How long does a spawn last? How long does a spawn last?
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    How long does a spawn last?
from ArleyC #13605  
4/8/2009 4:06:34 PM

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 I guess my real question is how long do bass typically stay on the bed?


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   no expert from Swimbait1  4/8/2009 6:12:09 PM
 I am not an expert. But I think the whole process can be done in a matter of 5 days or so. That is the "mating", the actual bed making, and the spawn. The bigger the fish, the less time she is on the bed. I do know that to be true.


Swimbait


   Calling Ralph Manns..........n/m from Scott #10308  4/8/2009 7:59:53 PM
 n/m


   actual egg depositing not very long from lukinupinbama #15447  4/8/2009 9:14:08 PM
 Over the years I have been blessed to witness (more than once) a female bass rubbing and rolling to force her eggs out her vent and onto the bed. It always is a short-lived act taking only an hour or so at max. She will then leave the 'nest' and return to her deeper haunts, exhausted and weakened, eventually regaining her composure in a few days and beginning her recovery (read - feeding). That is how the spawn affects a single female bass.


At that time the male will take over, deposit his 'stuff' onto the eggs and set up a perimeter to guard the eggs and impending fry hatch. The male will often stay for days into weeks until the fry are able to school up and survive (he might just take a swipe or two for nourishment for himself before he leaves them...) When you see a bedding bass it is usually the male that is left guarding the nest.


Multiply that by hundreds of resident bass who venture forth into the shallows on any given full moon phase in the springtime and you have a spawn 'season' that will extend for 2-3 months for the bass (plural). That is how the spawn affects all the bass every year. Now, factor in the weather and water conditions and it becomes a circus that can confound the best of us.


Remember - All the bass in any given lake do not all spawn at the same time. There is no magical signal, bell ringing or light flashing to tell them to get to the 'nest' now!That was always an old notion when I was younger (60's, early 70's) and the old timers would say "boy you can't catch no bass now. They're all on the beds." The spawn is an act of nature and Mother Nature sure can be fickle at times. But, ain't She grand!!


   Spawn timing from Ralph Manns  4/9/2009 11:52:17 AM
 Many factors, but mainly the weather and water temperature, effect spawn timing.


One big problem we have is that most of the scientific data on spawning come from hatcheries where conditions are often more stable and controlled than the natural environment.


The time between the first nest building and the actual egg laying often varies considerably from a day or two to a couple of weeks. Drops in water temperature after nest building can delay egg-laying. The male may hold on the nest, apparently thinking it is the "right" spot or may abandon it and come back and build a new nest after the cold-snap passes.


Actual egg laying can take only a few hours, or may last up to about 48 hours, largely dependent upon the ripeness of the female, her size, and her ability to release eggs quickly. A female with a large number of eggs may take longer, or may simple extrude more per pass. This is largely a factor of the general condition of the female and her diet and nutrition in the previous fall and over the winter.


Females may help guard the nest during and immediately after the egg-laying process, but may soon leave. The male is boss and bullies females trying to make them lay more eggs, so a female may leave to protect herself. If all her eggs were not spent, she may come back to a different male within 15 or 30 days when again ready to lay eggs. Often it is very difficult to interest either the male of the female while they are engaged in actual laying. Males defend the nest before and after. Females seem most vulnerable in the brief period after egg -laying before they depart.


The time the eggs sit in the nest and are guarded also varies. Warm direct sunlight and warm water at nest depth hasten the process. The eggs metabolize faster when warmer. Eggs are normally laid between 60 and 68 degrees, but subsequent temperture drops can lengthen the hatching process.


Time to fry swim-up may be anything between 5 and 17 days. Nest usually are failure after about 15 days. But, this spring I watched a 5# male guard his nest for 15 days before it was evident that the fry had hatched.


The male then guards the fry until his hormone anti-eating stimulus wears-off. The data on this is very weak as hatcheries often don’t leave the males with fry in an effort to maximize production. Field observations have seldom been specific enough to identify the behaviors of many individual males. In our pond I’ve seen males escorting fry until they reached about 3/8 -1/2 inches long, but I’ve also seen 3/8 inchers without apparent escorts. ( perhaps they were caught). I suspect that once a males is separated from his fry he may be unable or disinterested in returning as that motive has been steadily waning. The 5# male this spring ( a few days ago) stayed with his fry for 4 days before moving out of sight. This time may depend upon both the males hormones and the availability of planktonic food to grow the fry rapidly to about ˝ inch.


