WISCOSIN: Finding Walleyes in Really Shallow Water

April 5th, 2013

No secret that walleyes move into shallow water come spring but a lesson I have had to relearn a handful of times over the years is simple, don’t be afraid to look for fish in a foot or two of water come spring. Many anglers will fish shallow particularly early in the year but often stop at that three foot mark. There are probably many reasons that cause walleyes to position themselves into a foot or two of water but I think most of the time, warmer water temperatures and baitfish are the two biggest motivators for pulling walleyes into such skinny water.

When it comes to finding walleyes in really shallow water, less than three feet… there does seem to be some misconceptions at least from my own personal experiences. Wind is probably one of the biggest misconceptions I have found from my time on the water. Wind and shallow water walleyes is almost cliché but I seldom find fish less than three feet of water during a strong wind that is crashing in. The fish may be active and they may be shallow but they typically duck right below the reverse current that is rolling back off the shoreline.

In three foot rollers for example, I seldom catch fish in two feet of water, typically they are a touch deeper like five feet. When I often do find walleyes in this same location however in a foot or two of water is the next day. After the wind dies or switches and the water is still stained from yesterdays wind. That might be one of the biggest misconceptions about catching fish in a foot or two of water is that it takes wind. Some of my best days in this ultra shallow water are actually when there is no or little wind or wind actually blowing off the bank, fishing the calm side of the lake. I think one of the reasons for this is that walleyes don’t like to position right up into the turbulence. In really strong winds, I have actually seen fish like white suckers, bullheads and even northern pike get washed up into rip rap but I have never seen a walleye get washed up.

What also surprises some anglers is that sunny days often pull fish shallowest especially during the pre spawn period. I have seen this on natural lakes, river systems and reservoirs. Also, this can be a big fish pattern as it often seems like big females will slide up into a foot or two of water just to warm up. Almost seems like some of these big fish will move up so shallow that the sun can hit their backs.

The locations where we have seen these skinny water patterns unfold run the gamut. On river systems for example, most fish locate near current breaks and seems much of the time. Fish move out into fast water and they move back into quiet water but many fish are caught on the edge where faster water meets slower water. I have caught some really big fish in rivers however far from this edge quite a ways back into quiet water up along shallow gravel and sand bars or rip rap. Typically during normal flows, these fish might have only been fifty to a hundred yards or less from faster water but where they were sitting was slack enough for a largemouth bass to live.

On natural lakes and reservoirs, gradual sloping shorelines that had firm gravel to sand bottoms have been good. Rip rap is another solid option at times and shallow sand or gravel bars that have pencil reeds can be dynamite and are one of my favorite locations for finding walleye ultra shallow. Shallow rocks can also be really good but on many natural lakes and reservoirs I have fished, the rocks were often right on the shoreline in a foot or two of water and than out a little ways, the rocks either got much smaller or the bottom turned to sand and often, the fish seemed to hold right on the bottom edge of the rocks. The bigger the rocks, the more I found this to be the case.

With these really shallow fish, you almost have to cast to the fish and there is nothing better than a jig because jigs only have one hook. Most of the time, you have to slide into spots and slip the jig up into this shallow water without making a lot of commotion. Big bomb casts with heavy artillery are typically not going to work. In fact, there have been many times where I had to pitch the jig up on the bank and just slide the jig into the water. That is why the single hook on a jig shines as they don’t catch as much debris or get hung up so much.

From my experiences, there are two basic maneuvers that really trigger these fish with a jig in such shallow water. The first is to cast the jig up on to shore and just slide the jig into the water and slowly slide the jig through the zone with a drag or swim where the jig is just above the bottom maybe halfway through the water column. The other method that has worked really well for me is to pitch the jig up into the shallow water, feathering the line with your finger as it hits the water and keeping the line semi tight as it falls.

With either method, the key is often using really light jigs with lots of bulk to slow that jig descent way down. You can fish a heavy jig slow but the slide and descent is still going to be fast and not give the fish as much time to respond. The hits however can be bone jarring so once these fish find and turn on the jig, they sometimes really chomp down on it.

Typically, either 1/8th ounce or 1/16th ounce will suffice but you have to bulk up the jig by either adding plastic or a larger minnow so that the jig is easier to cast further distances and than slowly sinks once it hits the water.

Favorite jigs for this presentation include the 1/8th ounce Northland Tackle Rocket Jig for dragging and the 1/16th ounce Northland Tackle Fire Ball bulked up with minnow or plastic for the slow fall. There are times as well when a 1/32nd ounce Fire Ball tipped with a live minnow is killer in really shallow water. With the lighter jig, hook the minnow on so that it stays alive and after casting the minnow up on the bank, let it swim around in the shallow water on semi tight line. This method is a little slower and takes more time but can often pull a few more fish off the spot.

