Stubborn river is finally on a fall this week

Published 12:01am Sunday, July 28, 2013

After a mostly “ho-hum” summer, the area fishermen and ladies have a bit of excitement in their face and conversations.

The Mississippi River is on a fall. Out-of-town people might be thinking what that has to do with moods. Well, when the river is high, some of our best fishing lakes are flooded. I call them “live” oxbow lakes, simply because these old river bends left behind when the river changed course remain connected to the big river until we have an extremely low river level.

Extremely low has not been our problem this summer. Extremely high was not the problem, either. The flood stage at Natchez is 48 feet. A somewhat fishable level for the live oxbow lakes is anywhere below 40 feet. So far this year, we have only witnessed a level below 40 feet, and that was very short-lived.

The stubborn river just hung up between 40 and 45 feet and stayed there longer than even the old timers can recall. I have logged in 35-plus years of fishing these waters, and I can’t recall the river just sitting at those levels throughout June and July. Maybe in 1973 during that flood year we had a higher-than-normal level during the summer, but that is too long ago for me to remember.

If the forecast — the predictions — hold up, the long wait is now over. The river stage at Natchez/Vidalia today should be approximately 38.2 feet and falling, and it is falling fast — too fast. The fast fall will be good for this coming week, but I certainly hope the fall slows down and leaves the Old Rivers connected to the Mississippi River throughout August.

The prediction for Monday is 35.5 feet. That is a 2.70 fall in a 24-hour time frame. And it is not going to stop there. On Tuesday, we could see a level of 33.1 feet and 31.3 feet on Wednesday. I think I should close Eddie’s Marine for a fishing holiday next week, but I better not. Someone has to keep the boats floating and the outboards running. They better keep a close eye on me, or I will be lake testing a lot of boats this coming week with a couple fishing rods slipped by the boss lady. Now I just told on myself.

A fall coming downriver that fast will generate a lot of current. The water will be dropping out of the flooded woods and from the barrow pits connected to the Old Rivers by drains. Locate a couple of these drains this coming week, and you can bet the bass will be stacked up. Just start at the mouth of these drains with a crank bait that will dive to approximately 15 feet or so and work your way up the drains while changing lures to shallow diving cranks, spinner baits and jigs or soft plastics.

As I have mentioned many times, if you do not know where these drains are located, just run the Old Rivers and follow the birds — the blue and white herons. These birds fish for a living, and they will be holding at the mouth of the drains and up the drains feeding on the shad that are attracted to the current, which offers a bit cooler water but more importantly, oxygen.

At 35 feet, the chinquapin (red ear bream) and the bluegill will be holding just inside the flooded green willows. Like I have mentioned numerous times, the bluegill tend to prefer crickets, and the chinquapin like red worms. I rarely use live bait unless my daughter or grandkids are with me. I would rather slow roll (extremely slow retrieve) a small black and yellow 1/16- or 1/32-ounce beetle spin on fished on an ultra-light spinning rig.

The secret to catching bream on this little lure is to retrieve it as slow as possible and keep it near the bottom. The same thing holds true with live bait. If you fish your live bait too shallow, you will catch small bream, so add an extra split shot or two and fish maybe a foot off the bottom. That is where the big bream will be located.

The big slab white perch fishing is usually better at a bit lower level, with 28 feet being perfect, but any level below 32 feet is fine, even though you may have to do a little fishing and moving around to locate the white perch. So get ready.

The best summer fishing this area has to offer will cast of this coming week. Please keep only what you need and release the rest. Game fish are not an inexhaustible resource, and you can do your part by keeping enough to feed your family and releasing the rest.