Each year as the snow and ice melt away, thousands of anglers across Iowa plan and look forward to that first time out on the water. Our ice and snow wasn't in a hurry to go away this spring, but for the past three weeks area lakes have been a good place to try your fishing luck.
April is by far the best month of the year to catch really big fish. No matter the species you like to fish for, the "big ones" seem show themselves more often right now. I believe this happens for several reasons, and if you can key in on certain areas of the lakes, you too might be holding a fish of a lifetime this month.
First, let's get to the reasons why April, and even the first part of May, produce the largest fish. The main reason is the water temperature. In this column I often refer to fish as being cold blooded. Their body temperature is that of their surrounding water habitat. In the winter months fish do just enough to keep their bodily organs functioning. Even the biggest fish eat the smallest bugs and micro-organisms during the cold winter months. As the water warms, those big fish need more nutrients, and they must eat more to keep themselves going. In the spring water temperatures can go from freezing to 45 degrees in a week or so. This gets all activity in a lake ecosystem very active. The biggest fish being the most active, as they need to eat the most.
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
Marshalltown native Rick Fisher followed all the spring rules for catching big fish. Rick used a Wig’s Jig and Hot Rod Baits chunk fished extremely slow in shallow water a few weeks ago at Rock Creek Lake to catch this bass. The fish weighed a few ounces over 8 pounds, and the fish is still swimming today. Great catch, and even better release!
Another factor that affects large fish is the amount of food in the ecosystem in April. No fish species around Marshalltown has spawned in the lakes, so there are no new fry for fish to eat. In another month or so, there will be millions of fry in the lakes for all fish to eat, but right now bugs, a few emerging crawdads, and smaller fish in the lake. Big fish need more food, so they will be on the lookout for anything that moves, and if you are lucky they might see your bait or lure.
On to the catching of these big fish. Just a month ago, fish were under a blanket of ice and snow, the ecosystem was at an all-time slow down. Now, everything is in full swing. Algae have started to form, crawdads are coming out of dormancy (around 50 degree mark), bugs are starting to hatch, and the ecosystems are finally getting in tune with one another and filling the lakes with life. The most common place this will happen first is in shallow water. This water will warm the quickest, and those previously mentioned items will occur here first. It is even better to have this shallow water near some very deep water. The deep water is where most creatures spend the winter months.
The most difficult thing this time of year is deciding what type of bait to use and how slow or fast you should move your baits. In general, this time of year your baits should be moving very slowly and even still quite a bit during each cast. Whether you choose live bait or artificial lures, be sure to start with very slow retrieves and then increase as the water temperatures rise during the month. I have seen both artificial and live bait catch some giant fish this time of year, so no matter what you use, or what species of fish you are fishing for, fish it slow and it just might be your best day ever.
Last, but not least is to think about those big fish you might catch this month. Most female species of fish grow to be the biggest. So when thinking about our lakes in the area, if you do catch a giant bass, bluegill, walleye, crappie, or catfish, please consider releasing it after a few pictures are taken. These bigger fish are the future of our lakes, and in a month or more they will be starting the annual spawning routine. A few facts for the week; crappies can lay up to 80,000 eggs, bluegills can lay up to 50,000, bass can lay up to 40,000, walleyes up to 50,000 and catfish up to 100,000 eggs. When you think about in those terms, it might make it a lot easier to place that fish back in the water to swim another day, and so many more people can enjoy their Outdoor Ambition of catching fish.