The big dredge has all but been wrapped up now and last summer’s weather played games for the whole open water season. High water persisted well into the ice up and the water level is now 4 feet lower than when ice was forming, thanks to a timely fix to the dam’s generators. There’s been hardly a peep about the winter fishing and I’m curious what people are finding this winter.
For the last two springs I’ve seen some changes. First there were high water events while the spawn was happening. Last year was bad for silt at spawning time. Personally I haven’t seen any of the larger crappies that were so common only five or so years ago. Sunfish seem to be there yet with some real chunks occasionally. Over the last two years I’ve personally caught only a couple true 12″ fish, a few 11’s but mostly the 9 1/2″ to 10″ stuff.
I had the occasion today to chat with Kevin Staufer of the Lake City Fisheries Dept and we took a look at how test nettings have been showing more small fish as the rule of late, but a number of factors can be at play in this observation and I’m not sure what a couple years previous showed. I shared with him my observations and we pretty much agreed on them.
Right now is not a good time to get all worried about this because we have no idea just how well the fish community will deal with the new environment created with the dredging, especially for the spring spawning period. And of course our weather seems to have thrown us a mess of curve balls and will probably get some more throws in next spring. Right now is a great time to start paying attention though: are you seeing the big crappies at all and are they there in numbers or just one here and there? I know that prior to the dredging’s onset the typical spawning habitat of the upper lake was showing a real decline in fish numbers and size.
I’ve fished that lake for almost 55 years and have seen it falter several times. Every time though it came back and the large crappies led the pack. But this time I’m not so certain a rebound of big fish is going to happen. It just feels like something has come unhitched in the lake’s fish balance. I think the next couple years are going to be important ones for the lake and we all need to be paying attention to what might be on the horizon. With Fishermans now a county property and a new ramp and park set to be put in place on that property most certainly the lake will see a super-sized increase in all types of water usage so a lot of challenges are coming. I’m wondering if what I am not seeing anymore is going to be the norm or if these changes are going to make the whole fishing venture out there worse?
I’d like to hear what people are catching and if they’re seeing a size deficit from past years. Anybody that’s been out there?