The moon phase appears to be a major player in spawn timing. The first major spawn appears to take place just before and during the first full moon with water temperatures at nest depth above 60 degrees F. I’ve then seen additional nest near the subsequent dark of the moon and next full moon. The sequence may then continue one m ore month, but as water temps hit the high 60s and lower 70s, the relationship to moon phase appears to me to weaken. Late spawners main concern is simply finding another suitable late spawning partner, as most bass will have already finished this task for the year. Late spawning males may need to sit a barren nest longer while awaiting the nearby passage of a ripe female, or perhaps may need to leave and return more often in wider searches for such a female.


Again, food availability is in-play here. Bass with inadequate food in the fall and over-winter, may have a delayed spawn or never spawn. If spring food supplies are strong (they usually are not) a spring feeding binge may build some late spawners.


There is some indication from tracking studies that large female bass return to the same nest areas, even the same exact nest, day after day. I recently saw a scientist on a video program suggest that males return to the same nests, likely the places they were born, instinctively, but implied that females from that nest would not – because males didn’t normally mate with members of the same brood (fish with the same genetics). I am no longer familiar with recent scientific findings and never read “everything” pertaining to black bass doing this, so I may have missed such a report. Bu t I have nothing to support this in my memory.


Avoidance of siblings is a human genetic understanding, but I’m not sure it is instinctive in fish like bass or salmon. I can’t remember ever reading a test in which a male bass sibling was tried and failed to spawn in a hatchery. Hatcheries would seldom have such a selection available. Just finding a partner seems an adequate separation factor, IMHO.


I’m sure this more than answers the posted question. I’ve earlier posted my understandings of temperature variation in black bass.Many factors, but mainly the weather and water temperature, effect spawn timing.


One big problem we have is that most of the scientific data on spawning come from hatcheries where conditions are often more stable and controlled than the natural environment.


The time between the first nest building and the actual egg laying often varies considerably from a day or two to a couple of weeks. Drops in water temperature after nest building can delay egg-laying. The male may hold on the nest, apparently thinking it is the "right" spot or may abandon it and come back and build a new nest after the cold-snap passes.


Actual egg laying can take only a few hours, or may last up to about 48 hours, largely dependent upon the ripeness of the female, her size, and her ability to release eggs quickly. A female with a large number of eggs may take longer, or may simple extrude more per pass. This is largely a factor of the general condition of the female and her diet and nutrition in the previous fall and over the winter.


Females may help guard the nest during and immediately after the egg-laying process, but may soon leave. The male is boss and bullies females trying to make them lay more eggs, so a female may leave to protect herself. If all her eggs were not spent, she may come back to a different male within 15 or 30 days when again ready to lay eggs. Often it is very difficult to interest either the male of the female while they are engaged in actual laying. Males defend the nest before and after. Females seem most vulnerable in the brief period after egg -laying before they depart.


The time the eggs sit in the nest and are guarded also varies. Warm direct sunlight and warm water at nest depth hasten the process. The eggs metabolize faster when warmer. Eggs are normally laid between 60 and 68 degrees, but subsequent temperture drops can lengthen the hatching process.


Time to fry swim-up may be anything between 5 and 17 days. Nest usually are failure after about 15 days. But, this spring I watched a 5# male guard his nest for 15 days before it was evident that the fry had hatched.


The male then guards the fry until his hormone anti-eating stimulus wears-off. The data on this is very weak as hatcheries often don’t leave the males with fry in an effort to maximize production. Field observations have seldom been specific enough to identify the behaviors of many individual males. In our pond I’ve seen males escorting fry until they reached about 3/8 -1/2 inches long, but I’ve also seen 3/8 inchers without apparent escorts. ( perhaps they were caught). I suspect that once a males is separated from his fry he may be unable or disinterested in returning as that motive has been steadily waning. The 5# male this spring ( a few days ago) stayed with his fry for 4 days before moving out of sight. This time may depend upon both the males hormones and the availability of planktonic food to grow the fry rapidly to about ˝ inch.


