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What's the magical temperature that triggers everything in spring?

By ART HOLDEN Outdoor Editor Published: April 8, 2017 5:00 AM
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Want success this spring in the woods and on the water, get yourself a thermometer.

It's not actually as simple as that, but temperature is the biggest factor to triggering the spawn of some of the most sought-after fish in the midwest, as well as the growth of morels.

Nothing says spring like traipsing through the woods on a sunny day, eyes peeled to the ground for that familiar spike of sponge that fries up so well in a pan. And speaking of frying up in a pan, spawning walleyes in Lake Erie tributaries, and inland lakes of crappie and bluegill on beds lead to fresh filets.

And, all you need to know is the temperature.

In reality, it's more complicated than that, but temperature, and extended daylight hours, trigger everything from the growth of mushrooms and the spring breeding of turkeys, to the spawn of walleye, bass, crappie and bluegill.

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Right now in Lake Erie's western tributaries, walleye are starting their migration up rivers such as the Maumee and Sandusky. When water temperatures hit the magical 42-degree mark, males start heading inland. And as the temperature in the river rises, the run of walleye increases. Optimum river temperature for walleye spawning is 50 degrees.

The "walleye run" brings anglers by the thousands to the rivers' banks, fishing shoulder-to-shoulder, dragging floating jigs above a bottom sinker in search of a feeding fish. This year, because of the warm winter, the run started earlier, but usually hits its peak in April.

Nature has a way of keeping every fisherman happy, as not every fish spawns at the same water temperature. Each species is keyed into a temperature that allows it the best chance for spawning success.

Right after the walleye leave the rivers (not every Lake Erie walleye spawns in a river, in fact, it's a small percentage compared to the total number of walleye in the lake), white bass begin their pilgrimiage up the rivers. White bass runs, though, happen not only in the Sandusky and Maumee rivers, but in many other rivers throughout the state, and offer just as much fun, without the fishing pressure. Historically, Mother's Day is a good bet to catch the white bass run.

If it's crappie you're after, then start thinking about fishing when water temperatures hit 50 degrees. That's when crappie start staging in the flats for a prespawn feeding frenzy, where structure isn't as important as forage. At 57 degrees, crappie start spawning. Some studies have shown that black crappies will remain in the shallows after the spawn longer than white crappies.

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After crappie, bass are next on the beds, with males building when water temperatures stabilize at 60 degrees. Below 60, and bass can lose their eggs. Females will spawn between 60-70 degrees, with hatching between 66-72.

After the bass, bluegill do their thing, waiting until water temperatures heat up to 65-80 degrees, with the peak temperature 70-75.

Of course, every body of water is different, and temperatures differ even in each body of water, depending of depth, bottom color and composition, wind and sun.

And speaking of sun, it takes the warmth of the sun to make morels grow.

The tasty morsel needs heat, moisture and a sub-soil food source (that's why they're often found around decaying elm trees) in the right combination to grow. You want to know when morels will start popping up, check your thermometer. Morels need overnight lows above 40 degrees for at least four days in a row, and daytime temperatures above 70 degrees.

And finally, turkey hunting. While increased daylight hours ultimately triggers gobblers and hens to do their thing, warm or cold spells can adversely affect breeding activity.

A thermometer, a fishing pole, a pair of boots and a frying pan, and you'll keep busy and well-fed all the way into June.

Outdoor Editor Art Holden can be reached at aholden@the-daily-record.com or mornings at 330-287-1650.


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