116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
‘No waiting’ on this fishing outing
Wild Side column: Almost every good cast and several shoddy ones rewarded with solid strikes
Orlan Love - correspondent
Apr. 26, 2023 4:54 pm
Nothing ignites the procreant urge like an April heat wave.
Gobblers gobble. Underground hyphae deploy their spore-laden fruit. Warming water snaps fish out of their winter lethargy and propels them toward ancestral spawning beds to engage in virtually contact-free rites of reproduction.
That urge can at times border on obsession, triggering heedless behavior among those in its thrall. Whitetail bucks and tom turkeys, for example, are never more vulnerable to human predation than at the height of their hormone-driven mating seasons.
Any extrapolation higher up the food chain is left to the reader’s discretion.
Though less reckless, fish too are compelled to pass on their genes, triggering my current compulsion to intercept them en route to their spawning grounds.
For much of what passed for spring ’23, the river was too cold, swift, high and muddy, and the cold-blooded fish were confined to their calm and deep wintering holes, where they were hard to catch.
Then, after the April 4 hailstorm that battered homes and cratered the earth, conditions began slowly to improve. As the river gradually warmed and cleared, the bass and walleyes moved shallower and became more active.
I sought them in the mouths of feeder creeks and found adult smallmouth bass Monday in the warmer, clearer water entering the river at the third creek I checked. They would not go out of their way to chase a lure and bit only feebly when the lure got close enough to overcome their reluctance.
By Tuesday, nighttime lows and daytime high temperatures were at least 20 degrees warmer than normal. The bass were on the move, and I sought them in the slack water spots where they might pause for a breather from swimming upstream.
Also by Tuesday, the warming water had amped up the metabolism of the cold-blooded fish and whetted their appetites for plastic minnows.
At one spot Tuesday afternoon, they could have posted a sign advertising no waiting. They rewarded almost every good cast and several shoddy ones with solid strikes. Often free-swimming fish would accompany the hooked and thrashing bass on its way to the shore.
Back on the river by dawn Wednesday, my column writing day, I caught three bass on my first four casts, and the fruitless cast was a bad one. In 30 minutes I landed 10 bass, and I’d have caught more if I hadn’t stopped to photograph the four biggest ones.
Buzzed, my adrenal glands pumping at full capacity, I resolved to forgo writing this column and fish until the fish quit biting or I collapsed.
Then the sun rose over the horizon in all its brilliant orange splendor. It and its dazzling reflections on the calm water of the Wapsipinicon hurt my eyes and left me casting blind.
I took that as a sign that I should rest the fish long enough to write this column before indulging my urge to catch them all. I’ll get around to turkeys and mushrooms as soon as I’m finished.