Bob Boese, Louisiana

April 13th, 2009

Post Spawn Fishing - The Fry Ball
By Bob Boese, Louisiana

Some of the "wise guys" say that post-spawn fishing is the toughest time of the year to catch bass and bluegill. Well, clearly these guys have never stood on the edge of a pond in August with rivers of sweat pouring off your moustache and huge mosquitoes trying to carry you off while you are attempting to coax a wary bluegill from its summertime lethargy. But, according to the smart thinkers, after the spawn (65-70 water) all the larger fish migrate to deeper waters and rest. This is only partly true. Never forget that there are know-it-all folks who tell fishers what's what, there are swallow-anything folks who believe whatever they are told, and then there are folks who pay attention to what's really going on.

If you heard someone say "fry ball" you probably think of food. In Louisiana we fry a lot of "balls" gar balls, boudin balls, choupique balls, mackerel and kingfish balls, dough balls (aka fried dumplings), and corn balls (aka hush puppies). When bass and large bluegill think of a fry ball, they also think of food.

Boudreaux moved into a new house and invited his neighbors for his famous chicken-sausage a gumbo. As side courses he served potato salad, gar balls, boudin and hush puppies. The neighbor's wife was a dietician who started to rant to other guests about the menu. "This meal enough to kill all of us just sitting here. Most of this food will ruin your internal systems. Mayonnaise is full of vein clogging fat. The cholesterol in meat will just stop your heart. Herbicides have poisoned all our vegetables. Fish are filled with toxins."

"I hear dat," Boudreaux said, "but there's one thing with more dangerous side effects than any of that" Boudreaux said.

"What?" the dietician asked.

"Wedding cake."

For the first week or so after the eggs hatch, bass and bluegill fry are protected on the nest by the male parent. At the end of the week, he leaves and the fry must fend.

Lake Veret Gar Ball Recipe
    3 pounds gar, choupique, mackerel or other dense fish flesh
    8 medium baking potatoes
    2 onions
    1 egg
    1 cup mixed onion tops and parsley (chopped fine)
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste (suggestion: make it hot)

Clean fish. For gar and choupique, scrape flesh off the bone. Soak in milk several hours. Put onions and flesh into a food processor. Pulse until just combined. Mix by hand with boiled mashed potatoes, diced onion tops and parsley, egg and seasoning to taste. Roll into 2-inch balls. Dip balls into flour then deep fry (375 degrees Fahrenheit) until brown and floating.

for themselves feeding on zooplankton and schooling for protection. Every bluegill nest will produce thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of fry. As they venture from the nest, they are to larger fish what M&Ms are to kids. Traveling in a large school, the fry have a tenancy to "ball" up and one good gill flaring inhale from a sizeable largemouth bass can take in hundreds. Curiously, birds seem to ignore fry balls – probably a bad work/reward ratio, so larger fish attack the fry ball with relative impunity. Only the male parent will not eat his own fry (scientists think this is because of some genetic coding that causes an odor the male parent can detect), but the female and every other hungry fish will feast. Fish feeding on the fry ball have little interest in other foods – hence bad fishing.

Bluegill fry are so small that they can only be replicated by midge-sized fly patterns. Unfortunately, while trying to hook a bass or large bluegill on a #20 hook is possible, it is not a likely scenario, and unless a fry ball is found to cast into, predators won't bite a lone fry fly because they generally don't bother spending energy on such a small snack. Like kids grabbing a couple of M&Ms as they pass by the candy b owl, lone fry are an eaten due to proximity, not because they were hunted down.

But there is good news.

Many large bluegill will have retreated to deeper waters and can be caught there. Now the bad news. Fly fishing in deep water requires that (1) you know where the fish congregate (somehow you have to locate structure, humps, drop offs, etc.) and (2) that you have the proper equipment to get deep enough. When you consider that Scientific Angler's advertises that their "full sink" line will sink at

1.75 - 2.75 inches per second (that's inches, not feet) and is designed for depths from three to six feet, getting deep enough is a real problem. Even if you have the patience of Job, getting a light fly down to a fish at 6 feet with full sink line is going to take you a minimum of 26 seconds. It's a good way to get drunk. (Cast, open a beer, drink some beer, hum a favorite tune, drink some more beer, retrieve, repeat.) You can also try your usual floating line with a long leader (12+ feet) using weighted flies or lead shot on your fly line. This will actually get your fly deeper faster but makes casting somewhat interesting and will result in a bow in the line below the water level (affecting sensitivity).

Alternatively, you can fish larger flies in the shallows, slowly. Opportunistic feeders are not adverse to taking a larger meal over the thousands of fry required to make a good meal. An attractive pattern placed in the proximity (that means very close) of a predator may get some attention if it is worked tantalizingly slow. A large bluegill who knows fry are available isn't likely to go beyond his hiding space to chase down even a good looking fly, so every potential fish holding area must be worked carefully. It's not really very different from how a pond should be fished other times, but when you see the water boiling with fry, it requires a lot more patience to divert a predator's attention.

It is not recommended, but if you want to fish a fry ball, a mercury midge (black plastic bead head with iridescent body) is a good choice. Unfortunately, while a predator may not shy away from tippet materials, fry will, often leaving your offering alone. Using a #20 fly on anything larger than 6X is difficult anyway because the eye of the hook is so small and the fly is so small that line with any significant diameter will overpower it and make it work stiffly in the water. Which means you have two new problems: trying to set the hook with tiny tippet, and trying to play a decent fish on tiny tippet. As for hook setting, forget it. Your only hope is that the small diameter of the #20 will provide enough hook penetration potential that a small tug will be sufficient. As for fighting the fish, be prepared for a drag-free battle, making sure you don't have too much pressure if a bass makes a head shaking jump.

P.S. The fry ball phenomenon only lasts about two weeks due to predation. After that the "you just thought things were bad" real summer period arrives, which is the subject of another article. ~ Bob

About Bob:

Robert Lamar Boese has fly fished for five decades. He is an environmental negotiator, attorney and educator who has provided environmental legal services for more than thirty-three years including active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice. He is a well known fly tyer with several unique patterns to his credit. He has developed and authored federal and state regulatory programs encompassing a broad spectrum of environmental disciplines, has litigated environmental matters at all levels of the federal and state court systems, and is a qualified expert for testimony in environmental law. He has authored over 60 published text chapters, comments or articles on environmental matters, is a member of the Colorado, District of Columbia and Louisiana Bar Associations, and is a certified mediator. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Boese has been a high school teacher, an associate professor of Environmental Law and Public Health, has authored numerous fiction and sports publications, and is a softball coach and nationally certified volleyball referee. He is the president of the Acadiana Fly Rodders in Lafayette, Louisiana and editor of Acadiana on the Fly. He has been married for thirty years and is the father of two fly fishing girls (25 and 21). For additional information contact: Boese Environmental Law, 103 Riviera Court, Broussard, LA 70518 or call 337.856.7890 or email

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