Finicky Cold Water Saugeyes From The Shore

For some, cold wintery weather can destroy an angler’s motivation to fish. Summer is over, and the days of warm sunshine and green shorelines are gone as well and are replaced with a dull landscape. However, winter can provide excellent fishing oppurtunites. Many species of fish tend to school up at this time. If you can find them, big catches are possible. Dressing warm is absolutely important, and a good thermos full of coffee helps as well.
Presentation becomes extremely important as the temperature dips to fridgid conditions. In most cases, I’ve found that presentation needs to become slower. However, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes the fish really turn on and will strike at a more aggressive retrieve. When the fish prefer slower presentations I have found that they can become finicky. Let me rephrase that, EXTREMELY finicky. I found this out by fishing a very popular fishing hole. Two anglers down the shore from me were catching fish, yet I had yet to even get a strike. I tied on the exact same bait that they were using which was an 1/8th ounce jig with a 3 inch chartruce grub, yet I still could not get that tap on the end of the line I was patiently waiting for. My patience was dwindling, as I knew that this bite could end at any moment. If I wanted to catch anything, I had to act fast. I tried slowing down my presentation and still did not succeed. Finally, I carefully watched the angler beside me and copied his presentation, same speed, same lift, same everything. I was immediately rewarded with a sharp tap at the end of my line and instantly set the hook. I caught two saugeyes that day before the bite abruptly stopped. Attention to detail is so important this time of year, and I’ve found that I’ve had be willing to experiment with different presentations to find out exactly what the fish want. What worked yesterday may not work today. Bait size, weight, and type of bait are critical factors as well. Some days it seems they won’t bite unless I tip my jig with a minnow.

As for location, I’ve had luck around deeper water in the winter. Drop offs and large shallow areas near drop offs have worked for me. Spillways are another great option.

Winter has always been one of my favorite times to fish. Not the most comfortable time, but at times it has been very rewarding.

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Learning the Fine Details of a Fishing Location

On any body of water, some locations have a better ability of attracting fish. Sometimes through word of mouth, these spots become well known and very popular among anglers. You’ll know these spots when you see the shoreline crowded with anglers, or by the large fleet of boats floating side by side. Other spots are more secretive, shared by a handful of friends or by one sole lucky angler who happened to stumble upon it. Either way, knowing the best locations is only half the battle. To be fully successful at these locations, it helps to get to know them in full detail.

When I first started fishing for saugeyes, I fished one of these crowded fishing locations almost every day. As time went on, patterns began to emmerge that were completely exclusive to this location. Over fifteen years have past since I first started fishing at this location, and the same pattern stays true here to this day. I don’t fish here much anymore, but everytime I come here I apply the same tactics and they still hold true. Here is a rough description of this location. 

*For imformation on how to read lake maps, check out Utilizing Lake Maps for Saugeye Success.

The only time I ever caught fish at this location during the day in the spring was after a hard rain that made the water high and muddy. When the creek level was only slightly elevated, the following pattern held true: During the morning and evening hours, Almost every fish caught at this location came from either tight to the bank, or in the creek channel as shown in the image. Also note that almost all fish came from this side of the bridge. There was the rare occasion where fish were caught in other locations, but this event was so rare that I did not bother to make note of it.

During mid-day, I could usually pick up a fish or two in the shade underneath the bridge, and only on the side near the creek channel. *See post How light effects saugeye.

Sometimes the water would get so high that it would overflow the banks. This was prime time at this location, but the pattern also changed slightly. The creek channel still produced, but I also began to pick up fish in the middle of the creek. Also, I still caught fish under the bridge during mid-day, but on the opposite side as well. 

In the fall, the pattern changed again. The mid-day bite became non-existant. This time of year, clear water was the trend and it brought on a late-evening bite and an awesome night bite. Sometimes the water was crystal clear and low yet the fish were still here. The fish seemed to hold closer to the bridge this time of year, and consistantly stayed near the creek channel.

As for lures, what worked best here in the spring was 1/4 ounce jigs with a 2-3 inch plastic grub or swimbait. I tried 1/8th ounce and 3/8th ounce and caught significantly less fish. I tried 4 inch plastic and never succeeded. I tried crankbaits and jerkbaits in the spring and never got a strike. However, in the fall 4 3/4 inch suspending jerkbaits were the best option and crankbaits worked as well.
The fine details of these locations can only be learned from experience and time on the water. To me, thats all part of the fun! Try different things and under different conditions to find out what works and what doesn’t, always take notes, and always be willing to adapt. Knowing good locations and the habits of the species you pursue is very important, but the fine details can make all the difference.

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Walleyes and Saugeyes by the Light of the Full Moon

One thing we do know is that the moon effects tides. There are other things known as well, but alot of mystery and theories surround the timing of the full moon. For centuries the full moon has been handed the blame for many things. It has long been believed that the full moon causes moodiness in people. A popular saying after a busy hectic day at work is “Must be a full moon tonight!”. Ancient Myths even include stories of the full moon. Myths of werewolves claim that the werewolf comes out when the full moon comes. I can’t say if there is any truth to this, and I don’t believe in werewolves, but I do know one thing; When the full moon shines bright and lights the night sky, its a good idea to be out fishing for walleyes and saugeyes.

