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Weather or not to fish

April 21, 2008
Bill Harding
Whether the fish are biting or not depends on whom you ask and when and where they are fishing. The weather here has been up and down and I’ve had mixed results.

Around the end of March I had a couple of great days. I caught a dozen crappies ranging from 10 inches to14 inches and a 2-inch walleye. I also caught and released some very nice bass. All of these were caught using a 1/8 ounce jig with a soft plastic bait. Life was good, and then the cold front hit.

For the last three weeks fishing has been slow for me, but that’s why they call it “fishing” instead of “catching”. I have tried jigs, spinners, spoons and even live minnows. The results have been anything but spectacular. I caught and released a few bass, but the crappies have eluded me.

This makes me wonder how to choose a good time to fish. I have heard all of the folk tales. One guy told me the crappies would not hit until the dogwood bloomed. Another told me it would be when the oak leaves were as big as a squirrel’s ear. When I was fishing in Kentucky I was told that crappie began to bite when the redbud comes out.

All of these folk tales must have some relationship to fact, but my guess is that leaves and blooms have nothing to do with when fish spawn or bite. I believe that it is a coincidence that all of this springtime blooming naturally occurs around the time the water temperature tells fish that it is time to get active.

Several years ago I was involved in producing a crappie fishing tape and I soon learned that fishing tapes are not easy to produce. Producing TV commercials was easy. I just said “roll tape” and when it was up to speed I cued the actor. I had no luck trying to cue the fish. We were on Kentucky Lake, which is noted for great crappie fishing, but a cold front came through and we didn’t catch enough for a decent meal, let alone an hour long program.

Since water temperature does not change as rapidly as air temperature, you would think that it would take quite a while for a cold front to affect fishing. This phenomenon was explained to me by another fisherman who claimed that barometric pressure was to blame. This expert kept a lot of notes and always used a handheld barometer to check pressure. His theory was that fish are susceptible to pressure change and it makes a lot of sense to me.

What about the charts that tell you the best times to fish? There are the Solunar Tables that give the major and minor feeding times for both game and fish. I also see that Shakespeare provides a similar chart, but I have relied on neither. It would be an interesting experiment to compare both charts and then keep a calendar of your successes or lack thereof. Since I am always lax about keeping records I’ll leave that chore up to others, but I sure will welcome hearing your results.

My personal theory is that water temperature and oxygen content are the major reasons why fish are active or not. I also feel there is a lot of validity in the pressure theory. But, even when all of these parameters are right, you still need to locate the fish and figure out what they are eating. How many times have you marked fish on your sonar and still gotten skunked?

This year I have fished every time there was open water and have had a line in the water every month of 2008. In fact, I just got back from fishing. The sun was shining, but it was chilly. I only fished for about 45 minutes using minnows for bait and caught nothing. But, I enjoyed it.

It is fun to try all of the theories, but there is no doubt in my mind that the best time to go fishing is when you have time to go fishing.



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