Night fishing under submerged lights has supplied me with some great fishing memories and stories. I thought the other day about the great fishing Bull Shoals Lake had produced back when I lived in North Arkansas and my Uncle Norten was still alive, many years ago.
There was one fish in particular! We had fished most of the night, and by 7:00 a.m. I was bone tired. It was daylight, but the submerged lights on either side of the pontoon boat were yet burning, and threadfin shad were still circling by the thousands, their masses making a slight whirring, rustling sound in the water around us. The shad nets were so full of shad you could barely lift them out of the water. We had limits of crappie and walleye and a number of big white bass.
I hooked one of the thread-fin shad onto a quarter ounce jig-head I had just tied on, and cast it out away from the boat toward the steep rock bank about thirty feet away. Immediately a fish took it. I set the hook, and the fight was so-so, even though I could see in the clear water that it was a pretty good bass. In fact it weighed a little better than five pounds by my best estimation, even though it fought like a bass half that size.
Examining the fish, I could see why. Apparently it had been injured at one time or another, seriously enough that one side of its body was stiff and inflexible, like it was made from a hard Styrofoam. I called Uncle Norten over to look at it, even though he had just landed a nice walleye and was much more interested in it than my rather ordinary bass.
And then he too was amazed. “Never seen nothin’ like it,” he told me. “That bass is stiff as a board. Wonder how he swum like that?” And that’s when I said it…”Yeah, he’s been injured and those muscles on one side have ‘atrophied’..it’s a wonder he has been able to survive.”
A day or so later, drinking coffee in a small Ozark café just after sunrise, he told his buddies that on a fishing trip just a couple of nights before his nephew had caught a “petrified bass” of better than five pounds, twenty inches long and hard as a board. That was a story even they couldn’t believe! He had them looking at each other with winks and nods that had him a little miffed. ‘If he said we had caught a petrified bass, they ought to believe him’, he figured. I bailed him out by coming along a day later and putting an end to the snickers and winks. Uncle Norten hadn’t exactly lied. The fish was atrophied, not petrified. And while they accepted what I said, they weren’t real sure what the difference was either. My uncle wasn’t actually lying; it was just a matter of choosing the wrong word!
We are at the prime time for night fishing beneath the lights. On Bull Shoals the best of it will be the period of total darkness in late May after the moon is gone. You find a good place off the main lake channel, along a bluff somewhere and put out submerged lights, and wait for the threadfin shad to move in. There is no better place or method to catch a giant walleye than on Bull Shoals or Norfork in early summer beneath submerged lights. My biggest walleye there on Bull Shoals was eleven pounds, but I was with a fisherman who caught a sixteen-pounder one early morning back in the late 70’s. But in more recent years, there have been many four- to six-pound walleye taken from my boat on Bull Shoals beneath the lights in May, sometimes as many as ten or 12 per night. And the crappie there are huge, commonly thirteen- or fourteen-inches in length, and often up to sixteen-inches. On Bull Shoals under the lights, three- to four-pound white bass are often taken, and once in the early 80’s a Nebraska client of mine took a five-pound, four-ounce white, just a few ounces under a lake record
Night fishing beneath the lights on Stockton Lake in Missouri lasts through much of the spring and it too is spectacular at times. Just last week I went out on a 45-degree night when the moon was full. Because of the bright moon and cold, I didn’t expect much, but between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. I caught a limit of twelve- to fourteen-inch crappie and nine big whites up to fifteen-inches. None had spawned, neither crappie nor white bass.
We’ll fish there with submerged lights again this week. On Stockton there are no threadfin shad, so you have to take minnows, or fish with white jigs or spoons, or white pork-rind. But there are plenty of nice walleye on Stockton too, though not quite as many nor as big as we find on Bull Shoals.
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