Rain, rain, go away…
As I write this, it’s raining yet again. That means more water in the creeks and rivers and lakes — bad news for fishermen who, like me, are generally suffering from a bad case of cabin fever.
But the good news is that I just heard one of the TV weatherpersons says it’s going to stop raining soon. Yeah, we’ve heard that before. But this time I’m optimistic. Besides, the calendar tells us that spring is here. Things should be warming up even as they start drying out. Can good fishing be far behind?
I hope so, and I’m encouraged in my optimism by no less that Jeff Durniak, regional fishery supervisor for the Georgia Department of Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“There are several reasons for this optimism,” Jeff says, “but the primary reason is a truly magic number.”
Magic numbers, eh? I like those. I used to think three was a particularly good magic number, but then I read somewhere that everybody else thinks that too. Three…and seven…37. So I switched to 37, figuring the uniqueness of it all would give me an edge of some sort at some future point in time where it might matter. But then I learned that the people who study such things (yes, there are such people) have discovered that the most-often picked random number between 1 and 100 is 37.
Well, shucks. Better find a new magic number — and maybe, as I do, I see what Jeff Durniak has to say. Those fisheries folks know a lot about a lot of different things, you know.
And so I checked, and here’s what I learned:
Jeff’s magic number is (drum roll, please) 50.
“Because that is the key water temperature to trigger many sport species as they abandon their winter hibernations,” he says.
If you’ve fished very long, you know exactly what he means. Once the water gets into the 50s, a couple of things happen. One is that aquatic insects (those bugs that live in the water and that are apparently so tasty to fish) become active again. Second, fish wake up too. Some start eating those bugs, enjoying the explosion of food that spring usually brings. Others start looking for mates. It’s a glorious time to be a fish — or a fisherman.
Right now, for example, the white bass are getting ready to make their annual spawning runs up rivers all across the state. What triggers them to start the run? One factor is water temperature. Once the readings get up into the 50s, those white bass get going and start heading upstream. If you can be there when they’re moving through, the fishing can be glorious. All you need to be ready is a lure resembling a small shad. Something as simple as a white grubtail on a white jig head will do the job; if you are fly fishing, try a “streamer” pattern designed to imitate a minnow. I’ll be updating you on this year’s run over the next few weeks, so get those lures and flies ready now!
Good things are starting to happen in trout streams too. We’ve already noted that warming water activates the bugs, and that in turn activates the fish. Pretty soon, if it hasn’t happened already, you’ll be seeing aquatic insects (especially the legendary spring “hatch” of caddisflies) near many of our streams, and if you’re ready with a good caddisfly imitation there’s an excellent chance you’ll be able to fool a few early-season trout.
And then there are the “terrestrials,” those bugs that live on land but fall into the water. Ants…flies…bees…beetles…the list goes on and on, and fish (trout and others too!) love ‘em one and all. As soon as you start seeing bugs flying around the pond or flying (or crawling) around near the creek, stop everything else and grab your rod.
Don’t forget the frogs either. Yes, once the frogs start their nightly singing (and I heard some at the pond just the other evening) you’ll know that they’re active again. Those big bass down in the pond seem to think of frogs as the aquatic equivalent of fillet mignon, so try throwing your favorite frog imitation or noisy topwater plug or fly. Cast it up near the cover and tease it back toward you, using a tug-and-pause style of retrieve. Hungry spring bass won’t be able to resist.
Yes, it’s a great time of year to be a fisherperson. The fish are getting going again, and longer days (combined with Daylight Saving Time) give us plenty of time to get out for an hour or three even during the week after work.
“In my book,” Jeff Durniak adds, “the next eight weeks are the best time of the year to wet a line in north Georgia waters.”
He adds, “Are you ready?”
I am. In fact, as soon as I finish this, I’m going to grab my handy-dandy stream thermometer and mosey on over to the water. I’ll check the reading and watch the numbers settle in…47…49…51 degrees…
Excuse me. Got to run. Fish are calling!
Fisherfolk all over the state can find up-to-the-minute info and insights all season long by visiting the Wildlife Resources Division’s fishing blog. To find it, visit GeorgiaWildlife.com. Click on “Fishing,” and then select “Georgia Fishing Blog: Weekly Fresh Reports.” I bookmark that site – and I’ll bet you’ll want to do so as well.