As time goes by, I have found that eventually you complete the ‘honey do’ list and are left with watching the sun dial. I have over the last hand full of years rediscovered a forgotten passion of mine and that is fishing at the lake. I used to go catfishing at night for about 10 years but lost interest in staying up so late. So I decided to start bass fishing again. Growing up as a child in the country before the days of internet and cable TV, there really wasn’t a whole lot to do. But we did have a local pond that we fished for bass and bluegill.
I started out by using Google Earth to map out the local lake. Not having a boat meant hoofing it so I wanted to maximize my efforts. I found the typical spots that everyone else went to but soon found that they were usually occupied by “Donny Baker” who was just there to argue with his significant other. “Well how many worms to do you want then Wayne?!?” So I went scouting around the banks and abandoned roads and soon was able to map out a few remote locations.
There’s actually a lot to consider when fishing at the lake that doesn’t end with simply mapping out your fishing holes. There are quite a few variables that you have to factor into the equation. Season, temperature, weather, and winds are the first factors that I research throughout the week prior to my fishing excursions.
Here in the Midwest winter can be rough unless you make do with what you can catch. Crappie is usually good fishing all year long and I have found that you can catch catfish fishing off the bottom. The fish run deeper to regulate their temperature. Sitting on the bank with a partially frozen lake next to a fire is relaxing to say the least. I really enjoy listening to the ice patches creak and pop under the warm sunlight. You only have about 4-5 hours in the dead of winter to enjoy so make the most of it. Have your plans made the day before. This is also a good time of the year to scout new fishing holes since fishing activity is at a slow point in the year and foliage is all gone.
Spring is my favorite time of the year! Let there be life! Typically once the water begins to warm up the fish are more active. I usually throw on the waders and hit the banks! Crappie, bass, and catfish are plentiful. I typically use crank bait such as inline spinners as a personal favorite. Sizes may vary but I favor the one fourth oz. weight. Color may vary depending on water clarity. I typically use white, black or green with a silver willow blade. I also like the Colorado blade for its slower motion and more pronounced vibration in the water. I have found that inline spinners offer more species variety and believe it or not I’ve caught more channel cat on spinners than I ever did with blood bait. An old fisherman told me that, “when ‘Mr. Whiskers’ makes it up in his mind to hit something he is going to hit it no matter what it is.” Just remember to pack the needle noses pliers. Those prehistoric monsters love to mangle your lures! Bass Pro Shops carry a nice selection of inline spinners and I am always on the lookout for Yakima spinners with the Colorado blades. I usually just end up ordering them direct from the company’s website.
Summer can be rough, especially in the Midwest where high temps and humidity are agonizing. I always make sure I pack plenty of water and dried granola bars in my back pack. With the high heat, the fish once again go deep to regulate their temperature. They will come to the top in the mornings and evenings when it’s cooler. Remember hiking around is part of the recreation so I would encourage you to buy a good backpack to store all of your stuff. Spiderwire puts out a really nice one that you can order online or at one of the sporting goods stores. Being able to stow my poles on the sides of the backpack is a giant plus when you’re hiking around the woods.
Fall is not a deal breaker! There is a lot of activity in the tail waters when the fish are searching for food. They will typically follow the bait fish wherever they go. Make sure to fish around the stumps and structure in the water. I don’t care if it’s a cup sitting in the water a fish will be suspended next to it. It gives them a sense of security and they wait for food to swim by. I hooked a muskie on one fourth oz. dark green with gold Colorado blade in the tail water a few seasons ago. He was hanging around a crappie structure playing commando. I managed to bank him but was not really geared up to catch a muskie since they are a very aggressive fish with razor sharp teeth. Once he was on the bank he cut the line and off he went with my lure! If you plan on trying to fish for muskie you’ll have to break down and put a wire leader on your line. That’s something I don’t prefer to do so I just chance it.
The other factors are equally important and you should incorporate them into your planned excursion. It is difficult to cast in a strong wind so you have to go to the spots that you have scoped out that have a good wind break such as a hillside or tree line. It is also difficult to read the water in a strong wind and you can’t see the schooling of the bait fish or feeding activity. Don’t forget to watch for the birds. They will tell you where the bait fish are as they swarm around a specific area.
Most novice fisherman will only go out fishing when it’s a nice sunny day but I strongly encourage you to fish during a drizzly rain. Some of the biggest fish I’ve caught was during a nice steady, good old fashioned ‘farmer’s rain’. It stirs up the fish activity due to the motion the rain makes on the water. Now obviously you don’t want to be caught out in a torrential thunderstorm so keep a poncho in your back pack just in case you get stuck. At least you will have a fleeting hope in keeping dry! Keep an eye on the weather alerts! Remember lightning and water does not mix!
You can find a lot of good information about fishing online such as your local lake, lures and how to tie knots. No matter what just enjoy yourself! It’s your day so make the most out of it!