"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres
March 2007

When the month of March arrives, we are well on the way to spring. Arrival of March does not set us up for all balmy days--though this can occur. It does mean that kind of weather is in the offing. Shucks, I have picked morel mushrooms from snow drifts in the throes of winter as March blew out and April blundered in.

Still, there’s one thing you can count on in March--big largemouth bass are perched on the threshold of spring, and ready to provide some good action when lakes that are fed by streams are above normal and murky. Bass don’t get big in numbers like they used to, but there still are some hogs out there.

The rationale of March fishing for largemouth is quite simple. Largemouth bass start feeding then with spawning in mind. If their bodies are not in good physical condition, they simply delay spawning until it is. It’s that simple. 

After bass spawn in the spring or early summer there’s a bit of a slowdown on feeding. But it doesn’t last long. And when they start feeding again the two egg sacs (most fish species have two elongated sacs that hold the eggs as they form) start filling. Many anglers are surprised to find deposits of eggs in the fall or late summer in members of the bluegill family. It means that voracious feeding in the pre-spawn spring is the fish’s procedure for reproduction, simply topping off the egg sacks.

Tightly packed egg sacs, incidentally, are not real appetizing looking, but they are very fine table fare. My experiences with consuming fish eggs have dealt mostly with scaled fish. I have always fried them just as I would fry other pieces of fish. The sac, a thin membrane can trap moisture (steam) so it is a good idea to puncture it with a fork to avoid mini explosions. Catfish eggs are very bad at that

Many years ago I schooled a nice family on this egg frying business at Starve Hollow Lake campground, and later treated them to some nice fried bluegill egg sacs. They liked them. I chanced to see the lady and her husband some years later and she was as angry (pleasantly) as the proverbial “old wet hen.” I guess I did not tell them catfish eggs are prone to explode, especially when they are real well developed. Their kitchen cleanup bill had been something like $1,500, they told me, and I weaseled out of that.

Now back to the catching.

The thing that creates ideal bass-catching days in March--some other times of the year, too--lies in a combination of “WW”--water and weather. Of course, you don’t have to have “bluebird” weather, but that makes the angling day pleasant for people. Bass seem to think weather is weather when their metabolism is stirring. Often at that time of year bass do not hit like Gang Busters, but simply pull a lure into their mouths and release it (the lure) if it does not appear soft and good to eat. You have to set the hook, and you can miss. This, incidentally make plastic or rubber lures better than hard lures, at times. Bass go for soft, pliable lures, especially now.

When water of lakes and flood control reservoirs is above normal stages and rising, the time is ripe for this type of bass fishing--especially in the flood control reservoirs. When such conditions exist, bass turn their noses upstream and go out into the relatively shallow water that often is a hillside loaded with all kind of insect, and other forms of life. Flooded hillsides and fields become smorgasbords for bass, which are on the feed.

The key is rising or falling water. Static water probably is OK for some fish, but the minute that water level starts to return to normal level, there goes the bass. Smaller fish may stay in above-normal creeks longer, but the creeks tend to dry up--or get very low--and only small bass and bluegills stay.

I have, over the years, done this kind of fishing at spots where streams enter several of our flood-control reservoirs, but my all-time favorite is Jones Branch at the upper end of Crooked Creek where the old iron Browning Bridge crossed the creek on its route to Robinson Cemetery (some three miles). The road was never in good shape after a few years, but my Jeep would make it if the road was not covered with water. I would park at the site of the old bridge (then down in the water), don chest-high waders, and with wading staff head around the waterline into the hills. It is about 6 ½ miles south of Belmomt on IN 46 in a remote area of Brown County (south line) that is mostly creek at normal levels. 

The creek, itself, is only about knee deep above the point where it starts backing up, so fishing this segment requires great stealth. Below that point, the creek becomes relatively murky and deeper. In most cases it is too deep to wade. One just has to work his way along the inundated banks carefully. 

Along the inundated hillsides, with spinning or bait-casting tackle, I work my way around the shallows--maybe waist deep--tossing artificials to the tangles of inundated brush, natural cover for bass. It’s slow going, but it can be productive. My choice for a lure there usually is the mid-size Johnson spoon (often black, and with 20-tail black and yellow Hawaiian Wiggler skirt.) I call it my Boomerang Lure because it always comes back, now and then with a bass. 

On one of my early sashays for this kind of fishing, I was standing waist-deep in cool, murky water potting a Johnson Spoon rig to a pair of dead elm trees covered with o’possum grapevines. “This place looks familiar,” I kept thinking. When I snaked a six-plus pounder out, I realized in the previous fall I had put up two grouse there.

On another occasion, I was fishing with the late Jerry Chandler in the early spring when we encountered a shale bank with a small recess of about a foot and a trickle of runoff feeding in from the bank, It looked bassy to me, but I couldn’t hit it. On the third or fourth cast, my crank bait settled in the crevice and there was immediate heavy action. I couldn’t move it. When I finally got it to the boat, I learned that I had a 15 incher on the front hooks, another 15 incher on the back hooks.

Size of the water doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference. What does matter is the presence of running water entering an impoundment at a time when bass are on the feed. I think it might work in the bathtub.

There is, as a matter of fact, a big farm pond where I wanted to try my theory, but it has only two water runoff entry points, one being a yard-wide stream, and the other a foot wide drainage ditch of a spring. I did catch a high-water time when every bass in the pond seemed to be in the shallow flat area created by the entry of high water, but I did not consider it conclusive. The bass were not in the creek itself.

This kind of bass fishing can be accomplished from a boat or float tube (if a boat, the smaller, the better), but I like wading best because a careful wader (with a staff) is simply more stationary. On the foot one can spend more time at a spot without the disturbance of a boat, however small it is. There are times when success depends on perseverance . . . repetition. If a bass hits a lure and does not get hooked, it may turn and swim away. But it will be back soon, if it is not spooked, for another shot at the same lure. It’s rather like a two shot free throw shooter. Miss the first and he walks away from the foul line to retrace his steps for the second shot. 

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All columns 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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