Miss. River continues to risePublished 12:01am Sunday, May 13, 2012
An unseasonal low river stage in late April gave us an opportunity to test the fishing in the old river bend lakes much earlier in the year than normal.
It was fun while it lasted. The fishing was great but short lived.
The river began a slow rise that increased to about a foot a day. The live oxbow lakes rose with the river, slowing down the fish activity.
The stage at Natchez went from a low of about 23 feet back up to Friday’s stage of 31.1 feet, and the rise will continue.
I sometimes believe the fear of a rise is more psychological than physical. When people hear the river is rising they quit fishing the Old Rivers.
The fish don’t leave the river bend lakes when the river rises, and the river does not re-stock the old rivers with game fish.
Very few game fish can live in the strong current of the Mississippi River. With the exception of catfish, very few species of game fish like white perch, largemouth bass and bream, live in rivers with a strong current.
Years ago we didn’t stop fishing the Old Rivers because of a rise. It took some time, but we would eventually find some fish.
I recall one of the best days of bass fishing I ever had was on a rise at Deer Park from 35 feet to 38 feet using big deep diving crank baits.
It was in the early 1980s when Deer Park had a lot of distinct points, sheer bluff banks and drains.
It’s amazing how the rise and fall of the river has changed the Old Rivers. Points have washed away. The bluff banks aren’t as steep anymore and some of the ditches that drain the barrow pits silted in.
Many of the bar pits we fished as kids are extremely shallow and don’t produce fish like they used to. These strip pits were formed when the Corps of Engineers “borrowed” the dirt to build the levee then borrowed some more dirt when the levee was brimmed just after the 1973 flood.
The borrowed dirt was, of course, never put back. Water filled these holes and fish found their way from the old river bend lakes into the bar pits during high river stages. The bar pits offered some of the best fishing in Concordia Parish.
Some of the deeper pits still produce a lot of fish but most were posted long ago by landowners that grew tired of people trashing the banks with household trash. I don’t blame them for that.
Back in the 1970s we just drove the levee and stopped and fished anywhere we wanted. Those days are gone.
So for now if you don’t want to tackle the backwaters and bar pits it’s time to fish the landlocked lakes again.
Lakes Concordia, St. John, Bruin and the Black River/Horseshoe Lake Complex are producing some nice bass, lots of bream and a few white perch.
The surface lure bite for bass has improved big time over the past week, and it will just keep getting better as the water continues to warm up.
The surface water temperature averages about 76 degrees right now. Once the top water bite wears off, try crank baits for bass.
The local favorite is the Bandit series 100, 200 and 300. Bandit has a new model called a 250 series that should be great on the Old Rivers even with the water rising.
Crank baits allow you to cover lots of water and locate active bass. The hottest selling and best catching white perch lure so far this year is Gene Larew’s Bobby Garland Slab Slayers. Black and chartreuse is a good color to start with.
It may be a week or two before we see a fall come down river. I see where the rise is slowing down. Once it slows down and gets a bit stable you can catch fish from the Old Rivers anytime the level is 38 feet or lower. You just have to spend a little more time locating the fish.