain, I found some medium size sows along the opposite edge. After the showers, fishing was more difficult. We managed 22 white bass and one carp. ***

4/24/10: It rained over night and the gauge reading from the Internet indicated the Little Sac was on the rise. It was less than a foot, but the gauge was pointing up. So, we changed plans and fished the Pot Hole. It rain and several thunder storms moved in on us throughout the afternoon. Bull Shoals Lake continues to drop (558 ft) and we were able to wade and pick up a few fish. We caught 13 white bass of size with 12 sows ready to drop eggs. We released the fish back to the lake. **

4/25/10: The Little Sac River water level peaked at nine inches and was beginning to fall, it was dirty but fishable. It was my feeling with this slight rise; another run of white bass should have arrived to spawn. We were a little disappointed not finding a bunch of white bass. We did managed nine females white bass with eggs were released. **

4/26/10: This was Sean’s last day to fish this spring for white bass. He wanted to go back to the Little Sac River; it had dropped six inches from the previous day. Since it was Monday, only two trucks were parked at Taylor Bridge. We found out later, they took a powerboat and went upstream of the power lines. We rowed back to the same area, parked the canoe on a gravel bar. Sean decided to hike above the power line hole. I started at the first broken water and fished upstream. It did not take long and I found a bunch of large white bass. I caught twenty white bass after three p.m. in an hour. The powerboat came zipping by me with no regard to me standing in the water. I had a fish on at the time and left the rod under the water so they would not see I had a fish on. They went down stream of me but within sight, I was still hooking and catching fish after their passing with the water settling down. After a short time they left. I went up stream to find Sean, hoping he found fish. He was around the bend and caught a few. I decided to go up to the fast water and make a quick run. After an hour, I returned to Sean and we went to the area were I found fish earlier. Sean hooked up within a few minutes and he continued to hook one after another. Charlie Erickson was concern earlier in the month, if there would be fish for the club outing June 26th and I told him not to worry. I had a cooler with ice and we each took a limit of white bass, several over sixteen inches with most in the lengths 13-15 inch range. We kept two limits but probably caught over fifty whites for the afternoon. It was a good day of fishing with a task to clean fish, with enough filets for the club outing. If you get out enough, you will get a few days like this, which will motive you to return to the water with a fly rod in hand.

One of many hatches seen in the evening on the Little Sac River

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