"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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A "Clear Raise" Makes Fish Bite
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

"Clear raise," my dad said emphatically as we topped the bank of the Muscatatuck River's East Fork and looked down on the water. "We should have a catfish this morning."

It was just after daylight on a summer Sunday morning when I was a kid at good ol' Crothersville, my hometown in Jackson County.

My dad, the late Jacob W. Scifres, and I had spent most of the previous afternoon catching longear (redbelly) sunfish in the deep, languid pools of the river.

As the sun went down we used them for bait on what my dad called "throwlines," five-hook rigs on 20 to 30-foot mainlines of very strong stagen tied to an underwater root on one end and a railroad spike for weight on the other. Five strong steel hooks dangled from the mainlines, and each was baited with a sunfish--hooked lightly through the back to keep them alive and frisky.

My dad had stretched the last long line along the bank, swung the railroad spike pendulum style, and flung it into the depths of a deep hole just before dark the previous day. And now we were out to "run" the lines, and (hopefully) to haul out a flathead catfish for Sunday dinner.

"A clear raise makes fish bite," my dad told me, explaining the natural phenomenon as we swished through great beds of stinging nettle that caused my arms and legs to itch right through my clothing. Before we had reached the first line, he had told me that clear raises occur on rivers and streams--even lakes in some cases--when a heavy rain hits far up the drainage area.

The greater flow of muddy water swells the water level far downstream, my dad said, and this causes clear water to rise before the muddy water arrives.

"It makes fish bite," he said. And that it did.

Our first line gave up a flathead catfish that weighed eight pounds, and one of the others held a smaller blue catfish.

My dad may have been a tad short on grammar--not unusual for country folks in those days--but he was long an outdoor savvy, and it was a gala Sunday dinner that day at our house. The neighbors probably had a fish dinner, too, because there were no home freezers in those days--just ice boxes. 

The clear rise, as we know it now, is just as important to angling success today as it was then. When the heat of summer days lowers water levels in streams and lakes, the water can get warm and be depleted of oxygen. But when a rising stream pushes increased amounts of water over riffles (causing clear water to rise ahead), the lethargic attitude of fish can be well compared to the relief a hot and sweaty human experiences  on entering an air-conditioned room with a frigid glass of lemonade in hand.

A few years later--this time on the ol' Muscatatuck's West  (Vernon) Fork--I saw the effects of a clear rise turn bass on.

Roscoe "Rocky" Haulk, another of my older outdoor mentors, and I had put his little tin boat into the river on Saturday afternoon at the point where it runs under the U.S. 31 bridge, upstream from Chestnut Ridge.

We had fished the river hard that afternoon with every artificial lure we owned, but the bass fishing had been slow at best.

We hid the boat in the weeds at dark that afternoon at a point on the river west and slightly north of Uniontown. Clarence Koerner, our trusty chauffeur, had picked us up at dark in his old panel truck, and had agreed to return us to the river at daybreak.
When we slid the boat into the river next morning, Rocky noted that the river, while still clear, was six to eight inches higher that it had been when we left at dark the day before.

I tied on a Jack's Dual Spinner (made at Columbus in those days) with black hair. Rocky opted for his favored Johnson Silver Minnow (spoon) with reversed (yellow) 20-tail Hawaiian Wiggler skirt.

Rocky was deadly with any lure he tied on, but I started in the "conning tower" (the old short-backed kitchen chair we had installed at the bow of his boat) that morning, and I nailed five bass before we had moved 200 yards.

I have seen the clear rise work its wonders on small lakes and reservoirs, too. When heavy rains pour great flows of muddy or murky water into the upper end of such waters as Monroe, Patoka and other reservoirs, the lower expanses of water remain relatively clear. But they rise and this puts fish of all species on the feed.

This phenomenon may no be quite so pronounced in smaller lakes and other standing waters. But any runoff can create a clear rise--however minuscule it may be--and change the attitude of fish.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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