Archive for the ‘water temperature’ Tag


Crankbait catfish

Carefully picking his way through the rock strewn tailwaters, the angler casts a 1/8 ounce jig up under the dam. Almost immediately the line heads for deeper water. Carefully the angler retrieves a 2 pound catfish. Catfish on artificial lures?

Both flathead and channel catfish will take artificial lures instead of bait. Beginning in late summer as the water temperature gets into the 80’s and low 90’s channel catfish will move to the shallow water up tight against dams. The flatheads will move to the deep holes. In both of these areas, catfish will take an artificial lure.

Some experienced catfishermen use bass fishing techniques to catch flatheads. Each September they begin by trolling with a trolling motor on a Jon boat. They troll over deep holes. Most are in the 30 foot depth. Electronics tell them there are fish in the bottoms of the holes. Experience teaches that they are flatheads about to go on a fall feeding spree.

They look for structure in the holes. Submerged trees, rock structure or any other kind of “home habitat” that flatheads are known to frequent.

The idea is to bounce jigs right on their nose. They use a 2-ounce jig with a salt craw attached. In order for the fish to take it, they maintain that the jig has to be right on top of the fish. Not being a bottom feeder by nature, the flatheads eyes are located to find food slightly above it.

Late summer also means low water conditions on most rivers. Cats, be they flathead or channel, seem to seek out deep water, fast running well oxygenated water, or both. Beneath most dams are deep holes created by the water cascading from one level to another.

Anglers have long known to cast up under a dam to catch fish. However, few try it with a small jig. A 1/8 ounce leadhead with a dark plastic grub body will do a good job enticing channel catfish.

Over on the Ohio River flowage, some anglers use crankbaits to catch fall cats. They get their boats right up in the shallow water at the dam and then cast floating Rapalas. The #13 and #18 are most used. Blue is the preferred color.  They use the current to provide action to the lure.



All too often we overlook fly fishing for the pan fish. Too many these are the “kid’s fish” or something to catch when the bass are not biting.

Panfishing with flies means fishing for bream, crappie, pumpkinseed and rock bass

They are a good source of fun and food once the water temperature gets into the mid 50-degree or higher range.  They move into the shallows to think about spawning.  First to move up to warmer water is the males who build nests.  The females which lay eggs before departing to the deeper climes follow them shortly.  The males move back in to guard the nests and fry until they can forage on their own.

At each of these times the panfish can be an excellent quarry of choice for the fly fisherman.

Getting started in this sport is easier than catching the fish. All you need are some balanced equipment and a few lessons.  As for the tackle, there are kits available from major tackle manufacturers tailored to the individual species, including trout and panfish.  These are available at most stores that sell the tackle.

Once the lessons are over and you are consistently casting 30 feet with comfort it is time to take to the water.

In choosing a fly A few basic patterns work well.  There is no reason for a vest full of flies.  The easiest way to select your basic flys is to ask another angler for help.  Find out what he uses with the most success and buy a few to try out.  The local tackle shop may be of assistance but not all of them are really familiar with fly equipment.

Flies come in two types wet and dry.  Panfishermen using wet flies try a variety of colors and patterns.  Some suggestions include Wooly Worms, small streamers ant or bee imitations.  For surface or dry fly fishing nothing beats a small popper or a rubber spider.  Trout flies work as well.  Hooks should be in sizes 6, 8 or 10.

In cooler weather you will want to fish when the sun is high and the water is warmer.  Later, as the water warms too much, try the early morning and late afternoon hours.

Cast to the shorelines cover such as weeds, pads, brush, logs, rocks and any other available structure.  If the bream are on the beds, then that is ideal casting territory.

After casting, allow the fly to sink slowly before retrieving it.  Remain alert as most strikes occur on the fall.  The strike will usually not be one of those rod bending types but rather a twitch in the line.  There is no need to set the hook hard.  The strike is just a matter of the fish sucking the fly into his mouth.   Just lift the rod straight up.  This increases your chances of a proper hook set in the upper lip.  It keeps the fish from inhaling the hook too deep to allow for a safe release.