By far, I do much better using monofilament when targeting really shallow fish early in the season. I think mono slows the rate of fall for the jig and adds some subtleness to the glide and fall that just causes the jig to hang in the water longer which the fish seem to like. Perfect line for this application is seven pound Bionic mono. This particular line is easy to cast with lighter jigs but slows the jig down dramatically in the water.

Depending on your height, a six to seven foot medium light fast action rod is about perfect for leveraging small jigs up onto the shoreline and the extra length lets you get a good hook set when the tip of the rod is high. We have a new line up of walleye rods for this season that are really impressive in that they retail for less than sixty dollars, feature; IM8 graphite construction, lifetime warranty and Fuji guide train. The weight and action of the JM641MLS spinning rod is perfect for pitching light jigs on light line.

Early in the season, do not overlook sliding up into really shallow water when conditions dictate and at least check really shallow water. There have been many days in the past where the most aggressive and hardest hits I had all day were in water less than three feet. To fish such water effectively however takes some modification and technique but is definitely worth your time.

Jason Mitchell


VIRGINIA: 2013 Fishing Outlook

April 5th, 2013

The 2013 fishing outlook for the tidal James River and its tributaries is very good. This fishery compares favorably with some of the best lake fishing in the state. Boat electrofishing catch rates of largemouth bass have been stable over the last decade ranging from 54-89 fish/ hour.

In 2012, overall catch rates of largemouth bass were 83 fish/hour. Favorable fishing conditions are based on (1) catch-per-unit-effort of preferred size bass (CPUE largemouth bass ≥ 15″) and (2) an index of the proportion of largemouth bass ≥ 15″ in the population (RSD-P). In 2012, catch rate of largemouth bass ≥ 15″ was 12/ hour. This is a slight decrease from 2011; however, it is still very good compared to other fisheries around the Commonwealth. The proportion of preferred size bass in the James River was slightly lower in 2012 (RSD-P = 21) but should still provide good numbers of bass ≥ 15″.

The Chickahominy River continues to be a popular destination for many anglers and has sufficient submerged aquatic vegetation to provide anglers with a great place to target largemouth bass.

The 2012 electrofishing surveys yielded great diversity with 37 species and a bass catch rate of 66 fish/hr. The catch rate of preferred bass (≥ 15 inches) was 14 fish/hr, and several strong year classes of juveniles were observed. Threadfin shad provide a great forage base. The largest bass of the survey weighed 8 lbs., 5 ounces, and numerous 4 – 6 pound bass were collected. For action besides largemouth bass, a variety of other fish species are present. Many enjoy fishing for abundant blue catfish, and the river provides great black crappie and yellow perch action.

Largemouth bass fishing on the lower tidal Rappahannock River (east of Port Royal) may be slow in 2013. Electrofishing surveys in 2012 produced a catch rate of only 15 fish/hr. Bass abundance in certain tributaries such as Gingoteague Creek was higher (47 fish/hr). Submerged aquatic grass growth was limited to only a handful of the areas sampled – Hydrilla provided some habitat in Pee Dee Creek, Baylor’s Creek and Drake’s Marsh. Preferred-sized bass (≥ 15″) were collected at 5 fish/hr. Anglers may want to target bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish which were abundant in areas with a significant amount of flooded shoreline timber and yellow perch in Drake’s Marsh. Many of the tidal tributaries provide exciting opportunities to catch a bowfin, as 157 were sampled mostly in the 20 – 24″ range.

Virginia
Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries


OKLAHOMA: Striped Bass Hybrids on Chicken Liver & Night Crawlers

April 5th, 2013

Arcadia:

Elevation normal. Channel catfish slow to fair various baits. Crappie slow on jigs off docks. Report by Chance Whiteley, game warden stationed in Oklahoma County.

Arcadia:

Elevation normal, water 46 and murky. All fishing fair. Report submitted by Sheila Hutton, gate attendant.

Draper:

Elevation below normal, water murky. Boating closed due to low water levels. All fishing slow. Report submitted by Tony Woodruff, game warden stationed in Cleveland County.

Hefner:

Elevation below normal, water murky. Largemouth bass slow on crankbaits. White bass and crappie slow on chartreuse and red jigs at 20 ft. around the dam. Channel catfish slow on shad. Report submitted by Tim Campbell, game warden stationed in Oklahoma County.

Overholser:

Elevation below normal, water murky. Striped bass hybrids fair on chicken liver and night crawlers. Crappie slow to fair on jigs off the fishing dock on warm days. Catfish fair on stinkbait off the fishing dock. Report submitted by David Rempe, game warden stationed in Oklahoma County.