The moon phase appears to be a major player in spawn timing. The first major spawn appears to take place just before and during the first full moon with water temperatures at nest depth above 60 degrees F. I’ve then seen additional nest near the subsequent dark of the moon and next full moon. The sequence may then continue one m ore month, but as water temps hit the high 60s and lower 70s, the relationship to moon phase appears to me to weaken. Late spawners main concern is simply finding another suitable late spawning partner, as most bass will have already finished this task for the year. Late spawning males may need to sit a barren nest longer while awaiting the nearby passage of a ripe female, or perhaps may need to leave and return more often in wider searches for such a female.


Again, food availability is in-play here. Bass with inadequate food in the fall and over-winter, may have a delayed spawn or never spawn. If spring food supplies are strong (they usually are not) a spring feeding binge may build some late spawners.


There is some indication from tracking studies that large female bass return to the same nest areas, even the same exact nest, day after day. I recently saw a scientist on a video program suggest that males return to the same nests, likely the places they were born, instinctively, but implied that females from that nest would not – because males didn’t normally mate with members of the same brood (fish with the same genetics). I am no longer familiar with recent scientific findings and never read “everything” pertaining to black bass doing this, so I may have missed such a report. Bu t I have nothing to support this in my memory.


Avoidance of siblings is a human genetic understanding, but I’m not sure it is instinctive in fish like bass or salmon. I can’t remember ever reading a test in which a male bass sibling was tried and failed to spawn in a hatchery. Hatcheries would seldom have such a selection available. Just finding a partner seems an adequate separation factor, IMHO.


I’m sure this more than answers the posted question. I’ve earlier posted my understandings of temperature variation in black bass. Most angler want specific, but I'm afraid science can't provide them, we see the variables and have only averages.



   Thank You from ArleyC #13605  4/9/2009 1:57:08 PM
 That was probably the best answer I could have asked for. I was just thinking about some anglers talking about seeing a 5 pounder on bed in practice. Then they say they caught the fish the day of the tournament which in some cases has been a couple of days. I was just wondering how they knew she would still be there. Thank you for the information.


   When Bass Get Shallow-Minded from Bassdozer's Store  4/9/2009 2:38:32 PM
 

Here are some parts of a story I had written on this subject. I skimmed through what Ralph had posted, and I think much of this tracks loosely in the same vein. However, I also wanted to add that the spawning process - inside the fish's body - starts a lot earlier than most people think. For example, out here in Arizona, by late November, bass have pretty much developed eggs and milt glands - and that's even before the onset of winter here - and that's about five moths ahead of when they'll actually spawn. So I really think it is the end of summer and the fall feeding frenzy that helps develop the egg and milt glands for next spring. I think a lot of the spawning success for next year is a 'fait accomplis' even before the onset of winter, and since egg development happens so far in advance, I don't see where a spring feeding binge is going to alter the spawning outcome since there's just not enough time for that to have an influence on the eggs and reproductive organs that have been developing over five months.

Also, mustering or meeting or gathering and acknowledging the presence of opposite-sex spawning candidates happens a lot earlier than nest-building does, but my story below really only starts at the nest-building phase. However, fish will start gathering and acknowledging the presence of other potential spawning mates in deep water off points and other deep, prominent focal areas long before they even move shallow to nest. By finding and identifying that there are mating partners here that will move shallow, the bass in deep water doing this are confirming that there will be other fish to mate with in the vicinity when they do move shallow - and it is easier for the fish to find and acknowledge each other off the deep pre-spawn stagings spots before they move up and spread out onto the expansive shallows. So that mingling and meeting period also precedes the nest-building period - but the assignemnt below was to write about shallow-minded bass - so I left the deep water mustering part out of the following story. i also left out the part of crusing pods of females that cruise through the nesting areas to see and be seen by the boys on the freshly-made nests. Simply, the story was already longer thanthe magazine wanted, so I left out the female bass crusing stage. Still, it's a comprehensive read without that.

When Bass Get Shallow Minded

Spring, more than any other time of year, means shallow water fishing for bass. No matter what corner of the country you are in, there’s a period of approximately 4 to 6 weeks in spring when the majority of bass in any lake, reservoir, pond, stream or river system all tend to be in shallower water and more accessible to anglers than any other time of year. Many bass will be active in only a few feet of water, often close to the shoreline.

What brings bass into the shallows is that spring is the season when bass spawn or reproduce. To accomplish that annual feat, most male bass will build a nest in shallow water to attract gravid females to lay eggs in his nest. Most studies indicate highest spawning success comes from nests covered in from 1 to 3 feet of water. Deeper nests may occur in very clear water but are comparatively few.

