Early May is a great time to hit the water in search of a variety of fish species.
The crappie spawn is on in the shallows, pre-spawn bass are slowly creeping up behind them and heavy rains make spillway fishing as good as it gets for post-spawn walleye, as well as catfish, white bass and other predatory fish.
I made a last-minute decision to do some fishing Thursday night at Lake Shawnee, the first time I’ve fished the lake since January.
It was a cold, overcast, post-frontal day — not the best conditions, but that’s been the case the last three times I’ve gone. That’s spring for ya.
I began by throwing a belly-weighted green pumpkin swimbait and got a few hits along the rocky shore, but couldn’t connect on a hookset. I swapped the swimbait out with a Ned Rig and started fishing a ledge. The riprap-covered bottom led to a lot of snags, but luckily Ned Rigs are fairly easy to get out of a snag. Simply turn your rod over in your hand and jerk it up a few times. I don’t know why, but that seems to do the job 90% of the time.
After probably the 10th cast, I felt a tug on the end of the rod and set the hook on a small fish near the shore. I quickly reeled in and flipped the small fish over the dead vegetation on the bank. It was a smallmouth bass, probably only about 11 inches long, but it was my first of the year so I was pretty happy about that.
I released the fish and began casting on the flat above the ledge. Ten minutes later, I jumped in shock after making a cast as a muskrat popped up out of nowhere just below my feet in the water. At first, I thought it was an otter, as it came up on its back, but it flipped over and I saw its worm-like tail.
I collected my composure and began to retrieve, but my line suddenly went taut. “Oh great,” I thought to myself. “This better not be a muskrat!”
But it was a fish, after all. The fight was on, and it dove several times, pulling drag as it did, but I finally got the hearty fish to the surface and laughed as I saw it was a freshwater drum.
I lifted the drum over the reed-like vegetation and grabbed it by its lip. It was about 15 or 16 inches long, maybe 2 pounds. Not a bad little fish, but quite small compared to some of the other drum I’ve witnessed taken from that lake.
I’ve heard drum are surprisingly pretty tasty, but I’ve yet to actually try one. They seem like a chore to clean. One of these days, maybe I’ll do a review of what one tastes like. For now, though, I’m not messing with them. I threw the big girl back into the depths and kept on fishing.
I fished that spot another 20 minutes or so without any other bites, and after I snagged and lost my Ned Rig, I decided to try the heated dock to see if there were any crappie up in the shallows there.
The bad news: I didn’t catch a crappie. Then again, if it had been calm enough for me to use a jig-and-bobber setup, my luck might have changed. The good news: I did catch my third different species of the day.
After making several casts under a tree where I’ve caught both crappie and drum in the past, I turned the other way and put my bait right along the bank near the weeds. I jiggled it a bit and immediately got hit.
I pulled the fish out of the weeds and into the open water and a good-sized largemouth popped out of the water two or three times in a row. I put my rod tip down and reeled it up to the walkway, flipping it over the railing.
It was an unusual catch, as the Z-Man TRD TubeZ soft plastic I was using had somehow gone over the NedlockZ HD jighead and was threaded onto my line about 3 feet up. I’ve had that happen a lot on Neko hooks and Texas rigs, but I’ve never had an ElaZtech bait do it, let alone going over that big ol’ mushroom jighead. The bait had a sizable hole where the head had passed through the spot where my hook originally was, but any other lure probably would have been completely ripped in two. Luckily, ElaZtech has a stickiness and stretch to it that helps holds the baits together in an unusual way.
I finished the day with three different species in just two hours of fishing — I started at 6 p.m. and left at 8 p.m.
It felt nice to fish in solitude again, especially in a place as beautiful as Lake Shawnee. Lord knows I needed the mental health boost. Hopefully next time I can catch a few crappie and get some dinner, too.