Thunderbird:

Elevation 7 1/2 ft. below normal, water murky. Crappie fair on minnows and small jigs at 8-10 ft. around structure. Bass fair on spinnerbaits around structure. All other fishing slow. Report by Tony Woodruff, game warden stationed in Cleveland County.

Wes Watkins:

Elevation 9 ft. below normal, water clear. All boat ramps are closed due to low water. All fishing slow. Report submitted by Mike France, game warden stationed in Pottawatomie County.

Kansas Angler


PENNSYLVANIA: S. Berks Co. – Tip… Wax Worms Are a Hot Bait!

April 5th, 2013

The weather for the Regional Opening Day of Trout Season just couldn’t have been any better!

A sunny day (for a change) and nice temperatures brought out good crowds on streams and lakes in Berks County.  Baits of choice included worms, meal worms, corn, minnows, bait pastes, spinners, and just about anything else you could hang on a line (tip: wax worms are a hot bait!).

Many anglers limited out early, and many others just chose to catch and release.  Kids of all ages had a great time, with many families enjoying the tradition of opening day.  Quite a few trophy size fish were caught which made for some great pictures.  Trout stocking continues this week, check our website for locations and times.  Just a reminder to treat the areas you fish as if they were your own!

Have a great trout season!

Pennsylvania
Fish & Boat Commission

 


WASHINGTON: Anglers Focused on Salmon in the Columbia

April 5th, 2013

With most anglers focused on salmon in the mainstem Columbia, district rivers are getting little attention for viable steelhead returns. The Cowlitz is a top prospect with late winters and early summers starting to show. A spring chinook has also been confirmed.

Other area rivers will see restrictions this spring as returns are forecast to be low.

Salmon passage at Bonneville is becoming more consistent but interest remains low. That should change as we near mid-month as passage is likely to peak in about a month from now. Low flows are more conducive to early passage.

The Guides Forecast


OREGON: Hot Spots – Davis Bar, I-5, Head of Multnomah & Sellwood

April 5th, 2013

The spring salmon run on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers has been slow to materialize. Small flurries of fresh chinook salmon have been reported for weeks now, but the strength of the run has yet to make its showing. The typical Portland hot spots like Davis Bar, I-5, Head of Multnomah Channel and Sellwood are giving up a few fish daily, but anglers still await the big push. The later than normal smelt run could be the culprit, but the lower Columbia has been virtually void of salmon until recently when sport and test net catches improved. A compact call today will determine any possible extension for mainstem Columbia sportanglers.

Anglers looking for some faster action might consider catch and release sturgeon fishing in the Portland harbor.

The McKenzie has been fishing well with redsides taking nymphs and wet flies. The water level will rise with rain this week but when the sun returns and air temperatures warm, look for March Brown hatches.

The next “learn the river” trip on the North Santiam will take place on April 6th. Telephone (503) 897-3301 for additional information. Fishing has been slow to fair but will improve as numbers build.

The Clackamas River continues to produce winter steelhead and anglers can expect the action to continue through the middle of the month. A few summer steelhead are also showing up in the catch and those numbers should increase through April. Rumors of an early spring chinook are circulating but remain unconfirmed. Good salmon fishing is still a month and a half away.

On the Sandy River, water levels remain good for steelhead fishermen. Both winter and summer steelhead are showing up and angling pressure has been described as “average”. Many of the winter steelhead landed are in spawning mode and care should be taken to release them as quickly and easily as possible. The stretch between Oxbow Park and Dabney Park will have the most opportunity as well as the most of the effort.


CALIFORNIA: San Pablo Bay – Excellent Action for Striped Bass & Sturgeon

April 5th, 2013

Keith Fraser of Loch Lomond Bait and Tackle reported excellent action for both striped bass and sturgeon with either live or frozen mud shrimp.

Ross Peterson of San Rafael caught and released 10 stripers to 18-pounds and two oversized sturgeon in the 130-pound range fishing east of the Pumphouse in 11 feet of water on Friday, and he returned on Sunday to release 4 more bass to 14-pounds and 3 legal sturgeon. Peterson only uses mud shrimp, and although he prefers it live, he will settle for frozen. If the shop is out of mud shrimp, he will wait for another day to go fishing.

Fraser liked the upcoming smaller tides for halibut drifting with, you got it – Loch Lomond shiners. He has plenty of frozen mud shrimp in the shop and is hoping for more of the fresh stuff this week.

