I recently had the chance to introduce two of my three daughters to the delights of the spring white bass spawning run.
Wasn’t intentional. We were out fishing walleyes on the catch and release stretch of the Mississippi just minutes from downtown Minneapolis and ran into a giant school of pre-spawn streakers near a long sand point.
Although we had caught a dozen or so walleyes, I wasn’t about to move once we lucked into the ravenous freshwater pelagics.
Like a smaller version of their sea-run cousins, the striped bass, white bass don’t really fight like a freshwater fish. Their athleticism is awesome, from how they tackle baits to their sprints once hooked.
You got it: a perfect bite for kids. Dad, too.
The schooling and feeding behavior of white bass can spell 100—even 200—fish days, perfect scrimmage opponents for anglers who love to fight fish until they’re sore.
And this past week we hit it just right two days in a row. My Humminbird read a water temp of 57.5 degrees, pretty much in line with what most white bass experts say is optimal for the pre-spawn bite. The moon was nearly full, too, which pushes whites near sandy points and other suitable spawn habitat.
We discovered the fish while vertical jigging H20 Precision Jigs tipped with fatheads—our walleye set-up—but quickly changed to plastics and cranks to fully capitalize on the bite.
Color seemed to matter. Had to look like the emerald shiners we saw busting the surface. For the plastics, a color called Oystershell or natural shiner, and in the Rap, Chrome.
We caught fish after fish after fish and then something surprising happened. My kids asked if we could have a picnic on the shore.
“Hey, we can make sand castles!” Lucia volunteered.
Mae reeled in another fish. “And we can look for morels in the woods!”
A few minutes later I nosed the old Lund into shore and unpacked our cooler.
We ate sandwiches, laughed, and watched fish bust water off the point.
Mae and Lucia ran around in the water, sand and mud, soiling outfits my wife later informed me “are not for fishing.” At one point I had to pull Lucia out of the muck by lifting her from the armpits. To hear her tell it, she was nearly killed by drowning in quick sand. But she did nearly lose her tennis shoes in the mire.
And they built sand castles, taking turns destroying each other’s creations. I ignored the fleeting fights.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist casting from shore, hooking another half-dozen scrappy white bass.
Like all golden afternoons, though, wasn’t long before the sun started sinking behind the horizon, and it was time to boat home.
Drenched to the bone, the girls huddled together in one of my old hooded sweatshirts.
I thought of lecturing them about getting wet, but didn’t want to spoil the purity of the experience. Let mom be the bad guy, er, girl.
Thank you, white bass. Thank you for the opportunity of a fishing “first” shared between one dad and his daughters.