Exactly where to build the nest is the first crucial decision (or instinct) that each male bass must make.

Nests are commonly established close to shore in protected bays and creeks, or on the sides and tops of mid-water shoals. Nests are usually in areas of quiet water. Nests are usually in areas of very slow current. Nests are usually on the leeward shore or sheltered from prevailing winds.

You may, however, find a bass nest almost anywhere, and sometimes in unusual places. Bass may spawn on depth breaks (rim edges of natural underwater pools, shallow eaves jutting out under cliff walls, submerged ledges, etc.), provided these areas have minimal wind and current exposure, and at a depth sufficient so that wave action will not destroy the nest. Nevertheless, the majority of nests are shallow and shoreline-oriented.

Males dig nests by dishing out the softer top layers of sediment with their tails to ideally get down to harder ground.  They use their tails like brooms in order to do this. Many times, the lower strakes of the tail will be rubbed raw. They prefer to nest on gravel, stone and hard sand bottoms that have recently been flushed clean of silt by natural water action. After sweeping it out vigorously, the bottom of the nest may be scoured down to clean chunk rock, gravel, roots, etc. Where the bottom is sand or dirt, the diligent tail-sweeping will tend to remove all the finer granules, leaving behind a slightly raised floor of pebbles, twigs, shells, rubble, etc.

Male bass instinctively prefer not to build nests wherever turbidity may be a concern. Clear water is preferable for spawning. Studies have shown that there is limited survival in moderately turbid water, and eggs may not hatch at all in highly turbid waters.

Not only may a soft bottom composition (mud, silt, clay) be avoided if that's possible, but areas that are prone to have wind disturbance, waves or water flow are also avoided, since both wind and water action can induce fluctuating temperatures, raise turbidity and deposit silt that may suffocate eggs.

Keep in mind, however, that the ideal conditions may not necessarily be possible on every body of water. For example, studies indicate that although turbidity (to choose one circumstance) is not preferred, it is not necessarily a limiting factor on bodies of water where it is the only option. Bottom line, bass are a tenacious species and will find places to successfully spawn on most bodies of water.

The nest-building urge in males is thigmotrophic. That means that they will build nests that are protected on one or more sides by "things" - whatever's available, including logs, rocks, pilings, stumps, ledges, etc.

Bass usually will not nest right on top of logs, rocks or other objects (although that happens). More common is to nest right next to them. Often one side of the nest is up against something tangible, and the male tends to keep this at his back. This may provide partial protection from predators and egg robbers, or a break from wind or water current.

In southern areas where it stays warmer and the shallow water stays weedier year round (for example, Florida or southern California), bass will use potholes or little patches of hard bottom in the midst of dense weed beds. These are little hard, gnarly spots where the weeds won't take root. These areas don't need to be very big, and are often hard for an angler to spot as the lush vegetation tends to grow up high toward the surface, often concealing the bald bottom spots. A little wave action helps to part the underwater grass momentarily, letting you get a glimpse of the small open patches and male bass nesting there. So a large expanse of underwater weeds that looks lie an endless sea of vegetation may, upon closer inspection, have numerous hard-to-spot nests scattered throughout the weed bed.

Wherever there are reed berms (long rows of reeds, tulles, phragmites, cat tails or any tall grass), male bass will use little pockets or indentations in the tall grass lines to make nests. The tall stalks can still be dormant and straw-colored or growing and green. In any case, they offer shelter from wind and waves and the tall stalks radiate heat from the sun down into the water. So any little indentations or pockets tucked along the edges of tall grass berms are great nesting locations.

Where there are beds of flooded brush in shallow water, base often nest at the very base where the main stem or trunk of the brush is rooted, fanning out a nest right at the very base, on the side facing the sun.

Sunlight, temperature stability, that the nest is secure from being battered by the wind or waves, with a hard bottom for eggs to cling to – coarse, grainy sand, fine gravel or whatever is available in terms of hard bottom, without the risk of siltation - those are some of the necessities that the male bass hopes to find for his nesting location.

As an angler, look for a combination of pebbly sand and rocks, and area that gets sunshine for much of the day. A place where you would plant a vegetable or flower garden to get good sunshine as opposed to a shadowy place or silty shoreline. You'll find nests in such places, and it is one of the most fascinating aspects of bass fishing to simply see the spawning grounds, the nests, the adult bass, the eggs and eventually the new crop of fry unfold over the course of several weeks each spring.

