The spring spawning runs are just a little bit off this year. I think it was the colder than usual winters that sparked the change in the spawning patterns. Don’t get discouraged though, because the spawning run is happening as I write this story. There are other fish than the great black bass to chase in the springtime. Warmer days are upon us and that means lake and river water temperatures will soon be rising. Instinct then signals the fish to get ready for the spawn. During that period I will be fishing for Sand Bass one day and the next day I will be fishing for Crappie.
You see in the spring time, crappie will be in the shallow water in order to prepare for spawning. The male will locate the suitable area to build his nest in. Next the male goes out to find a mate and leads her back to the nesting site. There she will lay her eggs when the water temperature reaches at least 62 degrees. The male will then fertilize the eggs and stay to guard the nesting area until the eggs hatch, what a nice guy! During that period of time, the male will protect the nesting area very aggressively. Anything that dares to come close to nest will be attacked. Using jigs or minnows around the nesting area are a great combination during this time of year.
Now in the summer, crappie will tend to suspend in 75 degree water. You can find them either near the bottom or suspended at a certain depth, usually right around the thermocline in the body of water you are fishing. Take your temperature gauge and send it down to find the right temperature of 75 degrees. If you don’t have a temperature gauge then by all means use the old fashioned way to find them. Keep adjusting the depth of your bobber, either up or down, until you find what depth they are suspended at. I don’t know why I call that the old fashioned way of finding crappie; I still use that method to this day.
Now if you have a fish locator on your boat it would make it even easier to locate the fish using it. You might consider using a new rigging that I learned just this year. Pick out your jig weight and color that you feel will work. Try adding a minnow on the hook of that jig. This set-up drives crappie nuts! This is a great combo because the shiner minnow is one of the favorite foods of a crappie. Remember that crappie has a soft bite and you have to pay close attention so you will know when you have one on your line.
Always be on the lookout for structures such as fallen trees, old brush, drop offs or even weed beds in the water. Crappies also hang around Docks, weed beds and sandy bottoms, so fish those areas too. The crappie will be biting hot and heavy for the next few weeks so take full advantage of it while you can. The last time we went crappie fishing, we hauled them home in a 5 gallon bucket.
There is another springtime favorite of mine called the white bass, of the sand bass as we know them in Oklahoma. The sand bass pre-spawn and spawn is an annual event our family participates in each and every year. That ritual happens in lakes and rivers all over Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. When sand bass start hitting your bait, you better hold on, fast paced excitement is upon you. Sand bass gorge themselves before they spawn and usually don’t eat while they are spawning. The action is non-stop and that typically is a 24 hour a day run. It’s one of the most popular fishing and exciting fishing seasons of the year because of the fast-paced action it offers the angler.
Whites are schooling fish, very social among their species. When you locate one of them, you have usually found them all. There are some tricks to finding sandies, including fishing around structures like jetty’s, gravel points and sandy beaches, but the most important way to zero in on these white ghosts is finding a current and some shad. Shad are the main part of a white bass’s diet. Remember, they are cousins to the big striped bass and love the river currents like they do. Two basic ways to fish the sand bass is to fish the channels when the dams are not running water or fish the banks and pockets of calmer waters when the dams are letting out water from the lakes.
The flow of the river is important to the success of the white bass mating season. Females utilize the river’s current to carry their eggs downstream where males then fertilize them while they’re being carried along the bottom of the river or stream by the current. During droughts, when water isn’t moving, the sand bass will stay in the middle of a body of water and find rocky points to lay their eggs around.
A variety of baits will work for white bass, including shad, (usually saned right out of the river), shiner minnows, small jigs, and spoons. Bank fishing has been very successful in catching a limit of white bass. I decided to head to the Grand River at Chouteau Bend in North East Oklahoma last week. We were going to try it out to see if the fish were biting yet. Our guess was right; we had 10 keepers in the boat in a little more than 5 minutes. We kept 30 out of the 60 we caught. White bass are like crappie when they bite. You really need to use light tackle and light line to feel the bite. But once hooked that white bass will take you for a ride!