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Al Agnew

Thoughts On The Bourbeuse

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Guest Brian B.

And- more on hybridization- has anyone heard the term "meanmouth"... Kind of an urban legend in my family, I caught some schooling bass at my pits over here in Illinois- they were all crushing white Zoom Super Flukes.. 14 smaller 1.5- 2.5 lb bass cast after cast.. Then fish 15/16 were -green smallmouth-, I was a Missouri resisent for years before we started heavily fishing Illinois- neithe myself or Pops had ever seen anything like it. I don't know how else to describe it.. -but a green smallmouth- and they were running with this school of largemouth. Was this some kind of odd hybrid, or are smallmouth capable of being green? I know they can change their color to an extent, but these were green as green gets, all othe features were pure smallmouth, body, big pores on the lower jaw, eye color, markings on the gill plate, the lighter lines... I mean it was a smallmouth, just green. (Smaller scales, the whole thing..)

Meanmouth a real phenomenon? My little bro claimed the fish existed, I remember googling it at the time but there was nothing really solid backing it up.

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Ozark you can interrupt when I am showing my arse anytime.. :)

So have you ever done well when that river is high(er) and muddy? (Or anyone else. For that matter) I have a few times driven there towing the boat- only to have kinda the conditions you described only to. "Give" and head to the Mineral Fork and wade fish- or. Higher up the Meremac.

I need to learn to fish it when its less than desirabke like you have described.

I have caught fish in those conditions before on the Bourbeuse, but I can't say I've ever done well. There may be ways to catch lots of fish when the river is running 2-3000 CFS but I haven't found them LOL. You spend more time trying to avoid strainers. It's great when it's about 50-300 cubic feet per second at the gauge in Union. Get too much above or below that and the fishing kinda sucks, honestly.

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Yes, they hybridize with smallmouth, especially in the streams where they are invasive, for some reason.

The "meanmouth" was originally the name for a laboratory cross between a smallmouth and a largemouth. Largemouth and smallmouth apparently never hybridize in the wild, but some scientist did the lab cross, and reputedly got a bass that was hyper-aggressive, even to the point of attacking people's fingers and toes. It got a big write-up in Bassmaster Magazine and other places, with people hoping there was some way of mass reproducing the things, but then it died out quickly. Since, the smallmouth/spotted bass hybrids have been called meanmouths at times, but they are no more aggressive than either parent. They are caught now and then on all the White River lakes, and there was one in the Bass Pro Shops aquarium in Springfield for a while. I saw it when they were holding it in a backroom aquarium to get it acclimated (they didn't want to put it directly in the big aquarium and then have it die in front of the customers). As I remember (this was several years ago) it was about 18 inches long and weighed in the neighborhood of 4 pounds; it was a very fat fish. My brother caught one on upper Big River that was 19 inches long, but a lot skinnier and probably weighed 3-3.5 pounds. I generally catch about one hybrid for every 20 or so apparently pure spotted bass on upper Big River.

As for your green smallmouth, they tend to take on the color of their habitat, but I've never seen a really green one. I've seen grayish brassy ones on Big River, where they were over a gravel bottom laced with gray mine waste.

Chief, seems to me like the changes you see from Google Earth are not necessarily the kind of changes that would favor spotted bass. Changing channels, widening riffles, and removal of riparian vegetation are the main changes I've seen on these streams. When it comes to Big River, which I'm most familiar with of all these streams, those types of changes are not all that common, and in reality Big River seems to stay a little clearer and is beginning to get a little deeper in the areas affected by mine waste. The clearer water should favor smallmouth, you'd think. What seems to me should favor spotted bass would be warmer, murkier water. The streams might be a little warmer than they were 30 years ago, or 50 years ago, but I don't think they are any murkier. Like I've said before, these streams were ALWAYS very good spotted bass habitat, being slower and dingier than the typical clear, fast Ozark stream. If the spots had a way to get to them, they would have thrived just as well 50 years ago.

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Guest Brian B.

I wish I had a pic of the two greenies,

And I thought it was odd that they were the last two that I caught- for some reason I assumed they would have struck at least in the first two/thirds of the pack.

I'm going to have to look up that hybrid spot, that's interesting. Sounds like I need to school myself on spots too.