What does a nest look like? Usually round or orbital, often white or lighter-colored than the surrounding area. Eggs themselves are pretty hard to see unless you get very close or the water is very calm. Fecund (or hatchable) eggs tend to be beige in color. An active nest with fecund eggs appears crisp, spiffy and bright. An abandoned nest that has failed to produce fecund eggs will appear fuzzy, unkempt and not as neat.

We've spent a lot of time describing general nesting location requirements because that's why bass are so shallow in such large numbers in spring - to nest and spawn, to hatch and raise their fry until the hatchlings can survive on their own. Once all that's accomplished, most bass will move out of the shallows in order to seek the sanctuary of deep water for the remainder of the season.

Bass don’t pair bond but one female may visit a series of nearby nests so that she doesn’t deposit all her eggs in one basket. And one male may try to usher multiple females onto his nest site. So there can be a number of males and females in the same area spawning somewhat cooperatively, or there could be an individual male or two and female(s) that have found each other in a more remote area, and spawning on some isolated nest sites away from the crowd.

One last important point about where bass nest is that, usually there are colonies of nests that are built in the same place each year – and it's often the same bass that return to the same general nesting locations year after year.

Just like a bigger bass will occupy the prime feeding spots – so too will the prime males occupy the prime nesting real estate. So if there is a large male bass, it will usually return to and stake claim to the same choice spot to nest year after year. The size of the nest usually is an indication of the size of the male that built it. The bigger the male, the bigger the nest.

Finally, states and specific bodies of water may have regulations that limit or prohibit fishing during bass spawning season. In some cases, the most well-known and successful spawning areas will be put off limits, but the rest of the lake may be open to fishing. Point is, fisheries management varies from state to state, on different bodies of water, and may even be managed differently on different sections of a waterway when it comes to bass spawning season. So please check with your state and local authorities before you venture out to fish for bass during the spring spawning period.

Concerning different bass species, you may find smallmouth and largemouth spawning in different places and at slightly different times. In general, smallmouth nest building may start a few degrees colder on average, and may be in slightly rockier areas on average than largemouth. These factors are different - but not different enough - to warrant much special mention. Most studies have not indicated a major difference between largemouth and smallmouth spawning in terms of temperature, nest substrate or much else.

Nor do studies show dramatic differences between bass in their northern or southern ranges based on water temperature, areas used and so on. In general, bass in the deep southern ranges may get their urges a few degrees warmer than their far northern counterparts, but it's not substantially different.

Also, the further south you go in the country, the more staggered and spread-out that spawning may be since there is a longer period of clement time when spawning conditions are favorable The further north you go, the shorter the window of time conducive to successful spawning, hence the more concentrated the spawning season will be up north. For that reason (since the spawning season is so concentrated), northern states tend to be among the ones that prohibit or limit bass fishing during the critical, brief time when all bass must spawn almost in unison.


The Spawning Act

The spawning act itself is beautiful and fleeting. It often takes place under ideal environmental conditions. Bass pick the most incredible moments of the most perfect days for their offspring to be conceived....water like glass, a pleasant day, flowers blooming on shore and all that. Both the male and female bass appear to have heightened body colors, almost an aura or transformation of their bodily appearance that signals the moment. The larger female lays over on her side above the nest substrate and shudders with the smaller male also laying on his side almost touching right above her, then she moves off the nest. It's not long! A matter of seconds. She'll often do some inspecting and tidying up the nest when she comes onto it and she often 'takes charge' or acts more aggressive to intrusions by nearby egg-robbers like sunfish than will the male at that moment. The male seems more intent on keeping her there, and will often circle her and position himself to cut her off from leaving him. She'll do a lot of lingering near the nest both before and after, usually at the nearest weedline or bottom contour slope, usually within eyesight of the male and the nest. Spawning is a fleeting, brief moment. The female will typically slip back up onto the nest several times within a short period, or at intervals throughout the day. When there is no nest-robbing varmint nearby, the male will move off the nest for a few short seconds to go out to where the female is stationed, and try to poke or nudge her toward the nest again. She'll usually remain present in the area for days, especially so if there are several males with nests nearby. She'll rarely be very far from one of the nests, often hidden in the closest cover that offers concealment.


