Illinois Outdoors at
RulesIllinois Outdoors at

Prairie State Outdoors Categories

Top Story :: Opinion :: Illinois Outdoor News :: Fishing News :: Hunting News :: Birding News :: Nature Stories :: Miscellaneous News :: Fishing :: Big Fish Fridays :: Big Fish Stories :: State Fishing Reports :: Other Fishing Reports :: Fishing Tips, Tactics & Tales :: Where to Fish :: Fishing Calendar :: Hunting :: Hunting Reports :: Hunting Tips, Tactics & Tales :: Where to Hunt :: Tales from the Timber :: Turkey Tales :: Hunting Calendar :: Big Game Stories :: Nature and Birding :: Birding Bits :: Nature Newsbits :: Critter Corner :: Birding Calendar :: Stargazing :: In the Wild :: Miscellaneous Reports and Shorts :: Links :: Hunting Links :: Birding Links :: Video ::

Big Buck Stories

1960s :: 1980s :: 1991-92 :: 1992-93 :: 1993-94 :: 1994-95 :: 1995-96 :: 1997-98 :: 1998-99 :: 1999-2000 :: 2000-01 :: 2001-02 :: 2003-04 :: 2004-05 :: 2005-06 :: 2006-07 :: 2007-08 :: 2008-09 :: 2009-10 :: 2010-11 :: 2011-12 :: 2012-13 ::


Flathead's Picture of the Week :: Big bucks :: Birdwatching :: Cougars :: Dogs :: Critters :: Fishing :: Asian carp :: Bass :: Catfish :: Crappie :: Ice :: Muskie :: Humor :: Hunting :: Deer :: Ducks :: Geese :: Turkey :: Upland game :: Misc. :: Mushrooms :: Open Blog Thursday :: Picture A Day 2010 :: Plants and trees :: Politics :: Prairie :: Scattershooting :: Tales from the Trail Cams :: Wild Things ::


Go with the flow in spring

April 08, 2010 at 04:09 PM

Spring regulations

From April 1 to June 15, anglers are required to release smallmouth bass caught in rivers, streams, creeks and ditches throughout Illinois. Exceptions are the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The season is designed to protect spawning smallies. Any period outside this catch-and-release period allows anglers to keep three river smallmouths per day.

April has arrived and with it comes a month of change.  Green grass begins to appear, birds frequent the skies on a regular basis, and the trees abound with newly formed buds.  April is also the time when our streams see a true influx of anglers.  In my experiences, this is the month when stream fishermen shake off their cabin fever and make their first trek streamside. 

Many times these April stream anglers face challenging river conditions.  April is well known for the copious amounts of rain that seem to pelt the ground on a regular basis.  While April showers may bring May flowers, these same showers also cause our state’s streams to swell, and, in addition, these swollen rivers in most cases carry water that is very turbid (dirty).  High and dirty water can make for some tough fishing.  In the case of the stream bronzeback, high water tends to force the smally to move to different locales.  In addition, the turbid water cuts down on the bass’ ability to feed as the smallmouth is primarily a sight feeder.  Due to this reduced underwater vision, a stream bronzeback’s ability to locate and capture prey (or a fisherman’s lure) is drastically reduced.

While I must admit, these tough April conditions are trying times for me and a time when catching bass consistently is challenging at best, they (smallmouth) still are catchable if anglers modify their gameplan.  This month’s article will provide a little insight into what to think about when attempting to catch riverine bronze during this topsy-turvy month we call April!

The most important facet, when it comes to catching high water smallies, is location.  You can have the best baits in the world, but if you do not know where the bass are, then those baits are rendered useless.  While I will briefly touch on a few bait ideas for high water at the end of the article, I will begin with the paramount principle of location.  The following are three prime locations to explore when your desire is to tangle with ‘ol Mr. Bronzeback and your stream of choice is running high and wild:

