With triple digit weather like we’ve had for quite a while this year, fishing would appear to suffer — or shut down.
Some good catches, even outstanding catches, are reported here and there although they may be few and far between. Many experienced anglers say the hot weather is much more of a detriment to fishermen than it is to fish.
We have a story from a quintet of Conway fellows for an illustration of hot weather success on the water.
Buzz Bolding, John Brainerd. Jim Brown and Bobby Hill accepted an invitation from Reggie Rose for a couple of days fishing at his camp near Winchester, which is a few miles south of Dumas.
The weather outlook was hot and going to get hotter. It definitely was not ideal fishing climate, but the five were good friends who welcomed the chance for an outing, some fun time with abundant story telling and, yes, fish a little.
The angling site was a backwater off Coon Bayou, which is a tributary of Bayou Bartholomew. This is southeast Arkansas bottomlands where you can expect most anything from alligators to mosquitoes so bit they have ticks on them. Like most such environment, the fishing can range anywhere from outstanding to miserable, and this can change within hours if not days.
Those five Conway fellows have fishing backgrounds from frequent and skilled to seldom. Bolding, now retired as the longtime athletic director for Conway schools, admitted, "I had not been fishing in years."
Late on the evening of their arrival, they rigged up for crappie, using jigs. "We caught 10 nice ones," Bolding said, "and I told them this is easy. Nothing to it."
The five went back out the next morning and brought in 35 or so more. All the fish they kept ranged from a pound and a half to a pound and three-quarters, Bolding said.
"We used black and chartreuse jigs, fishing eight or nine feet deep. There was a lot of timber on the bottom that showed up on our depth finders."
Anglers who know these lowland backwaters so prevalent in eastern Arkansas appreciate several characteristics in addition to sometimes good fish catches.
Trees are around the edges of most of these lakes, sloughs, cutoffs and bayous. Trees provide shade, a most welcomed factor in an unusually hot Arkansas summer. For the fish, trees also provide shade, and this means the fish may take to an offering from an angler.
Over the years, these trees die and fall into the water, providing structure for fish to use as cover. The fallen trees can be on the surface, just under it or several feet deep.
A few miles from where the Conway group caught their highly satisfying bunch of crappie, a bass fisherman found a fallen tree in another backwater to his liking to the tune of $50,000. This was David Shopher, winner of the 2012 Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza with his 6.27-pound largemouth from the coal Pile area just off the Arkansas River at Pendleton.
A bit to the north and east is the extensive White River National Wildlife Refuge, known for ducks in the migrating season but also known to fishermen for its backwater fishing. Well over a hundred lakes are on the refuge, all fish habitats but most difficult to reach unless you know the territory.