It is easy to keep from yanking the hook right out of their soft mouth.

Surface fishing is the most entertaining.  If the mayfly hatch is on, then crappie will take poppers with gusto.  Little rubber spiders work well for bream around pads and stumps.  With the surface action the angler can see and hear the strike.

For the nighttime angler, only the splash is audible.  Nighttime is the prime time for feeding as the bugs come out.  One might even pick up a bass or two with those poppers.

Even on the best of nights, the fish will eventually turn off.  No one knows why, it just happens.  Pack it in and go clean fish. There will always be another day.

FINDING PUT-N-TAKE TROUT   Leave a comment


Classic trout fishermen typically throw very small flys.  The reason they can do it is that trout are sight feeders and their vision is very acute.  Conditions dictate that fisherman to use certain flys.

Just because anglers prefer to use dry flys because it is more fun it is not the only option.  Their eyes are mid-range.  That means they are comfortable looking up for food as well as down making them multi-directional feeders.

Trout in the wild prefer cold moving water over a rocky bottom.  They can survive in the still water of a pond but on a more limited basis.  The ideal water temperature for trout is in the 40 to 55-degree range.  This can vary by sub-species.

On rivers where water levels change during the day, they survive through adaptation.  When the current is fast, they will be near the edges of the river system.  As water levels lower and current decreases they will go more toward the middle or they will range the river system.

Their relating to structure is to conserve energy and preserve calories.

A trout has a lateral line like all fish.  He responds to movement, vibration and sound.  The lateral line allows him to pinpoint a direction from which those things emanate.  He then moves toward that sound and then uses sight to zero in on it.

Trout have tiny scales allowing them to love in a moving water environment.  This coupled with their slime coat allows them to go nose into the current with less energy.  It also makes them very slippery to handle while landing.

Most popular are rainbow trout and brown trout.  Rainbow is the prominent stocking fish.  That is because they are the easiest trout to grow.  They take to the food, they take to the overcrowding and they take the polluted water a little bit better than a brown trout.

When you remove a trout from a hatchery and place it in any body of water there are two things to remember.  Where did that truck back up to? And what do you have a lot of in your tackle box?  For about 3 days trout will be stupid.  They spend some time where they are released trying to get acclimated.  They will bite anything until accustomed to the habitat.  They do not have the instincts and intuition of a wild trout because they have never had to do anything for their meals.

In most instances most manmade lakes have an area where there may be a little bit of a spring.  When the builders dug down perhaps they found a little spring trickle.  If the fish find that area they hang out there and feed to survive through the summer.  It might only be 2% or less of the total water available.

Stocked lakes do not usually have a trout kill.  Anglers remove most of the trout.  Every once in a while someone catches a whopper in a lake where they have been stocking them for a number of years.

Brown trout are more likely to be in cooler water and in moving water.  They will be in habitat that has more structure.  They are thinking ambush.  They think prey.  They are thinking what to do for the next meal.  Rainbows are just happy to be there and will just swim around.



White Crappie

Biologists have studied crappie for years, including where they grow the largest.  A study done in South Dakota of both white and black crappie found that they grow the slowest in small impoundments and the largest in big water such as natural lakes.

Although they grow the largest in natural lakes they density of the fish population was lower.

Some other factors influencing growth are water quality and other environmental factors.  Some of those factors are the age of the body of water, water turbidly and siltation.

Crappies tend to grow faster in clearer, less turbid, newer lakes with steep-sided shorelines.

Studies have found that crappies grow best during the months of July and August.  Two year old crappie completed 71% of their length growth during these months.  This seems coupled with the post spawn feeding.  These months were also the time when the fish moved around the most.  It is assumed they were moving in search of forage.

Consistently catching big crappie requires some flexibility and study on the part of the angler.  Most anglers have a set method of catching them and tend to stay with it even if the fish are not biting.  It is more important to vary the presentation until the fish find what they are seeking for dinner.  If jigs are not working then try tipping them with a minnow.  If one color is not working well, then try another.

