“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
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.