It has long been known that the full moon tends to provide trophy fish catches of walleye and saugeye. Also, the night before and the night after seem to be good as well. The full moons of October and November seem to be most active for me. These nights are definitely worth trying all night sits.

The techniques for night fishing remain the same during a full moon. Try the same lures that work on other nights, including jerkbaits, bladebaits, crankbaits, jigs, swimbaits, or whatever has worked for you. As always, if it’s not working try different retrieves, different baits, or possibly different locations. Just remember that fish can be extremely shallow and close to the shore.

I can’t say for sure why the full moon makes for good night fishing, but I do have a couple of theories. One is the increase of light. It is possible that the increase of light provides that perfect condition where walleyes and saugeyes can see, but baitfish have difficulty seeing. Perhaps the full moon lengthens the time of this occurance, and the walleyes and saugeyes happily take advantage.

The other is tide. Obviously this effect is smaller on small bodies of water, but maybe there is something there.

The last theory I have, is maybe the light draws baitfish closer to the surface and closer to the bank. Just like when a light is shined into the water, baitfish will tend to school up under the light.

For whatever reason, my best nights of fishing have been on or surround the full moon by a couple of days. Maybe the reasons for this are best unknown to me. Perhaps this adds to the mystery and mythical aspects of the full moon, and adds a little more fun to the equation. Also, Legends of trophy walleye and saugeye full of razor sharp teeth are more exciting than werewolves any day!

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Use this technique for reading depth from shore

Bank fishing presents advantages, as well as challenges. Boat fishermen have the luxury of access to every acre of water. Offshore spots are many times beyond the distance a casting rig can reach, but a boat gives a fisherman the ability to quickly adapt from shore to the depths. With todays electronics, a wealth of information can be obtained regarding a body of water. Depth, fish location, and bottom content are easily identified and displayed on screen. Depth finders are now available that can be used from shore. However, if you don’t have one there is a way to get a rough guess of some of this information. It’s not as good as having electronics, but it will work in a pinch. This method starts with a simple jig head, and a small amount of math and physics.

To figure out depth, first tie on a jighead to your line and use a rod that has a spinning reel. I prefer an 1/8 ounce head but you may prefer heavier jigs for depths beyond 20 feet. Now, find an area close to shore where you can visually estimate the depth. I aim for 5 feet if possible. Now cast your jig to this spot and as soon as the jig hits the water begin to count in seconds. A timer can also be used but isn’t needed. Allow your line to freely spool off of the reel and watch the line. When the line stops, stop counting. For this example, lets say it took 1 second to drop 5 feet. This means the jig falls at a rate of 5 feet per second. Now cast out farther. This time it takes two seconds to reach bottom. This means that the depth is 10 feet. By casting all around you, you can get a basic idea of how the bottom lays out, regarding depth, drop-offs and bars.

Bottom content is a little trickier to detect. For this I use a heavier jig, at least a 1/4 ounce. Cast out and allow the jig to hit bottom, and then slowly reel in the jig. You want as much bottom contact as possible. A rocky bottom will feel differently, and the size of rock will even change the way it feels as you reel it in. Gravel will pull slightly, while bigger rocks will grab harder and snag easier. An isolated snag can be from a rock pile or tree. Weeds will be more of a soft pull that hangs on more. By casting along a shoreline, you can find weed edges by finding out where the weeds end.

Try out this technique next time you fish from shore. You may be suprised about what you find at your favorite fishing holes!

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Drawdown Scouting for Walleyes and Saugeyes

When walleyes and saugeyes go shallow, the bite can be out of this world. This event also allows those without a boat to have the ability to catch their share of quality fish. For those without a boat or electronics, there is a way to see shallow water structure, and the time for this is after the drawdown of lakes and reservoirs.

Drawdown is when the water level is lowered significantly in a lake or reservoir, exposing shallow structure that normally cannot be seen with the naked eye without an underwater camera. This exposes many key structures that are important, including points, rock piles, wood, drop-offs, channels, bars, as well as the composition of the lake bottom. A enjoyable walk around the shoreline during a warming trend can provide a huge wealth of information to anglers about the body of water they choose to fish. Note: Check and make sure this is legal in your area.

A smartphone or hand held gps unit is very valuable to record your new discoveries, and to be able to locate them later. Many apps are available that allows you to record coordinates. Take pictures as well, to know what kind of structure is located at each coordinate.
As spring approaches, lakes and reservoirs slowly fill up and the water level rises, covering up the treasures that were once exposed. As the days get longer and warmer, the shallows get warmer and baitfish will move out of the depths and seek out these structures for needed cover. The fishes’ metabolism eventually increases and their increasing hunger will drive them to seek out these baitfish havens. A prepared angler will be there, at the right time and at the right location, and the anglers hard work will be greatly rewarded.