The lake I caught the smallies on was one of two that IDNR had stocked, they do some pretty cool stuff in that park so a hybrid meanmouth wouldn't shock me, sounds like just very very green smallies- odd. Caught a lot of smallmouth- only two that ever looked like that.

Ozark, I meant more high/stained, not so much the extremem conditions you originally described- but I hear ya, I don't know if its that the river fish are so visually motivated or by gosh when that water comes up they are so focussed on just staying in the main channel- but yep- usually sucks high/ stained.

Hoping you guys will tell me when Bourb gets low/ clear. That- for whatever reason is when I have done best. I don't care about covering water as I always go upriver/ float baclk anyway.

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Al Agnew, on 10 Jul 2013 - 22:42, said:

Chief, seems to me like the changes you see from Google Earth are not necessarily the kind of changes that would favor spotted bass. Changing channels, widening riffles, and removal of riparian vegetation are the main changes I've seen on these streams. When it comes to Big River, which I'm most familiar with of all these streams, those types of changes are not all that common, and in reality Big River seems to stay a little clearer and is beginning to get a little deeper in the areas affected by mine waste. The clearer water should favor smallmouth, you'd think. What seems to me should favor spotted bass would be warmer, murkier water. The streams might be a little warmer than they were 30 years ago, or 50 years ago, but I don't think they are any murkier. Like I've said before, these streams were ALWAYS very good spotted bass habitat, being slower and dingier than the typical clear, fast Ozark stream. If the spots had a way to get to them, they would have thrived just as well 50 years ago.

I am pretty sure he wasn't using Google. One thing, which you kind of touch on in a way, is that over time, he noticed gravel bars growing, getting longer and wider. Which will come with the widening, and changing of channels. Which along with the loss, which he did mention, of the vegitation, you would think would add some murkieness. He also mentioned the vast land use practices along the corridor.

What is really concerning me right now is the huge loss of forage. I have been seinging about once a week or so different spots for about 5 years now. I have seen a massive drop in minnows, all species, and crawdads. Which is not only a major food source for smallmouth but, just about every other fish in the river too.

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Guest Brian B.

You just aren't fishing it far enough up- and likely at the wrong time.

Man I have. Good memoriesof the Bourb.

(That actually legitimately "offended" me... Blah ha ha ... I'm kiddin' )

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As we approach the dog days of summer, be sure to check for leeches if you're wading. Little buggers only seem to come out when it's hottest.

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Here are my thoughts on the Bourb. Cesspool.

Just as long as you tell every fisherman you know the same thing, you are doing me and others who like to fish it a great service:) Please talk up all the snakes and how much you drag during the summer-and how muddy and nasty it is when it's high enough not to have to drag. And that all the kentucky bass have displaced all the decent smallmouth.

All of it is based in some fact, but some of us largely don't care just as long as we can have a river to ourselves. Well, I do care deeply about the spotted bass issue, but all I can do is keep the ones I catch...And yes, I also enjoy catching them along with the native smallies and largemouth even if I know they probably shouldn't be there. As for the muddy water and the dragging during the summer and all that-who honestly cares? Apparently a lot of people which is more than fine but I don't understand. Now what I wouldn't recommend is floating it at 2500 CFS, if you like to be able to see an inch into the water.........

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Hoping you guys will tell me when Bourb gets low/ clear. That- for whatever reason is when I have done best. I don't care about covering water as I always go upriver/ float baclk anyway.

If it gets around 200-250 cubic feet per second or so at Union, it should be good to go (but not perfect.) You could give it a go reasonably anywhere up to 500 cfs but you'll have to plan for somewhat muddy water. I'm trying to plan a trip for next week so if that works out I'll let folks know what it's looking like.

Low/clear seems best for that river, but when it gets too low like it did last summer, it can begin to work the other way. The areas just below the riffles are usually the best holding areas for smallies, but those areas can get too shallow, and the fish can kind of go off their feed, or at least spread out some and can be harder to find. Also the Bourb isn't very spring-fed, so it's prone to warming up if the conditions are like last summer, which can be hard on smallies. The largemouth and spots don't seem quite as effected when it gets dead low. I like it right around 100 cubic feet per second as the happy medium, anywhere within 50 of that is usually great. You can certainly do well outside of that range, but that's when it seems to be really good.

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