The Spawning Thermometer

Many anglers miss out on the peak bass spawning period. No matter where, bass tend to spawn a little earlier in the season than most anglers think they do. Whether you fish in the north or south, east or west, the peak spawning period often occurs just a little earlier than the majority of anglers are ready to go fishing. It's Mother Nature's way of giving spawning bass a headstart on raising their offspring before most anglers begin fishing in earnest.

Many anglers often use the full moon as an indication of when bass should be spawning, but there is little scientific fact to back that. True, the moon, the sun, other planets and their relationship to our spinning earth can and do exert forces that influence life here, but fisheries biologists focus on more down-to-earth indicators of when bass will spawn, and water temperature is one of the more dependable factors for determining that.

Most scientific studies see spawning primarily as a function of water temperature - the stability and duration (taken together, the persistence) of the average daily water temperature over time, the velocity of the season's overall warming water trend over time, the average delta of daily  low and high water temperature extremes, the frequency of sudden changes in water temperature. All these temperature factors have measurable effects on spawning success.

Water temperature is probably the one factor any angler can use to pinpoint when bass are spawning in his area.

So what are some of the key water temperature ranges to look for, and what may you expect bass to be doing at those moments?

  • Nest Building. Studies show that the urge to build nests occurs in males at lower temperatures than when females are ready to lay eggs. Most studies indicate bachelor males will begin to build nests in water temperatures as low as 54° - 57° and surely by 60°. There is a "magic number" above 60° when females begin to reveal their interest in the boys and the nests that they've built!
     
  • Mating. The actual laying and fertilizing of eggs can range higher or lower, but it usually takes place when the water temperature is stabilized above 60° and rising slowly between 60° and 70°. Dropping water temperature will tend to keep females off the nests, and rapidly rising temperatures have been reported to delay spawning until the warming trend slows down and stabilizes too. Newly-laid eggs will succumb to rapid temperature changes, either up or down.
     
    Sharp drops in water temperature, followed by increases, will  cause repeated waves of mating, but that doesn't necessarily mean multiple crops of viable eggs or fry. Waves of mating often indicate false and wasted starts. Sharp drops in temperature will also kill eggs, and studies report increased frequency of males deserting eggs in water dropping back below 60°.
     
  • Incubation. Fresh eggs need time to "harden" and become acclimatized to the environment after fertilization. Studies show eggs will become temperature tolerant after 12-15 hours. The males know when that's happened and it's the point when they will 'lock onto' the nests, meaning the males will become committed fathers and caretakers of the egg clutches from that point onward. Males defend their clutch from predators and fan eggs with their tails to keep a small flow of aerated water circulation and to keep sediment from settling and suffocating the eggs. Clutches can also get infected by fungus that destroys them, and fanning also prevents fungus from getting into the eggs. So the male becomes the groomer of the nest, and also the defender.
     
  • Hatching. Studies usually indicate optimum incubation and hatching temperatures to be from 66° to 72°. More eggs will hatch, and they will incubate quicker in this temperature range. For instance, almost all eggs will hatch in 3 to 4 days in this temperature range. That seems to be the ideal. Far fewer eggs will hatch and will take much longer to do so at lower temperatures.
     
  • Fry Independence. Fry are usually better able to survive temperature changes that would destroy eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the male will continue to shepherd and defend his tiny flock of offspring until the small school of newly-hatched bass fry become mobile and alert enough to evade predators on their own, sensible enough to hide from danger and otherwise fend for themselves. Fry become independent from their father and optimal growth metabolism for fry is achieved during early summer at water temperatures between 78° - 85°. At this time, males considered their fatherly duties to be fulfilled, and will leave the fry for good.

Sidebar: Spring Barometer Readings

It's overlooked. Barometric pressure is usually overlooked by the average angler who's planning what days to fish this week or next, but it can be important. Especially in springtime when bass are shallow, barometric pressure matters. Spring is a time of the season when barometric pressure can make or break a fishing trip. So, here are a few pointers about barometric pressure and how to deal with it. These pointers will help you most if you have a flexible schedule that enables you to fish any day of the week. Favorable barometric conditions do not wait until Saturday, Sunday or your day off to suit your schedule. Instead, you must time your potential fishing days to suit the barometer - not the other way around. If you can be flexible as to what days you take fishing trips, you can be on the water during favorable barometric periods and you may also avoid barometric high pressure periods that tend to be the toughest times to catch shallow bass in spring.

