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Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Fear of few blue fin unfounded

But blustery wind plays hob with search for large white bass

October 28, 2001

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To the relief of a number of local anglers, the blue fin season began in earnest on Oct. 9 at Melvern Lake. Before their magical manifestation, fishermen feared Melvern's blue fin population was so slim that this traditional autumnal affair wouldn't occur.

In the vernacular, a blue fin is a large white bass. And when the water is relatively clear and cool, the bigger specimens of this species exhibit a bluish-iridescent hue on their dorsal, pectoral and anal fins.

Before Oct. 9, many of the white bass must have been in what anglers call "a state of piscatorial limbo," meaning their whereabouts couldn't be pinpointed.

Apparently they were suspended and slowly meandering from their summer haunts in the deeper confines of the reservoirs to the shorelines.

The white bass come to the banks in April and May in the grips of procreation. Then, as part of their natural orbit of the lake's environs, they return in October and November.

The reason for the autumnal visit to the shore can only be conjectured. Most anglers suspect the white bass are there to forage upon the gizzard shad, which also inhabit the shore as the water slowly cools in the fall.

However, once the water temperature drops into the 40s, most of the shad and white bass vacate the shore and return to the deeper confines of the reservoir.

When the white bass gambol about the shallow shore, anglers have found that clouds and some wind improve the fishing. That early October day was grace with lots of wind, clouds and even a bit of drizzle. The wind, however, was too intense, hitting gusts of more than 30 mph from the south, and its vigor restricted an angler's ability to make pinpoint casts and alluring retrieves.

Nevertheless, Tom Mosher, a veteran fisheries biologist with Wildlife and Parks, and I braved the conditions. We battled the wind and waves at Melvern for six hours.

We were the only fishermen afloat, but if the white bass hadn't been foraging on shad along the shore, it would have been a fruitless and miserable adventure.

The primary purpose of this outing was to extend a cordial hand to the KWP biologists, people I've frequently criticized for their laissez-faire methods of managing white bass.

It was also to show Mosher how vulnerable the white bass can be at certain times of the year by pointing out how several ruthless anglers can kill hundreds of them in a few days and destroy the fishing for others.

The first part of the agenda might have been achieved, but the wind plagued the second.

Yet, despite the horrendous wind, we tried to entice the white bass to engulf either a Rat-L-Trap or a spinnerbait. Both lures were heavy enough to work in the wind and not so large that the white bass were repelled by them.

The wind blew at such a torrid pace that our only alternative was to let it blow the boat along the shore. So we blew at nearly a 4 mph clip from the backs of the coves towards the mouths, periodically slowing and adjusting the direction of the drift with the electric trolling motor.

There were spells when we could complete only three casts and retrieves within every 150 feet, which left many feet of the shorelines untapped.

By day's end, we hadn't caught our obligatory 100 fish. Only 43 blue fins had been hauled over the gunnels. But it was the start of the traditional fall blue fin run.

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