Schools of white bass coming out of Beaver Lake should get a tardy slip.
The white bass spawning run up the White and War Eagle rivers usually is going gangbusters in mid-April. Here it was the middle of May and fishermen were sacking up heavy catches of hard-fighting white bass.
White bass on the move
The spring white bass spawning run is a short-lived event, but white bass can be caught all spring and summer at Beaver Lake.
Look for white bass to school on the surface, chasing threadfin shad. Use a white jig or small top-water lure to catch them.
During summer, white bass gather in schools along gravel points and flats 20 to 35 feet deep. They’re easy to see with a depth finder. Jigging spoons are an effective lure for summertime white bass. Lower the spoon to the bottom, jig it up and down and wait for a bite.
— Staff report
It doesn’t take long for word to spread on the fishing grapevine when the white bass run is on. Alejandro Gonzalez and Luis Gonzalez, both of Springdale, were among a pod of anglers gathered beneath the War Eagle Bridge on a drizzly May 12. The two friends aren’t related, but share a love of fishing. They were proud to show their mesh basket of white bass and a dandy largemouth bass to others gathered at the river.
Good white bass reports were scarce during April. Once the War Eagle River dropped to a normal level after the big flood on April 29, it was game on.
The Gonzalezes used white jigs, crawdad crank baits and Rat-L-Traps this fine fishing day.
“They just keep biting and biting,” Alejandro Gonzalez said, reeling in another. “After the water came up, it got really good. We’ve caught stripers, white bass, black bass and a gar here and there.”
They fished on the west side of the river just below the War Eagle Mill dam. Anglers on the east bank were catching them, too. Fishermen are permitted to park in the small lot across the county road from the mill, on the north side of the bridge.
The mill dam, about 6 feet tall, is the end of the journey for fish migrating up the War Eagle from Beaver Lake. They hit a wall at the dam and stack up in the pool below.
Word that white bass were biting in the War Eagle reached the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries office in Rogers. Biologists Kevin Hopkins, Jon Stein and fisheries tech Justin Hopper staff the office. All are ardent anglers as well as fish scientists. They headed to the War Eagle one evening after work.
The three caught 15 white bass with Lil’ Fishies, a soft plastic lure that’s all the rage at white bass time.
“No one was catching any except Justin,” Stein reported later. “He showed us how he was hopping his lure along the bottom. We started catching them when we started doing that. Ours were small fish, but we heard the day before they were catching some of the big females.”
He didn’t know what sparked their run upstream.
“Either they were just late or the river conditions got just right, a combination of the right water temperature and current,” Stein speculated. “It could have been a mini white bass run.”
It isn’t the first May white bass run he’s seen.
Stein remembered a cool spring two years ago. He and a crew were working at the White River below Beaver Dam. White bass make a spawning run up the river from Table Rock Lake, usually in March and April.
“It was mid-May and people were catching whites right and left,” he said.
Walleye are a bonus fish during the white bass run. Luis Gonzalez cranked in a nice one from the War Eagle. But was it 18 inches and big enough to keep? He didn’t have a measuring tape, but a fishermen nearby had a solution — the old dollar trick.
A dollar bill is six inches long. Use it to measure a fish. Luis and Alejandro whipped out a dollar. It measured once, twice, three times and more from tip to tail. A hair over 18 inches and big enough to keep.
Good white bass fishing may still be going on, or it could be history. The only way to know is to go.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 05/23/2017