It is beneficial to maintain a diary of your trips on the water.  Note the lake level, water temperature, water clarity, wind direction and weather conditions.  All these factors affect fishing for crappies.  You can add the depth at which you find the fish, location on the lake, bait or lure used and presentation that is most effective.

Learn to use your electronics.  Read the instructions and practice, practice, practice.  Used properly they paint a picture of the area beneath the surface.

Transpose information from the electronics to your GPS or a topographical map.  The later often shows creek channels, island humps, and water depth, all effective in finding fish.  Notes on these things tend to be helpful as the fish repeat their habits at different times during the year.

Crappie fishermen need and want to study their quarry.  If fish are in a certain spot, we need to ask why it is the case.  What is it that attracts them to this spot at this time of year?  Certain times of the year, for instance during the spawn, they are found in certain situations.  Knowing this, anglers have an edge on the fish.

Finding big crappie is not impossible.  It just takes some work and a willingness to move from unproductive water.  The old adage that 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water seems to ring true with crappies.




Lake of Egypt provides plenty of early season crappie action.

Located about 10 minutes south of Marion, IL, it provides challenges for the crappie angler.

Local anglers fish for crappie all year if there is no ice on the lake.  A power cooling lake ice is somewhat of a rarity.  It is a matter of knowing what type of cover the fish relate to under specific weather conditions.

On Lake of Egypt, the water temperatures are warmer than other lakes in the area.  It is a cooling lake for the power plant turbines.  The fish relate to structure but it is different structure than is usually found in crappie lakes.  The lake has a variety of structure and vegetation from creek channels, rip rap, fallen timber, stumps, roadbeds and weed flats.

This 2,300-acre lake has 93 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 52 feet and an average depth of 19 feet.

When the crappies of Lake of Egypt are deep, finding them can be very tough.  Casting jigs tipped with minnows to the outer edge of the weed lines in search of crappie suspended there is the most popular pattern.  A favorite rig is to suspend a jig about 2 1/2-feet beneath a float.  Then mooch the jig back to the boat in deeper water.

The fish tend to relate to wood if they can find it in deeper water.  Anglers find suspended fish over wood in 12 to 18-feet of water.  Locating wood is problematic.  The lake they are usually conceals it beneath the surface.

Egypt is a lake with many necks and coves.  Points at the main lake coves often have brush and will hold fish in spring.  To stay on fish in deeper water you need electronics to stay on fish and to get a minnow down to the right depth.

Local anglers sometimes use light line, seldom exceeding 4-pounds test.  They lose less tackle with the light line but catch more fish with 2 pound test.  Resident anglers like to cast Road Runners with re heads and white bodies in the 1/16th and 1/32nd sizes.  They also have good luck with hot pink jigs and occasionally fishing a minnow below a float on the weed lines.

A staple of crappie fishing, the jig and minnow combo is also popular on this lake.  It can be cast to weed lines and jerked slowly back to the boat or dropped vertically into the crappie’s strike zone.

Water temperature effects the location of the fish.  The power plant at the north end affects the water temperature of that portion of the lake.  A north wind will usually push the warmer water over the weed beds.

Most anglers begin their day on the lake at the discharge and work south.  The warm water attracts bait fish and the crappies follow.  If the power plant is down, the fishing slows.  If the water temperature is in the 50’s the fish will be in a transition period.  If they are not yet in the weed lines one can look for rocky breaklines and woody areas on the east side of the lake.  Sunny coves on the north end of the lake are also a good place to look for fish.  The best fishing seems to come in the early morning and late afternoon.

When fish are deep the crappie rig of sinker on the line below two hooks can be deadly at locating the proper strike zone for feeding fish.  On warmer days one can switch to a wood pattern.

In spring frontal systems pass through southern Illinois.  They are full-fledged cold fronts that blast down from Canada to collide with moist warm air masses pushing up from the south.  This combination can cause severe thunderstorms and accompanying lightening.  Anglers need to pay attention to these conditions, as they can be deadly.

Fish are more “catchable” just prior to the passing of one of these cold fronts.


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