With warmth settling in over the Deep South, can we start thinking about smaller sunfish in the coming week?

Maybe. There’s a run on chinquapin — some folks call them “lake runners” or “shellcrackers — going on in freshwater haunts in the far southeastern parishes, and that means the bluegill can’t be far behind.

Old fishermen, those who pursued these aggressive panfish, believed there was a sign from Mother Nature that guided their first trips.

While bass fishermen watched for the oaks to begin sending out their first buds of spring or for live oaks to shed their year-old leaves to begin their quest for first major push of bass to the banks, panfishermen looked for the late-budding pecan trees to sprout their first leaves. For them, it meant that ground temperatures had warmed to 70 degrees, and that warmth meant it was time for bluegills to begin bedding up for their springtime spawn.

What also happened was that willow trees had enough succulent leaves for caterpillars to begin feeding on those leaves and nesting in the willows on the banks of canals, bayous and lakes’ shorelines. When that happened a good breeze would shake enough of the caterpillars from their nests onto the water and provide a feast for hungry panfish more than willing to break their winter fast.

And passing along Nicholson Drive earlier this week, an old pecan tree showed its first spot of green. Canals and slow-moving bayous will be the places to try, especially those with fairly clear water. Use crickets and grass shrimp.

The Verret Basin, Bayou Teche and Toledo Bend were the best bass spots earlier this week.

Weather

Rain enters the picture Saturday and is predicted to linger into Monday when a cool front is expected to drop morning temperatures back into the 50s. Clouds will impede water temperatures from creeping into the upper 60s in most areas.

Look for mild southeast winds and mild sea conditions through Saturday with winds and seas (1-3 footers) increasing in most nearshore and offshore areas before 10-20 knot north winds become the rule Monday.

The rivers are high and climbing with the Mississippi at New Orleans pushing to a 13.6 mark by Monday (34.7 at Baton Rouge) and the Atchafalaya climbing nearly one foot in the next days to a 7.4 reading Monday at Bayou Sorrel.

Along the coast

Speckled trout action picked up in the Delacroix-Hopedale area and other locations in the Pontchartrain Basin this week. Canals, rivers, bayous and small lakes with moving water held the best action on a variety of soft plastics worked on jigheads and under corks.

The biggest coastal fishing news this week is the opening of the red snapper season in state waters. It’s still a two-per-day take with a minimum 16-inch size limit.