Outdoors with Forda Birds — By John Andreoni
I drove by the lake this morning, and looking from the East Bank was a Hallmark moment. This big body of water we swear by and swear at was absolutely gorgeous. The light was right, the skies were clear, and the water looked blue, a good blue. Over the past few weeks, some of my Facebook friends shared sunset photographs over the lake that were spectacular. I jumped on livelakedata.com and noticed that they’ve evidently stopped readings for the year as of November 1. I believe that was the plan. Regardless, the final data showed good oxygen, a tolerable Ph, very little chlorophyll, and a water temperature in the high 40s, Fahrenheit. Those are great fall lake conditions. Colder water temperatures have eliminated any algae problems we might have had, at least until next year.
With conditions like that, fishermen now have the opportunity to use a productive body of water for some exciting, productive fishing opportunities. Unfortunately, these opportunities are being ignored by many because of the brand Lake St. Marys now carries. Many fishermen have written the puddle off, and that’s their prerogative and also their loss. First, the water quality is excellent. Next, according to all available information, the fish are safe to eat. Finally, the fishing is excellent.
I’ve been picking up reports from local fishermen who are regularly on the water, and everything I hear is good. In general, good fishing can be found all around the lake. In terms of crappies, the removal of pontoon boats for the season has caused a lot of fish to seek new cover. This change has spread the fish out causing fishermen to hunt for them a bit more, but the fishing is still good, and legal-size crappies are common. Docks and brush are producing fish, and within the last week, crappies have moved heavily into the brush in a final stage before winter sets it. Basically, that translates into a spring fishing pattern that most pan fishermen are familiar with. In terms of numbers, it has always been a fairly reliable belief that the fall crappie run is roughly 75% of the spring season. Spring fishing was excellent in 2011 and that is being reflected again right now.
I have heard a lot about Lake St. Marys’ bluegill fishing the last couple of years. The lake has never been known as good bluegill water compared to Indian Lake, for example. For whatever reason, however, this seems to have changed, at least for the present. A lot of nice bluegills are being taken, and many of them are eating size. One fisherman I talked to estimated that 50% of what he catches are large enough to clean. His keeper fish are running 7 ½ to 8 ½ inches and the largest bluegills he caught last week were 9 ½ and 9 ¾ inches. All of these fish were taken from the bank. Boat fishermen will obviously have access to much more productive water.
Crappie fishermen and bluegill fishermen are using jigs tipped with many different varieties of plastic tails. When in doubt, ask your local tackle dealer for advice. If that’s not your choice, watch what sells. As a last resort, pick and choose yourself. I’m more prone to use what works for the 5% of the fishermen who usually catch 95% of the fish. The current go-to jig color has to have black in it. Straight black, black and chartreuse, and black and blue seem to be the most popular. The only difference between the bluegill fishermen and the crappie fishermen is that bluegills seem to like a wax worm added to their plate.
Another sleeper this year is the perch. A few fishermen are evidently picking them up in decent numbers. The only reason word hasn’t spread is that there have been no concentrations of perch fishermen. Like always, perch have to be found. The fact that there aren’t any fishermen doesn’t mean there aren’t any fish. The fish being taken, from what I understand, are coming from channels with baits being fished on or just off the bottom. I don’t have any particular areas in mind, but I imagine that any place perch have shown up in the past would be a good place to start.
Fall fishing at Lake St. Marys was always a popular activity. It was a great time to pick up fish because of their availability. The colder water also guaranteed excellent quality and firmness of the meat. It’s too bad that people have it set in stone now that Lake St. Marys is a bad place to fish and that the fish are unsafe to eat. That just isn’t the case, at least, right now.