Last winter’s unusual severity--long stretches of bitter cold weather without any thaws to speak of--along with heavier than normal snowfall -- has set the early season bite back a bit. Fortunately, the beginning of the month saw things warm up enough to lure folks to their favorite panfish spots; and early indications are that the bite’s gonna be a good one.
Last week saw Toad Harbor load up with minnows and panfish. Guys fishing with mousies and spikes nailed a lot of sunnies and shiners. Those working flathead or bucktail minnows did pretty well on the crappies.
Still, the crappie fishing was spotty. Schools would swarm in, bite for an hour or so and then turn off. A few hours later, they’d come back, folks would catch a few and then the critters would shut down again.
One local crappie expert surmised: “The water’s a tad too cold for them yet. Sometime next week they’ll come round in good numbers.”
Curiously, there seemed to be a larger than normal population of intellectually challenged anglers on the banks that day. They were easy to identify because of their habit of throwing the shiners into the bushes. One guy I watched throw four to their deaths finally complained: “I hate these worthless things.”
That’s when I let him have it. “Well buddy, what do you expect?” I asked. “You come to their house, throw dinner at them and get mad when they hit. If you don’t like catching shiners don’t use the baits they feed on.”
“There’s too many of ‘em; by killing them I’m helping to control their numbers” he shot back.
“Let the fish do that,” I replied.
A dumbfounded expression crept over his face.
Figuring he was probably a pretty decent guy deep down who just wasn’t savvy to the mysterious workings of nature, I decided to let him in on it: “Shiners are forage. All kinds of fish depend on them for food, including crappies, perch, sunnies. If you go killing them before they can spawn, you’re reducing their numbers all right. And then what do you expect the bigger fish to do?” I asked, rhetorically; then answered myself. “they’re gonna feed on more sunnies, perch and crappies, which means there’ll be less for you and me. You see?”
“Oh, yeah,” he responded. “But they’re still a pain in the ….”
“Yeah, but I’ve seen days where they were all I caught. Without them, I’da been skunked,” I argued.
He smiled in agreement (told ya he was a nice guy).
Fate seemed to smile, too, because after that all I saw him catch were sunnies…and that made him very happy.
Toad Harbor should be productive from now all the way through mid-May. Crappies will be the main event for the next couple of weeks, followed by bullheads and sunfish, and pickerel when pike season opens.
If you don’t mind a little current, the floodgates at Caughedenoy can be productive. Perch mill around the structures and can be pretty cooperative if you’re there at the right time. What’s more they’re bigger than in years past.
They hang out in the slow areas and edges of the current, and respond best to a jighead tipped with a minnow and fished below a bobber so the offering moves around, an inch or two off bottom.
Feedback: Meg, a reader form Liverpool, NY, sent an email reporting that she and her 11-year-old son caught 11 perch in Phoenix over the weekend, five in the first 20 minutes.
Mexico native John Whitney and a perch he took at Caughedenoy.