The medical term for cabin fever is Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD for short. I am not sure if this term is the medical professions attempt at a joke or not, but people who exhibit the symptoms claim they feel depressed or sad. So maybe the medicos got this acronym correct.

The occurrence of SAD is thought to be brought on by short days, long nights and extended periods of no direct sunlight, a common scenario in the winter. Apparently the lack of sunbeams affects the chemical output of the pineal gland, which is located somewhere in the middle of our heads alongside the optic nerves. This gland assists in the regulation of our moods and body rhythms. Too little exposure to bright light for an extended period of time causes the onset of the symptoms. Those who live in the northern hemispheres are most affected by this documented malady. It is practically unheard of in tropical climates.

But, I propose that avid fishermen exhibiting the symptoms of this disorder are not so much affected by the lack of sunlight as they are by the necessity to Stop Angling Daily because of the short days, long nights and cold, dreary weather. We are in effect SAD victims.

The occurrence of this malady in fishermen appears to be nearly 100 percent. I base this statement on the following premise: The number of anglers who spend the winter months attending fishing and boating shows in a sort of misery-loves- company gathering. The mindset seems to be: “We can’t fish because the weather is lousy, so let’s go hang out with other kindred souls, check out the new stuff and maybe we will all feel better.”

Even the glowing stories in outdoor magazines fail to help overcome the feelings of morose restlessness SAD generates. Most of those stories are set in sunny, tropical and unaffordable destinations. Apparently the authors of those fabulous tales also suffer from SAD symptoms in the winter months. But, they have the employment to do something positive about it. The down side of reading those warm and reassuring tales of glorious fishing in the balmy and inviting paradises to the south is the knowledge that most of us are not going there anytime soon. And that adds to our SAD-ness.

Let me offer, dare I say, a ray of hope? In another couple of weeks, the days will be longer, and warmer. Lake water temperatures will creep upwards and return again to the 50s. While we wait fighting SAD-ness, white bass will be slowly moving to the mouths of creeks and rivers from the deep water in reservoirs where they have spent the winter. They are preparing for their annual spawning run. This event heralds one of the most anticipated opportunities for late winter fishing in Texas.

White bass do not build nests like largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish do. Their reproductive rights are more of a group free-for-all activity. When adequate water flows exist and temperatures get into the 50’s, male white bass begin to move into tributaries. The females follow later as the days get longer and warmer. When conditions are right, the females will spawn at the surface along sandy bars and banks and the males will fertilize the eggs.

This annual event starts as early as December in the southern parts of Texas white bass habitat and runs through mid-April in the northern range. White bass have established populations in most Texas reservoirs fed by major river systems. The Colorado, Trinity, Brazos, Neches, Angelina and Sabine systems all support excellent populations of these temperate bass species.

White bass will run up creeks and rivers as far as they can navigate the stream bed. Pools immediately below obstructions such as rock ledges or dams can be filled with thousands of fish when the spawn reaches its peak.

Most anglers who are serious white bass fishers use small aluminum boats with short shaft motors to get into the water ways and navigate up or downstream to pools that hold concentrations of fish. When the whites are in the river, they leave their main food source, threadfin shad behind and must feed on whatever is available in the river. That process makes them ravenous and they will strike just about any lure that resembles a small minnow or crayfish. It can be a fish caught per cast if an angler gets in the right spot.

A typical male white bass will weigh about 1 ? pounds. Females grow larger, to 3- pounds or so when they are full of eggs. These feisty fish provide a remarkable fight for their size as do most fish that are native to river systems.

Fellow SAD sufferers take note. The reasons for our afflictions will soon be a frosty memory. The rivers will once again teem with fish and new hope will fill our winter weary breasts. Cabin Fever will be banished as soon we feel that old familiar tug that not only puts our fishing switch in the on position, but pulls at our fish-loving hearts as well. And there is nothing sad about that.

Barry St. Clair is a guest columnist for the Athens Daily Review. His columns appear weekly.



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