Temperature is the key to spring fishing

03/01/03 By John Phillips

- Spring fishing can be easy, if you have a temperature gauge. Why do people come to the South for the winter months? Because they want a more comfortable temperature. Bass and crappie react the same way, especially when the spawn is close.

For this reason, if you know how fish act at certain temperatures, you can find and catch them. Warm fronts during this time of year affect the way bass and crappie move. So, I'll tell you how to react to weather fronts in order to catch more fish.

THE BASICS FOR CRAPPIE: "Crappie spawn at a temperature between 60 and 65 degrees. Bass spawn between 65 and 70 degrees," said Alabama fisheries biologist Jim McHugh.

Although there is only a variance of five degrees in spawning temperatures, what goes on in those five degrees is very important.

"Crappie move out of their deep-water homes and into more-shallow water at about 60 degrees," McHugh says. "The male crappie come into shallow water first and start fanning the beds in preparation for the females to spawn. Expect to see the male crappie in shallow, 60- to 63-degree water. The females begin to move into the shallow water when the water temperature is 64 or 65 degrees."

McHugh said fishermen also should remember that not all crappie spawn at the same time. The spawn can last for up to six weeks.

THE BASICS FOR BASS: Bass spawn in warmer weather than crappie do.

"Bass spawn in 65- to 70-degree water," McHugh says. "The males begin going to the beds in shallow water from 65 to 68 degrees, and the females start showing up when the water temperature is about 69 or 70 degrees."

Before the bass spawn, both males and females move to shallow waters. They hold offshore in deeper water, usually on structure or cover, waiting for warmer weather. The bass in most Alabama rivers and lakes start spawning during the first half of April.

Shallow water warms up quicker than deep water. Shallow water with lots of dead trees and logs warms up faster than shallow water with no wood cover. When warm rain falls, the areas where the warm water runs into the lake are where the fish will hold.

Lakes have a wide range of water temperatures. Find the warmest water in the lake, and you will find the fish.

WATCH THE WEATHER: An extended warm front that hits from now until spawning season will make the crappie and bass move into shallow water. A cold front will move both fish deeper.

"As bass and crappie get ready to spawn and/or begin to spawn, they will stay in the spawning area when a cold front hits," McHugh said. "The fish will just move to deeper water."

If you are catching bass or crappie in a shallow bay when a cold front hits, expect to find those fish in that same bay in deeper water, possibly not holding on any type of cover or structure.

Once, after a cold front hit in March, I drop-fished with minnows 10 yards off a bank. I was in five feet of water and away from structure. I caught a big limit of crappie, and you can too.





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