It's also deceptive. Anglers often get the urge to make a few casts when it's fair weather that is comfortable for us (bright, sunny dry, clear skies, light winds) but this same high pressure pattern that's so favorable to anglers often means poor fishing. Conversely, the arrival of wet, stormy weather will cause many anglers to decide to stay home even though such inclemency, as uncomfortable as it is to us, can yield a bounty of fish!

Pre-frontal conditions. When the barometer is falling, you will usually have non-westerly winds. This is usually a good time to fish, but it also means some wet weather is likely on its way into your area. Southerly or southeasterly winds are usually harbingers of wet weather that will usually pass through quickly (albeit sometimes dramatically with heavy downpours and lightning). Northerly or northeasterly winds usually indicate slower-moving larger weather systems which will take longer to pass, and they often trigger protracted feeding sprees in the hours just before their arrival.

Just before the wet weather arrives, it will be preceded by a "front" (an abrupt change in weather) which can often trigger feeding binges by bass before and during the frontal passage. Keep in mind, however, that fronts can be dangerous, especially ones with high winds and lightning -- not to mention getting soaked, having rough water, and possibly risky conditions. Never risk your safety. Always exercise prudence and restraint when it comes to bad weather.

However, if you want to fish the arrival of a weather front, it can be good to position yourself on a shore that has the wind blowing into it - which often means the northwest shoreline. Try to get the wind blowing into something such as a small bay, a point, a dropoff where a shoreline flat slopes into deeper water for example. These are all areas where bait will be pushed up, and bass will instinctively gather there to feed when those weather conditions occur.

Post-frontal conditions. Fair fishing will usually last for a brief period after the wet weather passes -- especially near mouths of feeder creeks. These are creeks that drain the nearby land and feed into a body of water. They usually flow a little stronger after wet weather, and bass will instinctively gather off the mouths of feeder creeks when they sense the stronger flow.

Immediately after a front passes by, you can expect some fine fishing when wet weather "tails off" gracefully without brisk westerly winds clearing the front out. However, if the wind quickly turns west after the front passes, this means that a high barometric pressure system is being pushed/pulled into the void left by the recently-departed low pressure wet weather. On such a west wind, you can sometimes expect this to cause the fish to get "lockjaw" and pull back out of the shallows. They'll often move out to the nearest deep water or else bury themselves deep in the closest thick cover nearby). This will often last 2-3 days before the west wind subsides and the barometric pressure stabilizes near normal.

Sure, you can "tough out" a high pressure period by fishing deep in the heart of thick shallow cover (if the fish buried themselves there to wait out the front), or you can move out deeper (if you have a boat to reach deeper water) but odds are you're still going to have to trick stubborn "lock jaw" bass to unlatch their lips during high pressure post-frontal conditions in spring.

In between fronts. The barometer and the weather may stabilize for a few days in between fronts, and you can usually expect the fishing to stabilize also. As the barometer starts dropping again for a day or two in advance of the next wet weather coming your way, fishing will improve! Then the whole cycle of pre-frontal low pressure, precipitation and post-frontal clearing will repeat itself. This respective pattern of fronts continues during the entire rainy season associated with spring.

The odds are in your favor. Just like the lottery, fishing often amounts to a game of chance where you can win some and lose some! Fish don't always follow the same game plans we do, but the average springtime angler's odds are better to be on the water just before, just after and during the arrival of wet weather (when the barometer is dropping, bottoms out, and then slowly rises). Remember, you will find that "just before" and "just after" mean exactly that and are measured in hours! If a low pressure front comes through in mid-morning, it may already be "too late" if a stiff clearing wind is blowing through by lunchtime!

Five to ten day forecasts. Five to ten day weather forecasts are the best (and really only) tool to help you plan ahead for when to fish or when not to - according to the barometer. The 5-10 day forecasts lets you see what is coming a few days from now or even next week. Although the weatherman may not be exactly right for any single given day, although fronts may not materialize exactly as they predict them, the "big picture" including the passage of fronts, the lead-in before them and the clearing trend after them should be obvious if you pay close attention to their actual arrival in your area. And if you have the flex time to fish the barometric highs and lows, you will improve your odds of being on the water when shallow bass bite best.


