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

 “April showers bring May flowers,” goes the old saw, and we would have to add: That they do--lots of them. But those same showers also bring rising--even muddy--waters. The result: feeding fish, all kinds (species).

Whether fish are motivated for their stepped-up activity by the mere presence of fresh water, or by some other element I do not know. But I do know high, muddy water makes fish more active (feeding wise). Naturally a lot of fish are caught under such conditions.

Spring--more specifically April and May--are undoubtedly the best part of the year for fishing success. It may well be that the fall months (even summer) offer gobs of fishing pleasure when weather is more stable. But, for catching just about any species, spring is best.

For one reason the fish of most species are feeding voraciously in the spring as they prepare winter-ravaged, slowed-down metabolism as they prepare for reproduction. That is the way one gets the hook in the mouth. Fish that are not in good physical simply must get better physically before they spawn.

To better understand the motivations of fish--or animals, for that matter--compare the fish to man. Man feels better in fresh, cool weather than he feels in July or August. The surroundings are better and so it is with fish and critters. The better environment stimulates activity (including feeding), which includes looking for food. Furthermore, fishing can--it isn’t always--better at night in the Dog Days of August or other extremely hot months. Like man, fish do a lot o loafing during the hot part of the day and feed when the direct rays of the sun are no longer on the water. Largemouth bass, our No. 1 species, may continue their feeding binge far into the night; bluegills tend to stop at dusk.

Bullhead catfish, the species we really like best in April when water is high and murky--bite well during the day, especially on cloudy days with drizzle. But dusk also puts them on the feed and they may bite for several hours of the night.

We host three bullhead species in Indiana. Foremost is the yellow belly that seems to grow to good eating proportions. It also is known as the yellow belly, chuckle head, and several other names. Then there is the brown bullhead, and the black. They all have a single troublesome pectoral spine on each side at the point of gill opening (about at the point where the head joins the body). But the spine seems to be sharpest, and most painful in the black and brown. Many say the spines are poisonous darts.

Catching bullheads--no matter which species--is the easiest kind of fishing you will ever encounter. All you have to do is get a bait in the water. I think garden worms are far superior to any bait I have ever used--including night crawlers. The thing you have to realize in comparing garden worms and night crawlers as bait, is that nigh crawlers--especially the forward half--are much tougher. Wren “gobbed” on a hook they sometime keep the angler from setting the hook. Still, in terms of an attractant, they are about the same I still prefer garden worms of three or four inches

Any rod or pole will do the job, but I prefer a pretty stiff and sturdy pole wit a good, strong braid on the reel, or at least as the tag end of the line. A braid of any color is better that monofilament in terms of seeing the line where it enters the water. Lots of time the bite is not felt, but the line moves to tell the angler there is action in the offing.  

Of course, if one is fishing with pole lines--or a miniature setline, or after dark--he will not be present to observe.

For terminal gear I use short-shanked hooks that are wide enough between point and shank (more correct, the gap) to get the first joint of my index finger to the bend for hook removal. I use enough weight six inches above the hook to take my offerings to the bottom.

Three two-hook hand lines are permitted by Indiana regulations. Indiana law also allows 10 single-hook limb lines, and one 50-hook trot line. In the case of a trot or set line, the hooks are tied to drop lines that are tied to the main line about three feet apart.

An interesting evening  of “bull-heading” may be had by selecting a good bank for pole-line fishing with a bonfire, and then scatter limb lines and trot lines in good nearby holes before darkness sets in. The pole lines can be attended constantly at the fire, and the other lines attended (run and rebaited) occasionally.  This, of course leaves time for late lunch, or even to fry some fish with a pan of cornbread, some potatoes, or even some coleslaw. This, of course, tends to turn a simple bullheading into an expedition . . . full-blown social event but this is outdoor recreation at its best.

Mounds of dry horseweeds (giant ragweeds from last summer), and others, including foxtail) and an old wool Army blanket or two and you are snoozing under the stars while your lines collect the next day’s lunch. 

Such shenanigans require wood gathering and other meaningful tasks before darkness comes, but it is an outdoor experience not soon to be forgotten.

I can, as a matter of fact, recount many of my own solo sojourns on my old fenderless bicycle to Alf’s Bayou on the east fork of the Muscatatuck River in Scott County. I never had the pleasure of meeting the vaunted Alf--he was gone long before my time--but later learned I could take shelter from storms in the concrete foundation of his shack. It was Alf’s Bayou that gave me my name.

There are at least two methods for cleaning catfish (all species), but I prefer skinning. For more detail on skinning catfish check my column in “archives” of April 7, 2003. 

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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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