W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Best Fishing Is Just Ahead
By Sam Anderson
A lot of people donít realize that fish move on a seasonal and daily basis, and when they move they use underwater structure, essentially the bottom of the lake that is just a little different. Things like bars, underwater humps and manmade structure like submerged roadbeds, levees or riprap along dams or causeways.
When a fish leaves its sanctuary, to eat or search for food, it has to have something visual to follow. A fish is a stupid creature. It cannot rationalize like a human being, and when it moves about it must have something it can follow. Fish donít swim about a lake haphazardly. Not only can they see structure, but we can also locate the same structure with our observations of land, depthfinders and the feel of the lures on the bottom.
The most important thing to remember is that the larger a fish becomes the tighter it schools and the more time it spends in deep water. A fish lives there because it is forced there by environment over a period of time. When a fish becomes an adult, its body takes longer to make adjustments to the changing conditions of the water and weather. Itís easier for it to make these adjustments in deep water. The deeper you go, the more stable conditions will become. A fish can stay there for weeks. It doesnít have to move into the shallows all summer.
Is there enough food and oxygen down deep to support fish populations? Absolutely thereís food. There are shad, baitfish, and bluegills at 35 feet and deeper. A fishís menu may change and it may be less selective, but it doesnít have to move shallow to feed. However, you should keep this in mind: When a fish is down deep itís probably dormant and its body requires less food. It is just sitting there and not expending any energy, so it really doesnít need a lot of food. This also makes for difficult fishing, and you have to get your lures closer to them. A strike zone can be very small in deep water, because of visibility and the lethargic nature of the fish.
We all know that a fish requires certain amounts of oxygen to survive. You must remember that a fish is a very adjustable creature, and when there is a very small amount of oxygen in an area it will adjust unless the situation gets to a point where there is just not enough to survive. But no one has proven that a fish has a preferred oxygen zone. Structure in relation to deep water is our guide to finding fish.
On the flats, the weather has less of an impact than it does in shallow water. Fish favor stability. Relatively constant water temperature, water quality, weather, and abundance of prey let fish live predictably. Good fishing often accompanies stable conditions, but sometimes when weather is poor fishing is the best on the flats. Flats are the major food-producing regions of most lakes. Walleyes forage over flats. Therefore, the flats are the home of walleyes.
It's easy to identify productive flats. Some prime flats drop off steeply into the deepest areas of the lake. Walleyes that use flats typically move shallower at night to feed on a variety of prey species. Baitfish such as cisco and shad move shallower at dusk. The depth of a good flat can very from only a few feet to over 20, depending upon the lake and the season. Flats with a fairly soft or sandy bottom carpeted with low weeds, with patches of coontail or cabbage rising above the carpet, attract walleyes. Submerged weeds develop as the water warms in the summer. Weedy flats hold baitfish that attract walleyes at night.
In fall, weeds decline and small fish are flushed from cover. Walleyes feed aggressively throughout this period. Walleyes can feed in dim light. They have a feeding advantage over most prey species after dark.
When fishing these humps I rely on my depthfinder to tell me if anyone is home on these humps. I usually like to look for a good shelf that comes out from an island that has boulders on it. This is the structure that many walleye key in on to rest and ambush their prey as they slide back and forth from the hump to deep water. These are transition areas where the fish come to feed. These humps provide a structure for baitfish that have moved out into deep water as schools, and are looking for a place to rest. Naturally, what attracts the baitfish also attracts the walleye. The other thing that my Lowrance depthfinder unit allows me to see is how active these fish are. Many times you can go over the hump and you will see that the walleyes are moving up to the top portion of the hump, this signifies that they are in a positive mood and within minutes you should be landing a nice plump walleye in your boat.
Big fish become vulnerable for longer periods in early fall because they move into areas where baitfish are staging, some remaining in the general area through winter. To catch walleyes during fall transition and early fall consider the tendency for walleyes to move up. During daylight, if you can't fish during perfect conditions, it is usually better to concentrate on deep fish, rather than shallow fish.
You should look for fish holding areas where wind crashes against a barrier or where the wind churns up the water rather than fishing where it is calm. Concentrate on dark water lakes that have a high percentage of fish caught during the day. Sometimes in dark mucky waters, high bright sun filled days trigger a feeding frenzy because the sunlight gets all the tiny critters moving and in the cycle of fishing the end of the food chain will be the bigger fish.
Constant bottom contact is essential even though it increases the potential for snags. Use a small jig head with a wide hook gap to deliver the bait in wavy conditions. Leeches are an outstanding rock bait because they can take the pounding.
Holding on top of a hump on a windy day is a way to catch trophy walleyes. One way that I have solved the problem with boat control is by using a sea anchor. A sea anchor is a cone-shaped under water wind sock, similar to those at airports that detect changes in wind direction. Drift Control sea anchors aid boat control in two ways.
First of all, they slow your drift in strong winds. Secondly, you can use them to fine-tune subtle boat maneuvers in rough seas or heavy current. The tackle is simple and the methods are easy to learn. First, use jigs tipped with a crawler, leech or minnow. The size of the jig should be just enough so you have contact with the bottom.
Whenever you must fish in adverse conditions, being either bright sunny days or changing weather conditions, there should be a two step approach. One way is to slow down your presentation. Go slow, use the MotorGuide trolling motor and make your presentation very slow. Maybe even put on a single hook with split shot rather than a walking sinker and vibrating blades. Or the second approach is to go fast. Use fast trolling speeds with artificial lures and speed troll breaklines to get the fish active enough to bite.
Keep these tips in mind when you venture out and remember the best
fishing is yet to come. Donít give up, try different approaches when
times get tough and you will see what I mean about the best fishing. I
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