LINCOLN, Neb. – Do you know what it means when the calendar approaches April Fool’s Day? No, it’s not time to play a prank on your fishing buddy. It’s time for the pikeperch to spawn.
Many things can affect the spawning of freshwater fish: weather, water temperature, moon phase, etc. One of the most important indicators is the amount of daylight. Because of this, spawning occurs around the same time each year. So the pikeperch will spawn on April 1st.
Not all fish in a population spawn at the same time. Some spawn early and some late. The result is that the spawn period will last a few weeks. As a rule, males are the first to expect spawning. They “come early and stay long.” Male pikeperch are present in spawning habitats for days or even weeks before and after the highest spawning activity. Females appear near the spawning habitat and then move up when they are mature and ready to spawn. Usually the females lay all eggs in one night of spawning activity.
Zander are broadcast spawners. Eggs and milt are scattered across the spawning habitat. Neither parent provides care or protection for the eggs or young.
The ideal spawning habitat for pikeperch is a rock that is slightly larger than gravel. This rocky substrate needs to be well ventilated by the flow of water, currents, or the movement of wind and waves.
There is little rock in Nebraska’s waters, so pikeperch use the next best thing – rock rip rap, or soil cement on the dam surfaces of reservoirs. During the spawning season, most adult zanders congregate on or near these dam areas, although some fish use other rocky habitats or even migrate into feeder creeks or rivers.
Many Nebraska anglers consider pikeperch spawn to be a convenient time to catch pikeperch. This is especially true for anglers on land, as the pikeperch gather on the coast as they spawn. Certainly the spawning season is a time when pikeperch focus on areas that are easily accessible to anglers. However, during the spawning season, the fish have other things to do than to feed themselves. In fact, pikeperch are sometimes much easier to catch before and after spawning even for coastal anglers.
Even so, the excitement of a number of adult pikeperch, including some large females splashing near the coast after dark, attracts many anglers to pursue pikeperch as they spawn. Fishing during this time is not a threat to the pikeperch populations in Nebraska, so anglers are allowed to fish at this time.
Most of the pikeperch caught during the spawning season are the smaller males. Occasionally a tall woman can take a bait, and that motivates everyone to keep fishing.
During spawning, most anglers fish after dark, when the pikeperch are actively spawning. The casting and retrieval of crank baits that mimic minnow is responsible for most of the pikeperch caught during spawning. However, pikeperch can also be caught on the spawning grounds on cloudy, rainy or windy days and at dusk. The same crank baits that mimic minnow can work at this time, but a variety of devices will catch fish as well. Live minnows can also work if allowed.
Two reminders: a bad fish is not a legal catch and must be returned to the water immediately. Deliberately catching a spawning pikeperch or catching a pikeperch in a net is also prohibited.
Catching and releasing pikeperch larger than 22 inches ensures that the females are given the opportunity to spawn and pass on their genetics. Fish larger than 28 inches can qualify for a Nebraska Master Angler Award if released after some photos are taken.
Visit outdoornebraska.gov/fishing to view a variety of online Nebraska Game and Parks Commission fishing resources.