Location 1: Hit the banks

When stream levels rise current increases, especially in the middle two-thirds of the river.  What happens is many times these current speeds are too fast for even a riverine bass to overcome.  The river smallmouth, while at ease in current most of the time, even begins to feel uncomfortable when the river’s water levels become out of control.  So, what does a riverine smallie do when his mid-river haunts are inundated with high amounts of current, he heads to an area where the current speeds are more to his liking.  These areas are usually found tight to the banks.  I like to say that when a river is running high and dirty, the smallmouth act like largemouth bass and move incredibly shallow.
Normally, even during the nasty floods, smallmouths can find slack water, or eddies, along a river’s banks.  Sometimes these slack areas may only be as large as a desktop, but may hold numerous scrappy smallies.  Other times, you may be able to locate large eddys near the bank.  Both large and small eddys are worth fishing at this time.  In addition, do not be surprised how close to the bank the bass may position themselves.  I have found that smallmouths during this high water time period may position themselves in a foot of water or less.  As long as they are out of the heavy current, they feel happy. 
I remember one time when fishing a small very swollen creek we waded as close to the bank as possible.  Well this was a huge mistake!  After a few hours we realized the hard way that we were literally “stepping” on fish.  And, in a way, I really mean that.  It seems that the smallies would hold tight to the bank and as we approached them they would jump straight in the air right before we would have stepped on them.  It reminded me of pheasants who will stay tight to cover when the weather is cold and nasty.  I know this sounds a little “fishy”, but it is the truth.  I would not have believed it either if I had not witnessed it with my own eyes.  But I used that day as a lesson and I never forget that smallies will hold tight to these shoreline eddies when the middle of the stream is a raging torrent.

Location 2: Shoreline cover

Related to that first location of streamside eddies, is the idea of seeking out shoreline cover.  Now, I must say right now that this cover comes in many varieties.  For instance, wood cover that may only contain inches of water during normal river pool periods, can be hot when the river swells and covers that same log, or woody debris,  with a couple feet of water.  Other examples include shoreline grasses and other various weeds.  While they may be out of the water ninety percent of the year, a high water event can flood this riparian vegatation and create a great temporary hangout for the riverine smallmouth.  We cannot forget large boulders.  Many times large shoreline boulders get surrounded by water during high flows.  Rocks that normally are not used by smallies become high water hotspots.  The point is that anything laying in shallow water that could be construed as cover by the smallmouth, is always worth a few casts. 
The reason this shoreline cover is so vital is its ability to provide a further current break for the smallie.  In addition, while escaping the higher flow rates, the cover provides a sense of safety for the bass.  A bass, just like humans, must feel safe and unthreatened by predators.  Migrating to heavy cover during high water events provides for this.

Location 3: Hit the Tribs

Occasionally, you can cope with high, dirty water by simply avoiding it at all costs.  How is this accomplished?  Well, an angler can concentrate efforts on the tributary streams that feed the main stem of the river.  Many big rain events are localized which means a few tributaries may be feeding the main stem with stained water, but a few other tribs. may have not been deluged with rain, and thus still contain lower, cleaner water flows.
Quite often an angler need only target the junction (mouth) of the creek and main river.  Many times smallmouths will stack where the clear water of the trubutary meets the heavily stained river water.  When encountering this situation it is fairly common to view an easily distinguished “mudline” where the two water colors meet.  This mudline can be a real hotspot.  It seems that smallies will position themselves on the outside edge of the dirty water facing the clearer water.  Of course, these riverine bronzies are using the stained water as the perfect camoflauge as they look for a tasty morsel drifting out of the clear creek water.
When fishing this situation, it pays to concentrate your efforts right along the dirty/clear water seam.  In order to do this, an angler needs to get into casting position so as the bait will run parallel to the edge of the seam.  Another possible productive technique would be to cast upstream into the mouth of the tributary and allow one’s bait to naturally tumble downstream right into the mudline.  Let me tell you, many times when your lure hits that mudline you can receive some vicious strikes from Mr. Smallmouth, so hang on!
Now, if the junction of the tributary and the main stem of the river do not pan out, then it may pay dividends to walk upstream into the small creek.  Of course, private land permission must be first granted before trekking upstream, but a little time spent acquiring permission can be well worth the effort.

