Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ready for the spawn? Curb your enthusiasm.

Well another blast of cold air has moved across our state. Haven't we had enough of winter already?

On Friday, I got a taste of warmer things to come while fishing a pond in southwest Louisiana. The sacalait were in the shallows setting up for their annual spawning ritual. And taking a black and chartruese Fluff Butt almost every other cast. Later that evening, I saw a post on Facebook - same area, but different pond - where the poster landed a five fish stringer of bass between 2 and 4 pounds.

Some folks got excited reading these reports, thinking "it's time". I hate to be Debbie Downer, but with the exception of small waters in the lower parishes, the answer is "not yet". The water temperature needs to be about 56 degrees to trigger activity and spawning behavior of crappie, and about 60 degrees for bass. Right now, most lakes in the central and northern parishes are well below that. For example, Cotile Lake is 47 degrees. That's 12 degrees colder than last year at this time.  The pond near Jennings from which I made my nice catch of crappie last Friday had a temperature of 56 degrees.

Last year spoiled us. By the first week of February 2017, crappie in  most impoundments had moved into spawning areas. Bass in ponds around Baton Rouge were staging for the spawn. Consider that last January was the warmest on record. Baton Rouge had a mean temperature that month of 59.3 degrees, compared to the normal mean of 51.6 degrees. This January, exactly the opposite. The BR had a mean of 46.3 degrees. That's 13 degrees lower than last year! Again, that's the average for the month, where even a couple degrees is significant.

While bass may be as anxious to spawn as we are for them to spawn, they have more sense than we do. They will wait and for good reason. At 65 degrees, the eggs may take as long as 12 days to hatch. At 70 degrees, that hatching period is only 2-3 days. The longer the hatching period, the more vulnerable the eggs are to predators like bluegill. Bottom line: a successful spawn requires the optimal water temperature.

For fly anglers with a serious case of cabin fever, there is hope. Days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter. Several mild days are in the forecast for this weekend and into next week. Until then, there's always a few more flies that need tying.