Fast rise meant slow weekendPublished 12:01am Sunday, August 18, 2013
A fast rise coming down the Mississippi River made this a very quiet weekend on the Old Rivers. Fishermen and ladies tend to avoid fishing the live oxbow lakes, the Old River bend that are still connected to the big river, when the river is rising this fast.
The river stage at Natchez went from approximatley 22 feet to today’s level of 29.6 feet. The rise is predicted to continue at least through Wednesday, with a forecasted level of 31.6 feet. This is exactly what we needed, considering that it’s August and the water was so hot the fishing was just not that good. The cooler river water once again flooded the Old Rivers.
At 22 feet, few people had the perch, bream and bass figured out. The river dropped fast after a higher-than-normal summer level. The fish pulled out of the flooded woods and suspended over deep water.
Fishing the Old Rivers is a cat-and-mouse game. Patterns tend not to last long simply because the water fluctuates as much as 40 feet or more. This year has been most unusual. Normally, the Old Rivers would be so low they would be landlocked from any influence by the Mississippi River. Once the Old Rivers are landlocked, they become more like a lake. Patterns can be established that last more than a couple of days.
The level stayed so high this summer we did not even get to fish the river bend lakes until early this month. Many were very disappointed by the lack of fish. Others caught some nice fish. It’s just a matter of ignoring what we used to know about these waters and starting over.
Points, drop-offs, drains and the like change big time as the water rises and falls. Areas that used to be productive are no longer producing fish. The fish are still there, they are just not holding in the same locations. I fished these river bend lakes as a teenager, and it is amazing to see how much they have changed. Productive points have washed away. Points that held huge numbers of bass are no longer there. The off-shore drops we located on sonar are gone. The rise and fall of the big river took its toll on the bottom contours of the Old Rivers.
Over the past few years, the best pattern for bass (excluding the same old fish the drains that lead from the barrow pits) consist of fishing visible stumps along the flats, which is mostly along the east banks. The west banks of the Old Rivers offers the only sharp drop-offs. The east banks are basically flat with no sudden change in depth. The cover there is basically willow stumps and few logs.
When the river stage is in the 30-plus feet range at Natchez, the green willows will have enough water around them to hold fish. The problem we had trying to catch fish from the green willows was a high surface water temperature.
August is a brutal month for fishing no matter on which lake you are. The good news is within another 30 days, we will see more cool nights like we had the past few days with this unseasonal weather we just experienced. That was false fall season, a teaser of what we will have toward the end of September.
For now, we will just have to be content on what the area lakes have to offer. Hopefully, this late-season rise will improve the fishing on the live oxbow lakes.