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Is the Fall Migration Influenced More by Water Temp, Or Daylight?


papajoe222

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I ran across a situation that I didn't expect today, the big girls had started to move shallow and I don't believe it was a feeding migration. It got me to thinking about the influence the amount of daylight has on seasonal fish movements.  I know that in the spring, despite cooler than ideal water temps,. a large percentage of the bass will spawn based on the angle of the sun/ length of daylight/ moon phase. I never considered it to be a factor in the early fall, but after browsing through my fishing logs, I discovered that, despite the water temp. that first movement happens right around the new moon every September here. 

Unlike their movements in the spring when they'll retreat to deeper water and back during early pre-spawn, what my experience shows is that once they begin that movement in the fall, they don't retreat to deeper water until the winter cycle begins.  Can anyone confirm my suspicions or post links to articles that talk about the early fall migration?  If this is, in fact, a general rule to follow, I and you can eliminate any areas below a certain depth after the movements begin.  I don't know about you guys, but anytime I can narrow down my search, prior to getting on the water, it gives me more time to locate that zone the fish are using and at this stage of my life, time management becomes a major factor.

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I have found that in the fall, the overnight low temperature can greatly affect the early morning bite. When it’s clear and calm, we drop to colder overnight temps. The early morning bite is then poor until it starts to warm up with the sun higher in the sky. Which is a different pattern than in the heat of summer when overnight lows are much warmer and there is often a feeding window in the morning. We are supposed to have our first sub 50 degree night here on Tuesday night.

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The spawn is all about warming water temperatures from the cold water period, the photo period has nothing to do with the spawn outside of longer days increasing water temps.

Photo periods do effect plants more then temperatures. Shorter day light reduces photosynthesis when green plants produce oxygen, the plants start to turn brown. Brown plants    don’t support life and all life starts to leave looking for better conditions. Bass follow the food source. 

With DO reduction from die back of green plants the bass seek water with higher levels of DO. Cooler running creek water is one source bass seek out, food is 1st!

Tom

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, WRB said:

The spawn is all about warming water temperatures from the cold water period, the photo period has nothing to do with the spawn outside of longer days increasing water temps.

I agree the water temps. drive the spawning cycle, but to say the photo period has nothing to do with the spawn? For me, that's the only explanation for bass dropping eggs in water that's only warmed to 58 degrees and it's a full moon in late May.

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Where I live Big Bear lake is 100 miles south but at 7200’ altitude, phot period is ahead being further south. The spawn cycle at Big Bear lake is in May-June because the lake freezes. The spawn cycle 100 miles further north is Feb-March because of the lower altitude and warmer climate.

 Tom

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I think photo period is all that matters here.  I carefully monitored the spawning activity at a pond fishing nearly every day in the early morning.  This pond has many large bass.

 

What I have noticed is, here in NC at least (on my lakes and my ponds) bass start spawning about 2-3 weeks after the winter solstice.

 

The water temperature coincidentally DOES usually go up 2-3° along with increasing photo period.

 

I have seen bass on bed in 50° water here in NC, many many times.

 

I believe it is the giant bass that utilize this window of opportunity where bluegill and salamanders and even a lot of things like otters and beavers and birds are fairly dormant.

 

The fish spawn all summer long and well into the fall.  Utilizing drops and rock and sustained shade lines in the hotter months.

 

Bloody tails abound in the weekly catch right now.  Fresh blood.

 

The ONLY time they seem to feed and not spawn is when that water finally hits 48° and stays there for 2-3 months.

 

Then they move deep and follow shad for the most part.

 

 

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Started out talking fall & some how flipped to spawn. 

 

While everyone is running around studying the effects on the bass, y'all need to be studying the effects on the food source. 

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I think all this goes back to bass are individuals.  However, finding and catching them centers on what they have in common.  They've all gotta eat, and they're all gonna procreate.   While it's possible to find baitfish/food, with no bass nearby, you're not going to find bass with no food nearby.   Certain events like the shad spawn, bluegill spawn, mayfly hatch, ect will sometimes concentrate bass.  It amazes me how much bass behavior during these events vary from year to year.  

 

I also believe most of us (including myself) tend to be one dimensional regarding temperature.   What most of us see are the temperature readings from our transducers.  I have learned some by checking the temperature of bass when caught.   When the early spawners start I suspect the bottom where their beds are is much warmer than the surface temperature.    I haven't seen an bloody tails lately but saw them from mid January through June.   I fish waters with a bunch of spotted bass.  Some believe they spawn twice a year.   I haven't seen any evidence of that where I fish.  I also don't know if it's biologically possible.   I suspect it's just early and late spawners.   

 

As I gather more information about bass being up the lake (away from the dam), down the lake, up creek channels ect I get more confused.   One constant though,  I've yet to catch a bass out of the water.  

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12 hours ago, WRB said:

The spawn cycle at Big Bear lake is in May-June because the lake freezes.

 

Read your comment again with an open mind.  Yes, the water temp. is the major influence, but the photo cycle influences how and when the water warms. The bass in that lake respond to the spawning urge the same as any lake that freezes over. Check your logs, I'd bet you'll find years when those fish spawned before the water temps reached the normal spawning temps.

