Outdoor Corner: Could Spring be here?

Lyle Johnson

Ole Man Winter is hanging on for dear life as Punxsutawney Phil was right for once in his life. I, for one, am ready for the ole man to bow out gracefully. Good riddance! I’m really looking forward to be complaining about how hot it is after this last round of frozen winter.

The bream in this picture is what one might catch in early spring as they get ready to spawn.

The past few mornings, I’ve been awakened by the chirps of cardinals that seem to have a new excitement about them. It seems that the mating ritual is starting to take place and nesting activity won’t be far behind.

I’m watching the trees for a sign of green, but swamp maples usually bud out first showing off their deep red colors. The squirrels will start to eat the young, green buds, and the rabbits will be giving birth to their young soon.

Just as things are beginning to make changes for a new season on the land, so shall it be in the water as well. The rain we’ve had (some of it solid) has had the water high and muddy, so in the next week or so things will return to normal and fishing should pick up with our finny friends ready to start their springtime activities.

Now this time of the year is when all fish lay their eggs and tote the largest weight of the year as they feed up to prepare for the rigors of spawning. Bass are the earliest to lay eggs. That process has already begun.

They are around shallow water and are easier to catch as some will be feeding heavily. The males will be preparing the nests, hoping to attract as many females as they can to lay her eggs at his spot. Others will be guarding the eggs that have already been laid.

This is the perfect size crawfish to use as live bait that will catch just about any species of fish.

Spinner baits and bladed jigs work well when the water is still a little cold and top water lures will be effective as the water warms a little. But my favorite tactic is fishing with jigs and plastics. There’s nothing like feeling that tap on the end of your rod and setting the hook on a big, fat female bass.

The bass tournament season is well underway and really large bags of fat bass are being brought to the scales.

What about panfish? Bluegill, bream or whatever you want to call them are ready to feed so they can put on some weight for the spawn. You probably won’t catch the numbers that can be expected in mid-spring, but they’ll never be any bigger or tastier than they are now.

They won’t be congregated together and the bites may be spread apart, but if you stick with it you’ll end up with a good mess of fish to bring home. As the water temperatures go from cold warm their metabolism picks up and the start to get active.

There are plenty of ways to catch them right now. Night crawlers are always worth bringing along. They’re easy to obtain, and usually work well, although smaller fish are attracted to the bait. A few catfish will spice up the catch as well.

Small jigs under a cork usually catch a few, but I prefer to fish them on a spinner rig with a very small spinner. You can vary the speed of your retrieve but if the water is still a little cold, the slower the better.

Sac-a-lait are moving in to spawn right now and feeding to beef up for their springtime ritual. Shiners are always a sure bet for the delicious tasting slabs. Jigs under a cork work as well. Another way to catch them is to fish a jig without a cork, trying different depths, even up to 12 or 15 feet deep. This is a real good technique when nothing else works.

Catfish are beginning to make their way upriver to spawn also and feed ravenously this time of year. “Tight lining” is a very popular way to catch them. I like to tie a sinker on the bottom and make a loop and tie the hook up about a foot from the bottom.

Another popular way to catch catfish is fishing the cypress trees in lakes such as Verret and Des Allemands with night crawlers under a cork. That action should pick up a little better as the weather warms.

The whiskery fish feed mostly on smell, so just about anything will work for bait. Night crawlers work well and there is many commercial types of bait in stores that work OK. Shad are great if you can catch them with a cast net.

But there is one bait that can catch all the above fish and many more and it only happens this time of the year. Crawfish! Late winter and early spring is the time crawfish give birth to their young, even in small ditches. That’s where to get the ones that will make a fishing trip something to remember.

All it takes is a dip-net, some rubber boots and a bucket to put them in. But not just any ole ditch will do. The ditch needs to hold some water just about year round for the crawfish to survive to the next year.

After dipping the critters, put them in a bucket with a little water and some of the grass on top to keep them cool. Small ones are perfect for perch and sac-a-lait and the larger ones are good for catfish and other bigger fish including bass. But even the small ones will catch anything.

Holding the bait upside down, insert the hook at the tail and come out just inside the head so the crawfish will hang straight. Usually there will be some of the crawfish that will have molted their shell and will be “soft-shelled”. That is fish honey, and won’t last long before some fish tries to eat it.

The only reason that you may not catch any of these fish is that you are not out there fishing. This time of the year is one of the best times of the year to bring those kids fishing. The weather is very pleasant, it’s not too hot and the fish will usually co-operate enough to hold their interest.

Hey, it’s fixin’ to be a great time to experience the outdoors. Wow, just writing this makes me eager to go somewhere this weekend and “get on the water!” So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!