April is for herring, pike and volunteers, all of which we really need.
Rhode Island rivers are loading up with river herring. Alewives and bluebacks are working high tides to move from salt to fresh water on their spawning mission in runs all over New England coastal states. Alewives spawn in calm ponds and lakes while bluebacks prefer a little more action, reproducing in moving water. Their return is another miracle of nature, considering they’ve been at sea for two to three years and somehow know to return to their natal streams to continue the cycle of life.
Buckies are forage fishes, meaning they feed a whole web of terrestrial and marine animals and thankfully are protected so the days of taking a bucketful for striper bait are done for now. If you can get to a herring run, please take a few moments to watch this miracle migration.
Northern pike are digging all this early season warm water. Pike, Esox lucius, are veracious feeders and a prized catch. With spots and lines of green and grey, blending perfectly with submerged vegetation where they hunt, floating against thin grasses, they are nearly invisible in low light conditions and murky pools. They can lay motionless for hours then race out of the shadows at thirty miles per hour to attack other fishes, frogs, mice, even small waterfowl and when necessary, their own siblings.
Pike are all teeth and all business
So while April is for herring, pike and volunteers, pike will move from deeper lake waters to shallows, commencing ancient rituals of reproduction in waters between 45° and 65°F. Females produce approximately 9,000 eggs per pound of body weight which is impressive considering eight and ten pound pike are common and females can grow to seventeen pounds. They scatter eggs atop submerged leaves for males to fertilize with milt which, after two weeks, break free from their protective egg sacs and use a tiny adhesive patch on their foreheads to cling to the leaf’s surface. Nature is nothing short of absolutely amazing. From that point, life gets even more precarious as they learn to feed on plankton and then small fishes while calling on instinct to help them hide and conserve energy. Having hatched in relatively cool waters means their births are a few weeks ahead of other fishes which will make them just a bit larger than their classmates and as reason would follow, better prepared to fight for the next meal. Brilliant.
Northern pike have backwards facing teeth, to tear into their prey and hold them sideways before either drowning them or turning them around to finish the kill. Charming. As pike are largely indiscriminate in what they attack, spoons are a favorite lure since they can outlast their teeth and strong jaws. Spoons have an inherent irregular movement based in no small part to one Lou Eppinger, a taxidermist who saw opportunity with the invention of clunky heavy bait casting reels. Tirelessly he worked, pounding out a warbling erratic copper design that was thin in the middle and just a bit heavier to the sides, a quirk lending spoons their unmistakable action. In the same way a twitched rod tip will infuriate a smallmouth bass guarding her young or a largemouth patrolling a sunken stump, spoons offer reflection, signaling irritation with just enough sparkle to catch any fishes eye.
Spoons like the Al’s Goldfish Lure Company spoon and action plugs, like a Rapala X-Rap, will anger pike. Tipping your lure with a Zoom Fluke will serve you well amongst weed and grass lairs as will short stainless leaders to accommodate their teeth. And man, they are all teeth.
Our government is looking for recreational anglers. According to NOAA, “The Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior seek nominations for individuals to be considered for membership on the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council. The Council is a Federal Advisory Committee Act group that advises the Secretaries on aquatic conservation and restoration endeavors in fresh, estuarine, and marine environments that benefit recreational fishery resources, enhance recreational boating, and encourage partnerships among industry, the public, and government to advance these efforts.”
A board of 19 people will consider topics including studying impacts of derelict vessels and possible way to recycle them, recommendations regarding non-motorized vessels and the impacts they have on access with consideration of funding sources to improve access and non-motorized boating safety programs, and also reviewing assessments from the National Outreach and Communications Program. New members will be considered if they are senior-level representatives of their organizations, can duly represent them, commit to two annual meetings, either in person or virtually, and year-round subcommittee work. If you are interested in applying, you should read through the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council information on NOAA’s website.