Smallmouth on the bed: Look but don’t fish

Shadley bumps a smallie off her nest and captures a great photo instead of the fish.

I just returned from a marginal trout fishing trip to Wisconsin. More on my Wisconsin adventure later but I needed a fish fix so I headed to the nearest smallmouth stream.

Immediately I picked up a couple small fish and one 15-inch smallie. As I was releasing one of the little guys I noticed a beautiful 18-inch smallmouth bass sneaking away from the bank.

My first thought was “I just bumped her off of her nest.” Sure enough when I turned around and scanned the shallow water next to shore I spotted her nest. They are easy to recognize, they look like a two to three foot circle of very clean gravel and small rock.

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Nesting smallmouth can be fairly easy to catch and the sight of a beefy smallie slowly fanning her nest can be very tempting. I’m sure I’ve accidentally caught smallmouth bass while they were spawning but I never target them. We need to leave these fish alone so they can produce future generations for us to catch.

If you see one of these fascinating works of nature, sit back and enjoy the show. I’ve spent many hours watching mamma smallmouth protect her nest. Any trespasser that stumbles on to the nest will be quickly driven away.

Bottom line, for the next two to three weeks enjoy your time fishing one of our beautiful streams, but leave momma smallmouth alone so she can take care of her motherly business.


Shadley’s interest in hunting, fishing and a ton of other outdoor activities started at a very young age. He was hunting and fly-fishing on his own when he was eleven; it’s always been his passion.

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He was employed by the Indiana DNR as a conservation officer for 34 years. For the first 17 years, Shadley worked southeastern Indiana as a field officer. For the last 17 years he was in charge of Indiana’s Turn In a Poacher program (TIP) and was the chief public relations officer for the law enforcement division.

Since his retirement he’s spent most of his time fly-fishing, shooting sporting clays, hunting and photographing wildlife.

Shadley is Fishing Editor of the Sporting Report.

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Dean Shadley
Shadley’s interest in hunting, fishing and a ton of other outdoor activities started at a very young age. He was hunting and fly-fishing on his own when he was eleven; it’s always been his passion. He was employed by the Indiana DNR as a conservation officer for 34 years. For the first 17 years, Shadley worked southeastern Indiana as a field officer. For the last 17 years he was in charge of Indiana’s Turn In a Poacher program (TIP) and was the chief public relations officer for the law enforcement division. Since his retirement he’s spent most of his time fly-fishing, shooting sporting clays, hunting and photographing wildlife. Shadley is Fishing Editor of Sportsman Magazine

2 COMMENTS

  1. Agree completely. I am continued to be amazed about how many people brag online about catching nesting fish. Probably the same ones who complain that "fishing ain’t what it used to be."

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