USA Fishing


TEXAS: Black Bass to 9 pounds On Green Soft Plastic Lizards

April 5th, 2013

CONROE: Water clear; 57-61 degrees; 2.99’ low. Black bass are fair on chartreuse soft plastics, crankbaits, and Rat-L-Traps. Striped bass are slow. Crappie are fair on minnows. Catfish are very good on stinkbait, cut bait, and nightcrawlers.

GIBBONS CREEK: Water clear. Black bass are fair on green pumpkin soft plastics and crankbaits. Crappie are fair on minnows. Catfish are good on frozen shrimp, nightcrawlers, and stinkbait.

HOUSTON COUNTY: Water stained; 64-68 degrees; 0.12’ high. Black bass to 9 pounds are very good on green soft plastic lizards, jigs, drop shots, and Senkos. Crappie are very good on minnows over brush piles and near the dam. Perch are good on live worms from piers. Catfish are good on juglines baited with perch.

LIVINGSTON: Water fairly clear; 58-62 degrees; 0.32’ high. Black bass are good on chartreuse Rat-L-Traps, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits. Striped bass are slow. White bass are good on minnows, soft plastics, and spec rigs in the upper creeks. Crappie are good on minnows. Blue catfish are good on perch and shad. Yellow catfish are slow.

SAM RAYBURN: Water lightly stained; 58-62 degrees; 1.96’ low. Black bass are fair on watermelon red soft plastics and spinnerbaits. White bass are fair on live minnows and silver spoons. Crappie are fair on minnows. Bream are fair on worms. Catfish are good on frozen shrimp, live minnows, and stinkbait.

STEINHAGEN: 0.88’ high. No report available.

TOLEDO BEND: Water lightly stained; 57-61 degrees; 2.79’ low. Black bass are good on watermelon spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits around hydrilla beds in 6-12 feet. Crappie are good on black/chartreuse jigs over hydrilla beds. Bream are fair on worms. Channel and blue catfish are slow. Yellow catfish are slow.

Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department


MISSOURI: Stickbaits & Wiggle Warts Continue to Produce

April 5th, 2013

Branson:

Fishing guide trips have been very productive when the weather cooperates; cold, rainy days have made the bite tough but when the sun shines the bite has been fantastic. Full suns warms surface temperatures moving shad and in turn Table Rock bass to the surface and the shallows. Stickbaits and wiggle warts continue to produce on windy days, look for wind swept banks with a mix of rock and gravel to be the most productive. On calm days Jewel football and spider jigs matched with J-Tail or Tightlines UV jig trailers will produce in these same areas.

Kimberling City:

Sun and wind makes the bite better in the mid lake area just like in Branson. Fishing guides continue to do well fishing shallow with stickbaits, wiggle warts and Jewel Jigs. Umbrella rigs have also produced well even with rising water temperatures. Look for fish to be on main lake and secondary points that have a transition from rock to gravel to be the most productive areas. Tightlines UV shad and Big Jerk soft baits have been the best options on a rig.

James River:

Run off from recent rains have added more color to the James River, the color is nice but it does result in some extreme water temperature swings. On cloudy days the water temperature rarely breaks 48 degrees, on sunny days it can reach 55 or better. With that in mind the afternoon bite has been better for Branson fishing guides than early mornings, allowing the water to warm will make a huge difference. The same patterns working in the mid lake have been effective, add to that a square bill crankbait around laydowns and wood cover on shallow flats. Work the crankbait in and around the cover to draw strikes.

White River:

Branson fishing guides continue to do well with Tightlines UV grubs fished either on a ¼ oz. head or on an Umbrella rig. Most of the grub fish are being caught on flat gravel points on both the main lake and in the large creek arms. Bass have been suspending around 10′ deep over 15′ – 20′ on calm days so count either rig down about a five or six count and then begin a moderate retrieve. On windy days Table Rock bass move shallower and can be caught as shallow as three or four feet deep. Jewel football and spider jigs are working on channel swing banks in the larger creek arms. Look for the last couple of swings in a creek to be the most productive.

Capt. Eric Prey
Focused fishing Guide Service
p: 417-860-4743


COLORADO: No Crowds on the Upper Flats, Love It

April 5th, 2013

Our guide Dave Liebson has been doing very well below the dam on the “Quality Waters” section of the San Juan River. The rest of of us have been very jealous because we are all teaching skiing during spring break, and wishin we were fishin!

Some of the best patterns have been size 20 UFO’S, some smaller , and on quick, short increases from the dam use a size 18 if you notice the increase, (look for an increase in moss).

No crowds on the upper flats, love it.

Lately we have been having some great midge hatches due to the overcast weather, and red has been working very well along with egg patterns.

Capt. Scott Taylor
High Country Fishing Charters
p: 970-946-5229