Fishing report: Signs of fish behavior shift

Through the decades, we’ve watched seasonal fishing trends, hoping to get an accurate line on the behavior patterns of favorite species in our area lakes. The consistencies we’ve noticed have helped us catch a lot of fish. But the consistencies seem more and more these days to be… well… inconsistent.

Many elements of our lives have shifted fairly radically through recent years. And it seems more and more as if even the fish have turned.

For instance, it was pretty well established that, on local lakes, the speckled perch spawned heaviest at the full moons of February and March. After the speck spawn wrapped up, bluegill took their place in and around the spawning cover starting in April. Then the bream spawned throughout the warm months.

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Now, contrast all that with what panfishers are finding this year. Ren Gallon and Andy Hadsock are well-experienced local anglers. They target a wide range of fresh and saltwater fish and they’re good at catching them all. With high water and panfishing conditions favorable on Newnans Lake, they have lately been working there.

Three weeks ago, Hadsock and Gallon visited the lake armed with speck jigs expecting to find late-bedding specks, but they took along some crickets—just in case the bream were already biting. They were surprised when the crickets produced a cooler full of big bluegills while their crappie efforts went almost totally unrewarded.

A week later, in the same stretch of flooded cypresses and using the same baits, it would have been reasonable to expect the bream’s numbers to have only grown. But this time, it was all speckled perch. The fishermen pulled scores of specks from around the Newnans trees and put 42 of the biggest ones on ice.

Later, while cleaning the mess of fish, they found that 34 of them were still-prespawn roe-bearing females.

Last week, Gallon and Hadsock’s trip to Newnans again produced lots of fish and they were again all specks. The men kept 32 good fish—less than half of the fish they boated.

Instead of the crappie fishing peaking early and giving way to bream in late March (as we old time watchers would have predicted), the reverse seems to have occurred. A week into April, the specks apparently remain in the shallow spawning cover, at least in Newnans Lake.

If you’re craving fish stability, the salty inshore favorites seem pretty much on schedule. As the gulf flats warm, we’ve heard of occasional cobia and tripletail sightings to go with steadily increasing mackerel numbers as the migrating favorites join our always-dependable trout and redfish.

These days, snook are also solidly in the mix for inshore anglers. One might tie into a hard-fighting linesider anywhere now along the Big Bend coast.

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