I have always been fascinated with migrations that occur in nature, whether it is bird migrations, large animal migrations or those migrations that occur in the world of the fish species. It also amazes me how one species in nature depends on another specie’s migration for their livelihood.
Recently, I was watching a nature program about the caribou’s 400-mile migration in Alaska’s arctic region. The caribou migration involved a herd of more than 150,000 animals. The program concerned the dangerous elements that the caribou had to endure. They also had to evade bears and wolves as they made it to their grassy destination. Once to their destination, they had to deal with millions of mosquitoes. Their migration was long and dangerous as they crossed the arctic determined to reach their summer calving grounds and food.
We do not have anything like the caribou migration on area lakes but migration for spawning purposes does occur every spring on Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee. On these lakes, water temperature is the trigger that indicates to the lake fish that it is time to spawn and finally the water temperature has begun to rise and the fish have noticed the change.
We are currently about to move from the pre-spawn period to the spawning period for some species on area lakes. Spring officially began on March 20, but the fish do not operate their lives and their spawn based on the calendar. The weather has finally begun warming up and that will warm the water temps.
As spring begins, the amount of daylight increases, the nighttime air temperatures begin to rise and those factors begin a gradual rise in the water temperature. That slight rise in water temperatures is noticed by the fish and is their signal that spring and the spawning cycle is approaching.
Water temperature is the greatest primary indicator that ushers in the migration of fish to spawning areas. Once a slight upward movement of the water temperature occurs and that is now definitely occurring, we will possibly move quickly from the pre-spawn period to the actual spawn.
We have experienced a cold, rainy, sometimes mild and crazy winter across middle Georgia and the cold temperatures and muddy water had been impacting fishing success and for a while, it looked like it would impact the spring spawn. The water temperatures have finally seen an upward movement into the 60s after hanging out in the 50s for several weeks and if the upward movement continues the spawn will begin to happen for most fish species.
A sign that indicates the white bass spawn is underway occurs when you witness cars parked along the road where Cedar Creek passes under Highway 129 on Lake Sinclair and just this past week, I saw several cars parked there. The white, hybrid and striped bass are the first species that attempt to spawn in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee. The striped and hybrid are unsuccessful at spawning but the white bass do spawn.
Looking at the long-range forecast, it appears that the warming trend will likely continue and we will have a possible normal spawn for all fish species. But after this year’s crazy weather anything might happen to disrupt the spawn but my prediction is for the spawn to begin in earnest.
The pre-spawn period might see-saw some back and forth with some late season cold snaps and the fish migration to spawning locations will be slowed or even reversed by those cold snaps. That is why the timing of the actual spawn is difficult to predict and could occur over a period of several weeks.
The old beliefs that anglers can await the dogwoods blooming to fish for crappie and that largemouth bass spawn at a specific temperature have been disproven. The fish will spawn over a period of several weeks but more importantly, the fish will bite in the pre-spawn period right on through the actual spawning period so you need to be on the water now. Good fishing and see you next week.