Sidebar: Fishing Tips for Shallow-Minded Anglers

Tending the Nest. The dutiful male bass stands guard to remove any debris that may fall on the nest or get pushed up on the nest by wind or wave action. This is often how many male bass on nests are caught by anglers (where nest-fishing is not limited or prohibited by regulations). Anglers simply cast any lure and let it drop right on the nest. To fulfill their nest-grooming duties, bass often pick up such lures to move them away and then drop them just outside the nest perimeter. The bass is often just tidying up, but can be caught as he holds the lure in his mouth in order to move it off the nest. This sounds simple, but bass quickly wizen up to the game. A bass may only nip at it or move a lure once before realizing that something's not quite right about the situation, and becomes reluctant to bother with the same lure before too long. Some anglers keep several rods rigged with different lure shapes and colors (or just tie on a different lure if you only have one rod). There's a great chance that the same bass will react strongly again and try to move each new lure off the nest when he first sees each different shape or color lure for the first time. It often doesn't matter what the next lure is; what matters is that it's different and 'new' to the bass.

Ladies to the Rescue. Another common situation when nest fishing is that if an angler removes the guardian male from the nest, the larger female is often lurking nearby, most likely undetected, hidden in weeds, brush or other seclusive cover. If the male is taken off the nest, the reclusive female will move up to sit on the eggs, keep silt off them, remove any debris and defend the nest from predators until the male returns. So where it isn't prohibited by regulations, some anglers may catch a male off a nest and temporarily place it in their boat's livewell in hope that the female bass will come out of hiding to sit on the nest, to catch her next. Keep in mind that the females tend to be much larger than the male bass, so that's why anglers sometimes do this - to try to catch the more desirable (because they're larger) female bass that are possibly hiding undetected in the nearby area.

Actually, There is No Need to Nest Fish. It's great to see nests and to enjoy the privilege to witness life's renewal going on before your eyes. But when it comes to catching fish, there really is no need to pull parental bass off their nests. It's often the thoughtless or inexperienced anglers who do that. You may often do better simply fishing the nearest cover close to nests. This is where the larger female bass will be positioned. It's almost as if the females are fulfilling a second outer layer of protection for the nesting area, and they are often receptive to hitting most any lure dropped near them. The females don't stay in the immediate vicinity of the nests for anywhere near as long as the male bass. So it may be best to leave the males alone, marvel at the wonder of it all, but don't try to catch them. Why do you think the male's guarding the eggs anyway? Because the offspring are doomed without him, and even under his protection, many of them will be lost anyway. Now if you catch him, take him or release him injured, the nestlings stand no chance. Even if you think you'll release him quickly and easily, it doesn't always work out that way. In some states or on some waters, it's prohibited, but even where it's not against regulations, it makes sense and is self-rewarding to voluntarily wait a few weeks until spawning is over, his parental duties are discharged, and then he's fair game.

Besides, there are better prospects directly offshore of the nesting grounds. When a female has expended all her available eggs, she tends not to linger much longer in the shallows, but heads for deep water close by. At this time, she is relinquishing all ties to the nest, leaving the male to do his best as a single parent. The areas the spent females head toward can be a considerable ways out from the nests, depending on the particular lake, of course. Some lakes have deep water fairly close to shore. In other cases, the females may journey far from the nests before getting to the deeper water breaks where they'll linger for a time. This is called the 'post spawn' period, and anglers often connote this time as a recuperative period when bass rebuild or recoup the energy spent on spawning. Anything manmade is a magnet - riprap rocks, concrete structure, retainer walls, pilings, docks, boat houses, bridges – you name it - if it's vertical structure in relatively deep water, bass migrating off the nearby spawning flats will linger there for the post-spawn period.

Islands – the points on them, any creek channels can be a hangout to some of the best bass right after they spawn. Again, these areas may be near or far from the nesting grounds. For instance, in many narrow creek arms or narrow channels, they may have a shallow side where nests may be constructed and a steeper side where females will bide their time both before and after they have spawned. So in these kinds of narrow creeks or channels, the pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn locations could be concentrated within a hundred yards of each other, or only one or two casts apart.

Self-preservation of the individual is a prime survival directive, but bass become shallow-minded and risk their own survival to spawn each spring. The benefits of their brave shallow-mindedness include the renewal and replenishment of their species and their shallow-mindedness indirectly benefits anglers since it ensures there will always be bass for us and for future generations of anglers to enjoy.

So get out and experience the rapture of the spawning season. See as much of it occur as you can. This article has given you tips on where to find spawning bass, but please act responsibly and respectfully toward them.


Edited 4/9/2009 3:17:36 PM


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