White bass rule the rivers’ roost in April when these hard-fighting fish make their spawning run up the tributaries of Ozark lakes.
Anglers roll out the welcome mat, waiting in boats and on shore for the white bass. Smaller male fish show up first, followed by larger female white bass that lay eggs on gravel shoals.
The White and War Eagle rivers see platoons of fishermen when white bass migrate from Beaver Lake up these two tributaries. Anglers congregate below Beaver Dam as well to intercept white bass swimming up from Table Rock Lake.
How’s the white bass fishing this spring? The best way to find out is to grab a fishing pole and go. That’s the gauge a quartet of anglers used March 27, gathering on the banks of the War Eagle to fish for white bass.
Becky Roark of Fayetteville, and her son, Luke, 11, put rods and lures into their kayaks and buckled their life jackets. Alan Bland of Rogers and his fishing buddy did the same, loading gear into a 17-foot square-stern aluminum canoe.
Up and down the river bank, pods of anglers cast lures or used minnows under a bobber. Now and then a rod would dance and another white bass went on the stringer or into a cooler.
So abundant are these white bass at Beaver Lake that there’s no daily limit or size limit on them at Beaver or its tributaries. Anglers may keep all the white bass they care to clean.
This March expedition was early in the white bass run. Fishing was slow to fair, with four white bass caught from the river downstream from the historic War Eagle bridge. Anglers on shore showed our group stringers with about the same number of fish.
The catching has no doubt improved as calendars flipped to April. Fred Sutton is a ranger at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area and lives near the War Eagle River. Sutton reports seeing several heavy stringers of nice-sized white bass this month.
Male fish usually weigh less than a pound. Female white bass may weigh 1 to 2 pounds or larger.
Mike McBride of Winslow fishes the White River in the Twin Bridges area at Goshen. He rates the white bass run up the White River a 5 on a scale of 10.
“The water has either been too high or too muddy,” McBride said. “They’re catching them best on Alabama rigs.”
An Alabama rig mimics a school of threadfin shad, which are the main forage for all game fish at Beaver Lake. The rig is also called an umbrella rig because it looks like an open umbrella without the fabric. A small soft plastic curly-tail grub is attached to the end of each spoke, thus the resemblance of a shad school.
Most any lure that resembles a shad or minnow is likely to get bit. Luke and his mom cast soft plastic Lit’l Fishie lures for white bass. Bland opted for a Kastmaster spoon. His buddy held out hope for a walleye and cast a chartreuse crank bait, but caught a good-sized white bass with it.
Paddling beneath the War Eagle’s beautiful bluffs, with serviceberry and redbud trees in bloom, was as delightful as catching an occasional fish. A curtain of water dripped from a ledge of rock, creating river music when the droplets hit the stream.
“This is like an eco tour,” Roark said, relaxing in her kayak near the symphony.
The river was muddier than the group preferred. Roark and Luke fished the river two weeks earlier and found it even muddier from March rain.
Bland is a retired Beaver Lake park ranger and quizzed Luke on the river’s wildlife.
“What bird is that?” Bland said, pointing to a vulture. “Is it a black vulture or a turkey vulture. How can you tell?” he asked.
Later, a trio of turtles sunned on a log.
“Are turtles reptiles or amphibians?” Reptiles, even though some turtles live in or near water.
For an 11-year-old, Luke is quite the seasoned angler. Trout fishing is his favorite. He caught a 4-pound rainbow trout at Dry Run Creek near Lake Norfork Dam, a stream that only youths are allowed to fish.
When he’s after white bass, Luke’s favorite lure is a Rooster Tail, but he said a Lit’l Fishie is his other favorite. For him, fishing isn’t all about the fish.
“I like enjoying the time outside and the rewards you get catching the fish,” he said.
Get the red out
White bass are fine table fare. The filets of white bass and striped bass contain a thin strip of red meat that has a strong taste. Most anglers remove this red meat when they clean their catch. Simply run a sharp knife just beneath the top of a filet to cut away the red meat.
Source: Staff report