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Both.  But not in the same year.  I think it's just the combination of many factors that triggers it, not just one.  That's why it remains a little mysterious to this day, despite the generations of research by millions of humans over the course of history that's gone into deciphering this code.    

 

Watch the tree leaves.  That's usually the best indicator of fish migration patterns, in my opinion.  Nature knows more about nature than we ever will.  

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I don't disagree that understanding the forage that bass relate to on you body of water is probably more important than understanding bass and how they relate to seasons.

 

I feel like if you cling to the notion that seasons are defined by the temperatures happening around us, you will find yourself fishing loooong abandoned patterns all year long and chasing ghost fish a lot.

 

Seasons happen regardless of weather.  That is caused by sunlight and how much of it or little of it is hitting earth every day and I think that signals seasonal shifts more than any other thing for animals.

 

Spring can be really short and it can be really long.  It's not one clearly defined thing every year....just as an example.

 

As far as fall migration and how all of this relates to bass behavior, to me it's like bass are either out chasing or they're reproducing (kinda like @Woody B is saying) and in the fall, I think fish move shallow and engage in a variety of activities until the photo period tells them other wise.  

 

This migration still happens even if the water is still 90° in September.

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59 minutes ago, papajoe222 said:

Read your comment again with an open mind.  Yes, the water temp. is the major influence, but the photo cycle influences how and when the water warms. The bass in that lake respond to the spawning urge the same as any lake that freezes over. Check your logs, I'd bet you'll find years when those fish spawned before the water temps reached the normal spawning temps.

My point is Big Bear lake is further south then my location therefore longer photo period and if that was the primary spawn trigger the BB bass would spawn earlier not 3 to 4 months later. The reason BB bass spawn later is water temperature period. Smallmouth at BB spawn starts @ 58 degrees, LMB starts @ 62 rarely earlier. The local lakes Casitas, Castiac, Cachuma, Piru, Pyramid all start the spawn at different times. Casitas being a few miles from the ocean is always earlier and slightly cooler water temps, all the others start about 1 month later with Castiac bass spawning deeper.

All in the exact same photo period and Mediterranean climate, except Big Bear lake is a colder micro climate at 7,200’ altitude. Pyramid is located at 4,000’ and 50 miles north but warmer climate then Cachuma 75 miles north at 700’ near the ocean same climate as Casitas.

Start spawn cycle are the larger females and our lakes that have 2 to 3 spawn runs about 2 to 3 weeks apart ending around 75 degree water temps, except Big Bear has 1 spawn cycle over a 2 to 3 week period.

Tom

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I never said it was the primary influence, I agree that water (the fish’s body temp) is the primary. My only comment pointed to the fact that if the temp hasn’t reached that preferable one, after a short period, the photo will. 
For the sake of the thread, let’s leave this for a future discussion. 

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Let’s put this thread back on the tracks...fall migration.

The photo period affects plants including aquatic plants.

Shorter day light slows growth and cold weather signals the plants to drop leaves and return sap towards the roots except evergreen trees.

Bass tend to make their cold water migration about the same water temps when the spawn ended around 75 degrees. Cooling water signals the bass to feed up for the cold water period coming. Our small lakes don’t have running creek water arms, it hasn’t rained in months in this Mediterranean climate. The bass still move where the bait is and the bait is mostly Threadfin Shad (phytoplankton eaters) Bluegill, Sunfish, Crappie all move into bigger schools until the turns over. Best fall time to bass fish is before the turnover. Everything scatters after the turnover until the ecosystem settles down and the water keeps cooling until about 55 degrees when the cold water period begins. 

Out local lake the turnover lasts about 2 weeks for each. The cold water rarely drops below 45 degrees with a few exceptions like Big Bear that freezes. Florida strain LMB can’t service water colder then 45 degrees limited their distribution.

Tom

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I certainly don’t have the knowledge of WRB but this topic comes up every spring on my Nebraska fishing forums regarding the walleye spawn.  Our state biologist claims that the walleyes spawn at the same time every year; regardless of water temp of ice cover still on the lake, and said that photoperiod is the main factor driving the walleye spawn.

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^This^...maybe...probably true. But comparing Walleye habits and Bass habits is like comparing oranges to apples. Also, statements about bass behavior are not absolute either. The behavior of a bass in a large deep lake is at least in part different than the behavior of a bass that lives in a shallow river or creek. The type of forage plays a big role also. Where I fish has no threadfin shad, herring, or alewife as forage. We have minnows, bluegill, sunfish, suckers, etc. and that type of primary forage does not behave the same as shad/herring/alewife, which means the bass do not behave the same. There are generalities that can be made. Cooler water=feeding up for winter is true no matter the body of water...but bass movement and timing is controlled by so many variables that it is impossible to make a blanket statement about it. Be aware of the general rules....but remember to take into account the local conditions and the type of water you are fishing, and don't be afraid to go against "common knowledge"

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I think there's always fish doing different things at different times at every part of the year and you have populations that relate to different types of forage on every body of water.  Unique personalities and habits and all of this translates to a lake full of bass doing lots of different things at the same time and it can be rather confusing but understanding the role that certain biological factors tend to have on both the forage and the bass is better than another Jerkbait or bag of soft plastics.

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