With the USACE predicting a two-foot rise in River level over the next week the stage is set for fantastic fishin’ in the weeks ahead. Over 3″ of rain muddied waters downstream from tribs, but the rising water also pushed much clearer water into backwater areas that load from downstream, esepcially those on south end of River mainstem islands.
We’ve been at or near historic low levels for over a month, limiting access to thousands of acres of very productive water. With the River rise we will be able to safely navigate to these areas again.
There are also countless migration corridors away from the main channel which fish push through as river levels rise or fall significantly–just like a monster buck moving from bedding areas to high quality food sources in very cold weather.
The most important survival drive for fish is the predator/prey relationship. Fish will follow their food source. The food source will stick close to escape cover to keep from feeding the next link up the food chain, while chowing down on targets of opportunity.
It takes me at least an hour to figure out fish location and activity level every single day. A major key when looking for species like bass or walleye is figuring out what they are eating and how to avoid other predators that are trying to eat them.
Birds can be tremendous bird dogs! This is especially true as forage species lose escape cover as weeds begin to die off. Herein is a whole ‘nother blog. For this one, just remember to watch the birds instead of your rod tip–sometimes.
Water temp, clarity, mud, bubble or bug lines are also key when reading the Immortal River. Subtle changes in current reveal a tremendous amount of info on fish location. For the past month these subtle queues have been on the river mainstem due to low River levels. Going forward th ability to “read” the river applies in backwaters and running sloughs.
Recently I guided a nationally known angler who wanted bluegills. Bluegills often stage on or near rocks in the River mainstem in late summer with low water levels. We started at a place where I boated a limit of quality fish in 48 minutes just the day before when out prospecting for the trip with him. The hot ticket was a 1/8 oz drop shot presentation with a tiny ice fly 8-10″ inches up the line.
We only boated a couple decent fish in 20 minutes. I noticed the drop shot sinker wasn’t allowing seductive placement of the fly due to a slight increase in current.
Reading the bubble line just 20 feet further upstream it looked like there might be just a little less current. We moved 20′ and spotlocked. He caught gill after gill until he had enough and wanted to go chase bass.
There was an area not far away where bass were crushing small minnows tight on the rocks–same reason gills were nearby: FOOD!!
A 3″ paddletail in shad pattern was what these bass were after. He hooked up on the first cast. Twenty minutes later we agreed to move on if he went 10 casts without hooking up. We were there for over an hour.
Not trying to brag, just illustrate how subtle little changes in location/presentation can make a world of difference. Sophisticated electronics can CONFIRM you hunch on fish location–but old school “reading” the River is often what it takes to get into the ballpark.
There is only one way to develop this skill set: time on the water! Don’t think I’ll fish today. the fish need time to figure out where they are headed. Well, maybe I won’t fish until this evening. Humidity is near 100%. This means the static tension on the surface will be high. should be a 3’+ bubble trail behind a buzzbait.
Think I’ll start where the bass & pike should be and tweak location/presentation accordinly. If I find ’em they likely won’t be there tomorrow. But it will be a good place to start!