W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
Giving Fish too much Credit
by Colin D. Crawford
A fish has two major things in its environment, the water it lives in and the weather that is changing, not only seasonally but day-by day, hour-by -hour and minute-by-minute. These two things alone control fish activity. The most unstable either the weather or water becomes, the more rapid these two factors change, and you'll see an effect on fishing. A fish cannot stand a fast change.
A lot of people don't 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 visually 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 don't swim about a lake haphazardly. Not only can they see structure but, we can also locate that same structure with our observations of land, depthfinders and the feel of the lures on the bottom.
Largemouth bass will be in 30 to 35 feet of water the bulk of the season, and in winter they will be a little bit deeper if that depth is available.
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. It's 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 doesn't have to move into the shallows all summer.
Is there enough food and oxygen down deep to support fish populations? Absolutely there's food. There are shad, baitfish, and bluegills at 35, 45 feet. A fish's menu may change and it may be less selective, but it doesn't have to move shallow to feed. But you have to keep this in mind: When a fish is down deep it's probably dormant and its body requires very little food. It is just sitting there and not expending much energy, so it really doesn't need any food. This also makes for difficult fishing, and you have to get your lures closer to them. A strike zone is 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.
We've heard hundreds of times that "you can't catch fish in this lake because of the thermocline and there's not enough oxygen down there," and invariably we go find a deep hump and bang there is the walleye or smallmouth.
When big, adult fish do move out of this deep water they leave as a school. Even muskie school, contrary to some things you may have read. The reason most people don't realize this is because they are not fishing the depths correctly.
A good level wind reel is essential and a good graphite rod that has the potential for a long sweep of the rod tip so that when those "eyes" hit, it has some give. I prefer to use the downrigger variety of rods. They have the sensitivity and the backbone that I need for this type of system.
You should start with a level wind reel spooled with 500 feet of 8 pound test line, tie in a segment of one, two or three colors of 18 pound leadcore, and finish with another 50 feet 8 pound test, as a leader to the bait.
The length of the leadcore segment varies by the type of crankbait you'll be using and the depth you need to achieve. For example, in the late fall's chilly water, I've found walleyes to prefer subtle action lures like a Reef Runner Ripstick. To get this shallow-diving bait down 30 to 40 feet you need three segments of leadcore. If we're using a deeper diving lure like a Reef Runner Deep Diver you can achieve the same depths with just two segments of leadcore. The general rule is high action crankbaits for warm water, subtle action for cool water.
When you find a concentration of fish in over 40 feet of water and they are suspended at 30 feet, start from the bottom and work your bait up to the strike zone. Most anglers would try to determine how much line to let out until they were in 30 feet of water. The easiest method is to let out line until you are on bottom and then crank in line until you have a strike.
A fish basically is a fish, and it reacts to the environment accordingly. If you keep the basics in mind you will catch the species that you are after.
If you are interested in reading more about this technique or other
techniques you can find me on the web at www.northwoodsfishing.net. If
you are interested in a guided trip, a personal media interview, or
photo shoot, please call 715-545-8347. I am located in the Phelps,
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