Go-to high-water lures

While the location of stream smallies is of the utmost importance when dealing with high water levels, I would be remiss if I did not touch on a few baits that can be effective during this time period.  While I will admit that any bait or lure that catches bass will work when the river is of the consistency of soup, there are a few “family” of lures that seem to provide more consistent success.  I feel it is important to keep in mind that during these high, dirty water times the bass’ main sensory organ for finding and capturing prey, their eyesight, is severely limited.  Because of this, the smallmouth must rely more on their sense of smell and sound (vibrations detected by their lateral line).
As a result of the bass’ vision being cut down somewhat, I like to throw baits that are possibly a little larger or noisier than normal.  For instance, my favorite would probably be a single or double-bladed spinnerbait.  If the water is warm (above fifty degrees), I feel a spinnerbait is large enough for the bass to see and the vibration produced by the blades allows the riverine bronzeback to hone in on the bait via their sensitive lateral line.  Normally, I work the spinnerbait in every possible eddy I can find and employ a fairly slow, steady retrieve.  I prefer chartreuse or a chartreuse and white combination colored skirt and have also been tinkering with different colored blades.  While copper blades have been a standby for off-colored water for years, I have had good success with a copper blade in combo with one red blade.
Another stained water option is a crankbait.  While I rarely throw a “crank”, their characteristics merit attention when dealing with high water conditions.  I would probably pick a crankbait with a fairly pronounced wobble and one that contains rattles as well.  Colors?  If it was me, I would choose a crankbait with loud color schemes such as a “firetiger” or “clown” colored model.
One final option is a soft plastic.  Without a doubt, soft plastics rule for riverine bronzebacks.  Many anglers feel that plastics are finesse baits, only effective when stream levels are low and the water is clear.  While there is little doubt that plastics do shine when waters turn “pane of glass” clear, they can also be effective when the water is stained.  When it comes to selecting a jig and plastic combo. for stained water, I prefer to fish a larger than normal offering.  For instance, if I was fishing a twister-tail grub, I might choose a four to five inch model instead of a standard three inch model.  Another great stained water plastic is a twin-tailed, skirted grub.  Commonly known as spider jigs or hula grubs, these plastics are large and bulky and “push” alot of water.  This “pushing” of water creates vibrations that allows the smallmouth to detect and locate the bait.  As was the case with spinnerbaits and crankbaits, I prefer “loud” plastic colors for these conditions.  Examples might include chartreuse, white, or orange.
In conclusion, when Mother Nature throws a “monkey wrench” into your stream fishing plans, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.  Fortunately there are ways to cope with the conditions that go along with large amounts of rain.  Concentrating on shoreline eddies, current-blocking cover, and tributary streams can pay huge dividends.  Make sure you work these areas thoroughly and methodically.  Many times it takes multiple casts to an area before that big river bronzeback finds your offering.  Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and larger jig and plastic combinations are all great lure choices, but do not forget to throw whatever baits you have the utmost confidence in as well.  And, finally, remember that stream will not be high forever - what comes up, must come down!

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

How about a Chatterbait? Ive never used one, but if they can hone in on it, i guess it would better your chances. Good info.
F J Harvey

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/08 at 07:08 PM

Coinman, a chatterbait is also a good choice. The first 3 smallies I caught this year were in water like Jonn is describing on a pumpkin color chatterbait.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/08 at 09:06 PM

Yes, while I have never used one, I would say a chatterbait would be excellent for high, stained water.

Posted by stream stalker on 04/09 at 07:59 AM

Comment Area Pool Rules

  1. Read our Terms of Service.
  2. You must be a member. :: Register here :: Log In
  3. Keep it clean.
  4. Stay on topic.
  5. Be civil, honest and accurate.
  6. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Log In

Register as a new member

Next entry: Using stickbaits for walleye

Previous entry: Oklahoma turkey population changing

Log Out

RSS & Atom Feeds

Prairie State Outdoors
PSO on Facebook
Promote Your Page Too

News Archives

February 2020
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Copyright © 2007-2014 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Some Rights Reserved
Original content available for non-commercial use
under a Creative Commons license, except where noted.
Creative Commons