Another rise expected for the Mississippi River

Published 12:06 am Sunday, July 25, 2010

The local fishermen and ladies continue to watch the Mississippi River level.

For two months the river level has been holding fairly steady between 38 and 41 feet. That’s a first for me in the 35 plus years I have fished this area. It’s late July.

The river should be well below the 25 feet mark by now but it’s not. The fishing on the Old Rivers should be at its best right now, but all the rain in the upper Mississippi River valley continues to hold the level 10 to 15 feet higher than normal.

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The river stage in Natchez is 38.6 and falling, but don’t get your hopes up. The fall is not going to last for long. I’m looking way up river at the long distance forecast. There is yet another rise coming down river.

By Wednesday of this week, we could see a level of 37.6 feet. If the forecast holds up, the river will start rising again and this could possibly bring the level back up to about 42 feet. One way to look at this situation is the river has been at the 38- to 42-foot level for so long the fish have adjusted to it.

We are so used to fishing the live oxbows at a lower level but it may be time to change from the norm and just go poking around in the flooded woods. The largemouth bass are easy to find on the points, bluffs and near the mouths of the drains at Deer Park and Old River Vidalia.

Try Bandit and Bagley crank baits. Rig one rod with a crank bait that will cover the 4- to 8-foot range. Rig another rod to cover the 8- to 12-foot depths and another to get down really deep. A Bagley DB3 or a Norman DD22 will dive to about 18 to 20 feet on a 12-pound test line on a long cast.

At 38 to 42 feet, the deep diving cranks are my choice. Once you locate and catch a few bass on the deep diving lures, switch to a heavy jig or your favorite soft plastics fished behind a heavy slip sinker.

Ease back through the productive area and you’ll pick off the fish that are not active enough to chase the crank baits. The bream fishermen are still catching fish, but not as many as they were last week. Just go back in the flooded green willows and fish crickets in 4 to 8 feet of water for the big Old River bream.

The crappie bite is still good. You can catch a limit of big slabs fishing anywhere from 14 to 18 feet deep with a jig tipped with a live minnow.

Just stay toward the outside edge of the flooded green willows and fish the jigs right off the bottom. The big slabs are there but it takes time to locate the fish. Hopefully this next rise will be the last. I hope so.

This waiting for a favorable level and watching the river stage is getting old. I suggest going anyway and spend some time on the water and you can find the fish no matter what the river is doing. The best time to go fishing is when you can.