Archive for Sunday, April 14, 2002

White bass white hot now

Delaware, Wakarusa good spots

April 14, 2002


This is the month when a growing number of fishermen are hot in pursuit of Morone chryspos the scientific name for white bass.

In fact, some anglers begin their quest in March and continue past the first week of May. It's all done in conjunction with the white bass procreation antics.

Back in the springs of the 1960s and into the mid-1980s, small scatterings of anglers pursued white bass in the riffles and pools of the Neosho River above John Redmond Lake or at similar spots above other eastern Kansas reservoirs. These pursuers intercepted the white bass during their migration to and from the riffles where they spawned.

However, those bountiful white bass runs to the Neosho spawning riffles are virtually a thing of the past, according to Leonard Jirak, fisheries biologist for Wildlife and Parks. Siltation is the culprit, Jurak said.

Also, during the past three Aprils, a cadre of accomplished anglers has discovered that the riverine spawn above other area reservoirs hasn't been as bountiful as it used to be.

It was once a simple task for two skilled anglers to catch and release 100 white bass in four hours of fishing. Nowadays two anglers can occasionally tangle with 80 white bass on the best of outings, but on most treks they struggle to catch 40.

Moreover, the duration of the spawning run seems to be shorter. In Aprils past, white bass seekers could intercept nearly continuous waves of fish has they headed to and returned from their reproductive rituals. Now there are only a couple waves of white bass running the rivers.

Some suspect the effects of the floods and silt that ravaged the waterways of eastern Kansas during the 1990s might be a reason why the spawning activities of the white bass have declined in the rivers.

In addition, Jirak postulated that this year's drought lowered the water levels in the rivers that feed several of the reservoirs to the point it inhibited some of the white bass from making their annual river run this month.

For example, the water flow into Melvern and Pomona lakes on April 1 registered only seven cubic feet per second.

On top of the drought and silt, this year's spawning run was adversely affected by a series of severe cold fronts that waylaid northeast Kansas in March and early April. Thus on several early spring outings, the river fishing proved difficult.

For instance, my nephew, Roger Kehde, and my brother, John, both superb white bass fishermen from Sedalia, Mo., joined me for a foray up the Wakarusa River above Clinton Lake on April 1.

On this exceedingly warm and windy day, the Wakarusa's water temperature ranged from 53 degrees to 58 degrees perfect for egging scores of white bass to wander upstream towards their spawning grounds. But at the upstream riffles, the river flowed at the languid and unseductive pace of 25 cfs.

In other years, we have caught and released more than 200 white bass on these river excursions. This year, however, we could entice only 40 or so to engulf ours jigs dressed with chartreuse plastic grubs.

Yet in spite of all the problematic conditions, Calvin Page, a veteran white bass angler from Holton, occasionally found the white bass fishing in the Delaware River above Perry Lake more fruitful this spring than it was in 2001.

On the same day we were on the Wakarusa, Page worked a Delaware riffle, which flowed at 65 cfs, and caught 60 male white bass by employing a jig and yellow plastic grub. However, the next day brought a wicked and windy cold front and he caught on 27.

Then after two days of April showers, the Delaware's flow increased to 750 cfs on April 9, but the river also turned murky and fouled the fishing for the sparse population of migrating white bass.

Since the slow flow in the rivers failed to allure vast numbers of white bass out of the reservoirs in early April, Jirak and many eastern Kansas white bass fisherman anticipate the best fishing this spring will occur in late April and early May as the white bass spawn on the rocky shorelines of the reservoirs' main bodies.

While joining the lustful gatherings at Milford and Pomona lakes, some anglers might enjoy an encounter with a humongous wiper or two, and that could cause them to change their mantra from Morone chryspos to Morone saxatilis.

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