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Fishing Tips for Freshwater
By Gene Kugach
STACKPOLE BOOKSCopyright © 2002 Gene Kugach
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGeneral Fishing Tips
This chapter contains general tips on freshwater fishing. The tips cover some of the basics to help make your fishing more enjoyable.
Most lakes are best known for one specific species of fish (bass lake or walleye lake). River or stream fishing, on the other hand, is different and always full of surprises. Whether you're fishing from shore or from a boat, you never know what will come along and take your offering.
To be sucessful, try different presentations (lures and jigs) and a variety of baits (worms, leeches, grubs, etc.).
A great number of fishermen have never learned the fundamental rule of river, creek, or stream fishing: Keep your bait in the fish zone, which is never more than a foot off the bottom of the river, creek, or stream.
Don't Spook the Fish
When stream or creek fishing, do not make a lot of noise while wading or stomping along the bank.
Most fish see and feel approaching fishermen. Sneak up on your quarry as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. Walk slowly and softly, and wear clothing that blends in with the surroundings.
Don't overlook those foamy patches of water when stream or river fishing. Cast your lure or baited hook into the foamy areas because crippled minnows, insects, and other foods often wash into them and attract feeding game fish.
To minimize hang-ups, use a lighter line (less than 8 test) and light or fine-wire Aberdeen hooks with a dropper rig for the weights.
To minimize losing hooks or lures when river or stream fishing, try a dropper fig. The rig consists of a short piece of lighter test line tied to your fishing line about a foot or two above your presentation with enough split shot added to keep the offering near the bottom of the river or stream.
Perch Pier Fishing
The following is a list of basic equipment that can be used for shore or pier fishing for perch in the Great Lakes region.
Two ultralight rods and reels.
Reels filled to capacity with 4-pound test line.
Minnow bucket with at least 4 dozen small perch minnows.
Two dozen crayfish (crabs).
Landing net with a 10-foot handle.
Two dozen 10 short-shank hooks.
Two dozen B-B split-shot sinkers (assorted sizes).
Stringer with a 20-foot cord.
5-gallon carry-all pail or bucket.
Small box for extra tackle (hooks, line, sinkers, and so forth).
Extra warm clothing (just in case the weather changes).
Salmon and Trout Pier Fishing
The following is a list of basic equipment that can be used for shore or pier fishing for trout or salmon in the Great Lakes region.
Three heavy-duty rods and reels (two to use, one as a spare).
Reels filled to capacity (300 yards) of 12- to 15-pound test line.
Assorted lures: silver/blue/green 3 ounces to 1 1/2 ounces and 2 ounces to 3/4 ounce, Mr.Champs, Cleo's, assorted jigs, large streamer flies, and so forth.
Assorted snap swivels.
Two dozen assorted size sinkers: split shot, egg, dipsey.
Two dozen 2/0, long-shank hooks or floating jig heads.
Stringer with a 20-foot cord.
Assorted bait: alewives, large minnows, spawn sacks, pork rind, marshmallows, whole-kernel canned corn.
Landing net with extendable handle (10 feet or more).
5-gallon carryall pail or bucket.
Fishing license with a trout/ salmon stamp.
Tackle box for extra equipment.
Extra warm clothing (just in case the weather changes).
Take several different types of live bait with you. A good selection will increase your chances for success.
Use larger, bulkier baits or lures. You'll catch bigger fish with bigger baits or lures when the fish are active.
Be mobile. Don't hesitate to try different lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers if the fish are shut off on the waters you're fishing.
Change your line. Late summer and fall are big fish time, and you don't want to lose a trophy fish because of a bad line.
The following are a few things to remember when you hook a fish.
1. Pay attention to what the fish is doing.
2. Adjust your drag if necessary.
3. Keep a taut line.
4. If it's headed for a snag, give it some slack.
5. If it jumps, give it slack and lower the rod tip.
6. If it stops in heavy weeds, be patient, keep a tight line, and wait until it starts to move again.
Boating Your Catch
The following are a few things to remember when boating your catch.
1. Never try horsing in your catch.
2. Play the fish until you tire it out.
3. Never reel in your catch up to the rod tip.
4. Allow enough line (about a rod length) to control the fish when it's near the boat.
5. Have your net ready.
Netting Your Catch
When netting a fish, submerge the net under the water and lead the fish into the net after it has been played out. Never scoop at the fish with the net. Most fishermen are too anxious to land their catch and don't play the fish enough to tire it out. When the fish sees the net, it dives under it, often causing the fisherman to lose his or her catch.
Most hooks can be removed from a fish by holding it belly up (upside down) and working out the hook. However, if the hook is deep inside the fish's mouth, use a hook digorger or cut the line.
Measure Your Catch
It's a good idea to carry some type of measuring device with you when you're fishing. It could be a ruler, a tape, or a piece of equipment like a rod or net handle with incremental markings on it. You never know when a game warden will be around to check if your catch is legal.
A neat way to keep your catch alive and fresh, or if you want to release it after you show it off, is to use a live basket rather than a stringer.
Live baskets come in various sizes and are made of wire mesh. They can be hung overboard from a boat or put in the water when shore fishing.
To prevent hang-ups when drift fishing over rocky bottoms, rig your line with a pencil type sinker at the end and tie in the hooks at 6- to 8-inch intervals above the sinker.
