Fast river fall should bring fun times ahead

Published 12:03 am Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Mississippi River level is about to drastically change. It’s about time.

The level at Natchez/Vidalia has stayed at and just above the 48-feet floor stage for well over a month if not two months. The people who live and have camps on the unprotected side of the river levee should be able to drive in by today or Monday. That will be a huge relief to them. It is a pain to wake up every morning and get in a boat and drive to the levee to your vehicle. That is part of the Old River life so it is not like they are not used to it.

The predictions say we should have a level of about 44 feet today and 41 feet by Tuesday, and the fall is supposed to continue. I seriously doubt we get another rise that will bring the river back near flood stage.

Email newsletter signup

As far as fishing, I had my very best days of bass fishing at 38 feet and falling. Of course, that was probably more than 30 years ago. You can catch the run-outs at that stage or crank the bluff banks and points with deep diving crank baits that will cover the 15- to 18-feet range. That’s hard work. Age and too many fishing trips and elbow surgeries don’t allow me to pull the big deep divers for long but I still try.

You can do the same with an 11/16th ounce or a one-fourth ounce jig if you find the bass on your sonar. Deep fishing jigs are a slow process. Crank baits allow you to cover more water a lot faster than a jig, but a jig is a great lure once you locate bass in deep water. The chinquapin (red ear bream) and the big bluegill will be in the flooded green willows. Over the past four decades, 35 feet and falling seems to be the best level to start fishing for the bream. We could see that level next weekend. To avoid the little bait thieves, add a couple spilt shot to your jig pole and get the bait past the small fish and down closer to the bottom to the big bream. It works for me so it should work for you even though I do not get to bream fish much anymore. The white perch will be a bit more difficult to locate and catch until we see a level of about 30 feet and falling. At 28 feet, the old dead willow snags will begin to show. That is not to say you can’t catch the perch at a higher level. It just takes more work with your sonar and your jig poles to locate the white perch.

With this fast fall coming downriver, you can have a blast fishing the run-outs, the ditches leading from the flooded barrow pits to the Old Rivers catching sea run striped bass and white bass. Locally, white bass are called bar fish but bar fish are those little yellow belly fish that don’t get much larger than a pound or so. White bass can weigh up to four pounds and sea run striped bass in the Old Rivers could weigh eight to 10 pounds or more.

Sea runs a mysterious fish. From what I could find out over the years these fish come up from the Gulf and spawn in fresh water and return to saltwater. Unlike the striped bass in the reservoirs that are sterile hatchery raised fish the sea runs spawn. They fight the Mississippi River current upstream from the Gulf for hundreds of miles which makes them a very hard pulling, lean fish. You can catch the sea runs and white bass right now. If you are in the right place at the right time while the water temperature is still cool, they will be feeding on the surface making them easy to locate. Lures don’t matter much.

Crank baits, tail spinners and jigging spoons will catch the striped and white bass. If you are cranking, just stick with bright colors. Good things are about to happen on the live oxbow lakes. Have fun!


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