Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hunting Indiana for Huge Brown Smallmouth Bass

Indiana has more to offer than meets the eye when it comes to river fishing. Dozens of rivers and creeks that stretch the length and width of the Hoosier state. Like fine wines they all have their sweet, savory, sour, and sometimes intoxicating qualities.

If an angler starts to sample in the smallmouth bass fishing throughout the state, he may find many many opportunities to sample that ferocious bronze bass of river and stream, the smallmouth bass! Why fish for smallmouth? Their aggressiveness and fight are legendary as their finickiness. Smashing large topwater lures with reckless aggression one day, shunning the tinniest offering the next. Therein lies the sport in the hunt. One day reaction time is called for, the next endurance, patience, always testing the angler's observation skills, timing, presentation skills, and even luck.

We have Smallmouth in most all Indiana ditches, creeks, and rivers. Few know it takes a smallmouth 10-12 years to reach 20" length. Unfortunately, smallmouth bass rarely live long enough to grow so large. Floods, angler harvest, loss of habitat, disease, and pollution are all impediments to fish survival. Such fish are one in 500 or 1000 depending on the body of water and should be treated as too rare a treasure to be caught just once.

In growing so large, these fish have obviously developed a system of avoiding us! Clear water smallmouth bass can be very spooky. Long gone as anglers footsteps approach, unlikely to bite. When water is clear and skies are sunny, often the larger bass feed at dusk, dawn, or at nighttime. Most anglers dare not wade a creek at dark, but that is often when the monster comes out to feed on unwary shad or roaming crayfish. When their lateral line can sense the vibrations of injured prey and the moon's light outlines food's dying struggles. Likewise, another time to land large river bass is when the river water level is up and the fish are pushed out of their cover by fast currents, or seek bait fish clinging to micro eddies along the shore for an easy snack.

These large fish survive, often right under our very noses, clinging under an undercut rootwad, wedged under a rock, in tangles of the largest logjams. These hiding places allow the fish to survive from year to year and often totally avoid the novice angler. That is just where an angler must go to catch them down in the dankest, snaggiest, darkest lure trap to pull out the larger fish.

Water conservation groups such as Friends of Sugar Creek and the Indiana Smallmouth Alliance need your help to keep Indiana's streams clean and healthy. Indiana's number #1 pollutant is silt. Silt fills in the hiding places for invertebrates and fishes severly cutting back the potential to hold life. Often the culprit are eroded banks where tree and plant buffer strips have been removed by land owners. Deeper holes start to fill in after floods depriving fish places to hide from predators.

How can we help? Practicing catch and release of riverine basses, educating about good land practices near our waterways, reporting poachers, donating time and money to help preserve our streams for future generations.

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