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by Steve McCadams

    Now you see it. Now you don’t!

    Bobbers disappear in the blink of an eye. The feat is courtesy of feisty bluegill and shellcracker now on spawning beds. Their aggressive mood is a fisherman’s delight.

    Thanks to a warming trend these powerful panfish have resumed spawning phases this week after a short hiatus, brought on by last week’s “blackberry winter”. The weatherman is making up to us all by offering a nice week of sunny weather in the forecast.

    With surface temperatures climbing back into the low 70’s, anglers can expect some fine times ahead as the fish defend their spawning territory and smack a worm, cricket, or wax worm tossed their way.

    Some big bull bream, a southern term for bluegill, have been on a rampage these last few days, along with some hefty shellcracker that sometimes make it seem like you’ve tied into a bass. Some shellcracker, which are biologically known as redear sunfish, have eclipsed the 1-pound mark this week and can really put the bend to a light action ultra-light rod.

    Every year these rusty rascals go crazy in late April and throughout May. Weather is always a factor but anglers can depend on peak action in early to mid-May here in the Kentucky Lake area.

    They really pack a punch. And, they always seem to have an appetite. Added to it all is a competitive nature to defend the tiny craters they fan out on sandy, gravel substrates where a few weeds or bushes are often close by.

    Toss bait in their locale and it’s instant action. No messing around and no doubt about the outcome.

    Perhaps the most popular presentations are from anglers using light or ultra-light spinning tackle where light action rods add to the enjoyment. Light monofilament line in the 4 to 6-pound test range works great. And, a small amount of terminal tackle in the form of little bobbers, lead split-shots, and some light wire long shank number 6 bait-keeper hooks will put you in the driver’s seat.

    Bream busters of yesteryear used the standard cane pole and porcupine quill but the clear water demands nowadays seem to command anglers lay back and cast to the beds. Getting too close with the boat will spook the sometimes finicky fish, especially shellcracker that seem to sport a more illusive behavior than to their bluegill cousins.

    While bobbers are great for detecting light strikes and regulating depth, some anglers choose to cast small leadheads and slowly drag the bait across the lake bottom and intrude on the spawning zone.

    It’s a deadly technique and sometimes produces strikes from even sluggish bluegill that may sometimes hit from curiosity.

    Still, the thrill of bobbers fading away beneath placid waters is something that never goes out of style. Anglers from 8 to 80 still get a thrill and it brings the kid out in all of us.

    Added to the fishing fun is the fact that both bluegill and shellcracker are great to eat. Their small fillets are tasty morsels and will tip the taste buds of even the most finicky eater.

    As the peak spawning phases arrive, anglers can count on several weeks of great fishing fun. Generally speaking, the spawn last through most of May but often starts fading on the backside of Memorial Day.

    So, now is the time to test the water and enjoy the action while it’s hot. The darker colored bluegill are the males and they often occupy a zone where smaller fish are chased away.

    The light yellow or pale colored appearance indicates a female. Most veteran bream fishermen release the females while culling out the larger males for the cooler, a maneuver that keeps fish returning to the bedding area day after day.

    Take a kid or a veteran angler to a hot bream bed and watch the big grins jump up on their face. A smile has no age limits!


Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to various national publications.



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