Monday, May 3, 2010

Shadows and Phantoms…what is really in the water?

You see something in the water, a silhouette of a fish moving off in the distance. The shadow in the water is big, really big. This is either a state record bass or a small submarine. Pulse racing you cast with your heart all a flutter in vain as the dark shadow moves off.

“Damn that was a big fish. Why wouldn’t it hit?”

Chances are that this was not really a bass but instead a common or grass carp. Rather than being an aggressive predator fish and striking the lure, the phantom moves away. There is a way to help identify the fish type before going off into full panic-casting mode. Checking the shape of the tail will help greatly in regards to defining which species is which.

A good basic principle to remember is this:

Carp and catfish have a “V” shaped tail.

Bass have a tail with more of a flat edge when swimming in the water.

(Above: Here you can see the difference in tail shape. The “V” pattern of the carp’s tail is easy to distinguish even in murky water compared to the flat edge of a bass tail.)

As the water warms we will start seeing more shadows and phantoms in the water. In many cases we will see bass and carp sharing the same areas and giving bassers like me fits of euphoria at times and heartbreaking disappointment shortly after. Checking the tail saves me from practically jumping in the water for what I think is a 10lb bass.

More phantoms and in the water fish pictures…
When bass transition from their winter phase a few of the fish may need to ward off sickness. This sickness may be a result from injury, old age, and starvation and\or illness. Fish that get overplayed or mishandled late in the year may have to phase this period of recovery if they survive at all. These fish will be dark gray or black color and hover in the warm shallows while recuperating.

(Above: Recovering bass only inches from shore. These fish will be reluctant to bite and should be avoided. Give this fish a chance to rebound so it can see one more spring season.)

The fish are starting to move into various stages of prespawn across the state. Depending on the size, depth and overall temperature, the fish may be moving into nesting mode. The fits of cold weather may be bouncing things in and out of prime time. However I am finally taking myself off of blizzard watch and will be hitting the water in earnest. Sight fishing will be more of an option and I hope to mix my bassin’ game up with more shorebanging and sightfishing.

(Above: This scrappy 12’er is learning to ambush like a pro. Find the structure and you generally have found the fish.)

Hope this information helps distinguish the phantoms and fish shadows that you see in the water. Good luck and good fishing.

1 comment:

Mel said...

Hey Matt - Enjoyed the post here. I am learning quite a bit about Bass fishing from shore from you. Thanks for the tips on recognizing those "Shadows".