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River drops almost 9 feet in last week

The Mississippi River forecast was correct last week. The river dropped from about a very high for the season 49 feet down to today’s stage of 40.8 feet.

The fast drop in the river level slowed down and tomorrow we’ll see a stage of about 40.6 feet. Tuesday a slight rise will hold the level at 40.8 feet.

What this means for those that fish the live oxbow lakes, the Old Rivers, is the fishing may not be that good right now but it is a about to bust loose big time.

Last year was a great year for the bass, white perch and bream fishing as well as the cat fishing on river bend lakes. We had the exact same conditions last year as we have now. The river stayed at a higher than normal level then dropped, then rose then fell to about 28 feet and held at 28 feet for a week or so.

Limits of game-fish were easy to come by in 2009 so get ready for some of the best fishing this area has to offer. Like I mentioned in last week’s column the local anglers that know where to fish in the flooded backwaters are catching some huge bream right now.

You just have to spend some time searching through the maze of flooded willows and hardwood trees to find the bream. Find the openings in the matted duck seed in about 5 to 8 feet of water preferable near a flooded barrow pit or backwater lakes and you will find the bream.

It’s easier to hear the bream than see them. Just listen for the fish near the duck seed and you can hear them feeding on the surface just under the matted duck seed. The white perch are very difficult to locate and catch at 40 feet but, when we see a level of about 32 feet it’s not that hard to find the big slabs.

The preferred level for white perch is 28 feet. At this level some of the old dead snags will began to show above the waterline. Fish between the dead snags and the flooded green willows with tube jigs, hair jigs or live minnows and you can catch some nice perch once the river reaches this level.

Some like to drift fish with multiple poles rigged with everything from live minnows to hair jigs. Small crank baits designed for bass fishing worked great when trolled just outside the dead snags. If you are good with sonar you don’t have to wait on these lower levels.

Just idle around out from the flooded green willows over depths ranging from 20 to 40 feet and watch for huge schools of shad on the sonar screen. When you locate the shad rig your jig poles at the depth the shad are holding. If the shad are deep use at least a 1/2 to 3/4 ounce sinker on the bottom of your line and set several jigs on a single line about a foot apart.

Rig each pole at various depths with different colored lures. There should be no need for me to mention to change all the rigs to the most productive lures and set all to the most productive depths. Drift fishing for big slab white perch will keep you busy. Some fishermen will use as many as 8 jig poles set in pole holders with as many as 20 jigs in the water at one time.

Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at fishingwitheddie@bellsouth.net.

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