White bass should be biting
White bass have been noticeably absent in the streams surrounding Utah Lake this year. Though I don’t believe there is anything to worry about (there are still plenty of them in the lake), the longer I go without seeing fish the more excited I get for the fall.
It’s hard to keep up with a species that isn’t extremely popular and are caught almost as an afterthought by many anglers. At times, they fill the rivers and streams in endless schools which makes the catching easy, but then, like this year, a few fish came up the streams in the spring but left very quickly and haven’t returned. That is about to change, however.
Three or four species of fish spawn in backwaters and ponds connected to several inlet streams spread around the lake. In late September, the young of the year (2-inch minnows) begin to show up in the current heading towards the lake. It is then the white bass take advantage of the summertime drought of bait fish and begin to chase and ambush any small fish that swim.
I watch a couple of streams including the lower Provo River most of the year and just last week began to see minnows showing up by the thousands. It is my guess, with that much food in the water, the white bass won’t be far behind.
If you want to teach a child to fish, white bass make a great target. They are aggressive feeders, put up a good fight and make excellent table fare. Although they don’t get much longer than 11 to 14 inches, even the shorter fish produce a nice fillet.
To find white bass in the fall, you should be prepared for two things: fast action or no action at all. Rarely do I see anglers catching one here and one there. Most of the time if the fish are close by you will catch them, and if they’re not it’s like fishing in an irrigation ditch.
Since white bass move in schools you should start your search near the lake and then work up stream. Take plenty of 1/8-ounce white or chartreuse jigs, tiny white Beatle Spins (small spinnerbaits), Panther Martin or similar spinners or Gitzits in white, green or black. The idea is to mimic as closely as possible the actual minnows in the streams or around the docks.
This time of year the catfish minnows are coal black, the crappie minnows are various shades of green and the blue gills are several shades of brown, green and blue. Walleye minnows and white bass minnows are white.
Find an area where the current isn’t quite as strong as the main stream and look for pockets of deeper water, perhaps at a bend in the stream or behind a log or rock sticking out of the water. Throw your lure so you bring it back through those pockets, watching all the while for fish movement in the water. White bass rarely need to be coaxed into biting so if you see a fish you can generally catch it.
When fishing with children, remember to help them remove the hook from the fish. White bass have sharp spines that puncture the skin and can be very painful. Having a good pair of gloves around is never a bad idea when handling these fish. Next, make sure your kids wait to feel the fish before setting the hook, especially if they can see the fish in the water. Anticipating the strike loses more fish and any other reason.
Finally, try to fish early in the morning and late into the evening although I’ve certainly caught my share of white bass on a lunch break. Regardless of the time, if you find some white bass you should be able to get them to bite.