When fishing with a crankbait, wrap a few strands of yarn around the diving lip and treat it with some liquid scent. The yarn will have no adverse effect on the lure's action, and the scent will work as an attractor.
Cane pole fishing is an old-fashioned, all-purpose method used to catch fish in heavy weed cover. In most cases, you use a 16-foot cane or fiberglass pole with a short line off the tip to maintain control of the lure or bait. You should work the lure or bait into the weedy pockets found in weedbeds, lily pads, or tough-to-reach areas.
Use jigs, lures, spinners, or live baits to dip gently into a pocket and then work it, using either a swimming action or the conventional up-and-down technique. Cane polin' may not be a glamorous way to fish, but it can't be beat for heavy weed cover.
Selecting a Lake
When spring arrives, try smaller lakes for the best fishing. Small lakes warm up more quickly than large bodies of water, resulting in more action.
A rise in water temperature of five or ten degrees can trigger some great fishing.
Spring Fishing in Small Ponds
In the spring, concentrate your efforts on small ponds. They warm more quickly than larger bodies of water.
Water temperature controls the spawning cycle of all freshwater fish. Small ponds will be active earlier with spawning fish.
In early spring, emerging aquatic plants are great fishing areas to try. They attract baitfish, which in turn attract predators.
Cabbage plants in particular sprout up after a few warm days and are great locations for finding bass. If you find some cabbage plants, don't pass them up.
When you start fishing in the spring, keep an eye out for green vegetation. No matter how cold the winter was, a lot of weeds survive and come up again in the early spring. These early patches of green vegetation attract early movements of bass, pike, muskie, walleye, and many species of panfish.
Spring Bow Fishing
When bow fishing in the spring for rough fish, remember that solid glass arrows are stronger than wood arrows. The glass arrows weigh more and make it easier to hit the mark when they are shot through 15 or 20 feet of water.
Spring is one of the best seasons for fishing. Most species spawn during the spring and are often found in the shallows. Try fishing water six feet deep or less, using small bucktails, spinner-baits, minnows, or various types of live bait.
Best Spring Month
The most productive month in the spring season in all probability is the month of May. Longer and warmer days heat up the water temperatures to a point where the weed growth blossoms and the spawning season for most fish species starts.
Bass and panfish are on the beds close to shore and are easy to spot. During this period, as mentioned above, live bait and artificial lures work well.
Fish are harder to catch during the summer months, when live food and cover are more abundant. The fish become very selective when they feed, and gorge themselves when they do.
To keep a cool head on those hot summer days while on the water, soak a cloth or a bandanna in the water and place it inside your hat. Always wear a hat to avoid or lessen the chance of sunstroke.
The great locations you found to fish in the shallows in the spring may prove disappointing when you return there in the summer and fall.
Fish seek different surroundings at different times. The fish that sought the shallows in the spring when they were spawning will move to deeper, cooler water in the summer. In the fall, most fish also seek deeper water as winter approaches.
To be a successful fisherman, you need to seek out different locations to fish depending on the season.
Fall Fishing-Rivers, Streams, and Creeks
An advantage of river, stream, or creek fishing in the fall is that you can always find an uncrowded area to fish. If it's crowded near a dam or spillway or along the shoreline, a short walk or boat ride down- or upstream most likely will eliminate the crowd.
Fall Weather Changes
When the weather changes in the fall, so do fishing conditions. Fish often move to different locations and prefer different presentations when a significant change in the weather occurs.
Take a lesson from the fish, and be prepared to make some of your own changes, such as the lures or bait you use or your location.
Fall Season Tips
Improve your chances of a good fishing experience in the fall months with the following tips:
1. Go with larger, bulkier lures or bait.
2. Take and try several different forms of live bait.
3. Try different lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
4. Change your line.
To avoid getting bit by mosquitos and other insects, don't use scented personal-care products or perfumes. Some insects are attracted by the smell of these products. Also remember that bugs love the early morning and early evening hours when it's cool, windless, and damp. Under these conditions, use a good insect repellent.
In many small ponds and lakes, boats or launching facilities may not be available, thus preventing you from getting to the most productive areas to fish. To solve the problem, consider getting a "Belly Boat," an inflatable tube designed for fishing that is light to carry, easy to maneuver, and safe under most conditions.
If you catch a trophy-size lunker, try the same spot on your next fishing trip.
In most species, the trophy-size fish can be found in the best spot in the lake or stream. If it gets caught, the next largest fish will move into the same spot.
Finding Fishable Waters Close to Home
Try using county highway maps, state maps, and topographical maps to find fishable waters near your home.
Concentrate on rivers and streams with public access areas, such as bridges, nature areas, or public parks. Also look for ponds, lagoons, and lakes that you had not known were close to your home.
After you make a few selections, do some scouting by visiting the locations and doing a little fishing. If the areas are private, don't forget to ask permission from the owner before fishing.
Purchase a small pocket dictating machine to make notes on your fishing trips. Record the water and weather conditions, lures or bait used, what you caught, and other information that you may want to reference later.
Before you hit the water fishing, have a plan.
Whether fishing from a boat or the shore, take a few minutes to study the body of water and decide on the best approach to fishing it.
Select the locations you plan to fish, prepare the equipment you want to use, and decide what type of bait or lures you want to try.
Excerpted from Fishing Tips for Freshwater by Gene Kugach Copyright © 2002 by Gene Kugach. Excerpted by permission.
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