Relief coming for Mississippi River soon

Published 12:15 am Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Mississippi River continues to hold at an extremely high level for the season. The stage at Natchez today is 41.2 feet.

That’s a first for me. I have never witnessed a level this high in July. The good news is a fall is coming downriver starting today. By this time next week we could see a level of approximately 37 feet. Hopefully the slow fall will continue.

If the river drops out of the Old Rivers too fast, the water will get muddy and the fishing is not as good. The accuracy of the long distance river forecast depends on how much rain falls to the north of us.

The Old Rivers, the live oxbow lakes connected to the Mississippi River, continue to produce some nice size white perch, bream and a few bass. The higher water levels make it difficult to locate the fish, but when you find the fish catching them is easy.

The people I spoke with are using 1/16 ounce jigs in various colors and tipping the jig with a live minnows to catch the white perch. Limits of big bream are coming from the flooded willow trees in four to six feet of water.

The river has been at 41 to 42 feet for approximately two weeks. A somewhat stable level will keep the fish from moving around. During the past two weeks the perch were holding in 14 to 18 feet of water just outside the flooded green willows.

The fish should stay in this depth for at least a few more days. White perch tend to suspend in the water column. Instead of moving toward the shore when the river is rising or moving offshore when the river is falling, the perch will usually stay in the 12 to 20 feet depths and move up or down the water column.

You might catch them on the bottom in 18 feet of water one day and 14 down over 18 feet of water the next day. This is when a good sonar unit is a must. Just troll around and watch the sonar screen. The tricky part is figuring out if the signals you see are rough fish or game fish.

If you see a lot of shad on the screen along with some nice size fish signals and those fish are holding near cover, you’re probably looking at game fish. The bass fishing on the Old Rivers at this level is a bit difficult. There is so much shallow water cover for the bass to roam in they can be hard to locate.

It’s much easier to fish the bluff banks and points at this level than the flats where the water is way back in the woods. Try big deep diving crank baits like a Norman DD22 or a Bagley DB3.

The bass in the Old Rivers are like crawfish, so heavy jigs in crawfish patterns will catch the bass once you locate the fish.

The next open bass tournament in this area will be on Lakes Concordia and St. John. Eddie’s Marine will host the second annual Kyle’s House/Sunshine Shelter benefit on July 24.