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When Going in Blind Goes Right

Pre season scouting and preparation is a great idea. Being prepared gives any hunter a great advantage. Knowing deer habits, travelways, primary scrape areas, food sources, funnels, and typical rubline locations ahead of time are all an important part of the success equation. However, sometimes things do not go as planned. You may find yourself in a situation where your early preparation did not work out as planned. You may not be seeing any deer or fresh sign and the rut is swiftly approaching. It’s prime time of the year and the scrapes and rubs you anticipated are not showing up, and everyone else is bragging about all the sign they are seeing. Maybe life’s responsibilities got in the way of preparation this year and there wasn’t any time to prepare. Your buddy may have called you up and invited you to come along and hunt some brand new property. No matter what the reason, sometimes going in blind is needed, and at times can even give you an advantage.
One of the main advantages of going in blind is the element of suprise. While going in blind, you are potentially hunting an area that has been left alone all season. No hunting pressure means the deer may be more relaxed and possibly more likely to show up at daylight. Many times this strategy can mean big buck sightings on the first hunt, provided that your stand is in the right location. Look for fresh sign, and signs of recent buck activity if hunting during the pre rut and rut phases. Add a good funnel to to the equation if at all possible.

To help remain undetected, put your stand or blind up during mid day, and if possible during a rain. You want to enter the area when it is least likely to spook deer. Also, try to avoid bedding areas, unless of coarse, if you want to go all in and make a big gamble by trying to catch a buck on his way to bed.

Aerial and topographical maps can help you scout a property from your own home. These maps can tell you the lay of the land, show fields, woods, thickets, funnels and bodies of water. You will most likely still have to do scouting in the field to fine tune your discoveries, but using maps can narrow things down.

If things aren’t panning out as planned during your hunting season, don’t be afraid to take action and try going in blind. It is one of many effective methods for outsmarting mature whitetail bucks. With the right approach, it has the potential to really pay off.

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How to Use Blade Baits Effectively

Bladebaits are extremely versatile. It really is hard to work them improperly. With their wiggling action provided with vibrations sent out through the water and an enticing eratic fall, these lures can really bring in fish. Fish can detect these vibrations from a distance and seek them out. Follow these tips to help you use blade baits effectively.

The most common presentation for these baits is vertical jigging, and it’s also where they really shine. Fine tuning this presentation depends on preference and the fishes’ mood. They can be jigged hard enough to set the hook and moved at a distance of two to four feet in the water column, to more subtle approaches of mere inches at a time. Some allow the bait to free fall, while others keep the line semi tight on the drop to be able to detect strikes better. Both approaches work and are a matter of preference. In most cases, the fish will strike as the bait falls. Sometimes a shake of the wrist can trigger a strike after the bait falls. In extremely cold water and during slow bites, a dead stick approach might even earn a few strikes. Suspend the bait and let the wind and water currents give it action. This doesn’t always work but may be the ticket when nothing else produces. When jigging make sure your drag is set properly. When setting a hook directly overhead, alot of tension is applied to the line and it is easy to lose fish if the drag is set too tight. Sometimes the hooks will pull free or worse, the line will break.

These baits can also be casted and retrieved like a crank bait. For variation, they can also be casted out and retrieved with a jigging motion, allowing it to fall after each lift of the fishing rod. Adjust your retrieve speed accordingly to the fishes’ mood.

Always find the correct depth and work these baits where the fish are in the water column. For saugeyes, this will almost always be near bottom. Some prefer to keep the bait one to two feet off of bottom, while others will allow the bait to pound the bottom on the drop, which stirs up silt and can attract fish. Also, it is recommended that you use snaps instead of tying directly to the bait. Keep the line tag short to prevent the hooks from tangling, and make sure you can feel the bait through the fishing rod. If you can’t feel it the hooks are probably tangled in the line and need untangled.

Try these baits out sometime. They are an excellent addition to any tackle box. At times they can be the best choice for a successful fishing trip. Also, when it comes to a fish inhaling the bait directly from below, they are just plain fun!

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Understanding Thermals and How it Affects Deer Hunting

Lets say you get in the woods for a morning hunt. You get set up on the lower end of a hill side. The sun has risen and the dark woods start to lighten up. The first thing you do is check the wind with a puff bottle. The air is relatively calm on this morning, but the powder drifts down the hill and to your right. You already know that the deer are likely behind you at this time, in a field and slowly coming your way to feed on the acorns that lie below the hill. At this point you give out a rattling sequence to them. Knowing that any approaching deer will probably try to wind you, you patiently look down the hill for any movement. Suddenly, you hear two loud stomps behind you. It’s the sound no hunter forgets, the sound of an alert deer stomping the ground.¬†You want to turn around to look but you know he’s looking right at you. Seconds¬†later the deer blows and runs off into cover. You immediately grab your puffer bottle and squeeze it to find that your scent shifted in the opposite direction. Understanding thermals and how it affects deer hunting can help prevent mishaps such as these.
In the morning, cool air is warmed as the sun rises. This warm air becomes less dense and begins to rise. In fairly calm wind conditions, this can cause your scent to shift in another direction, especially when on a hill side or down in a bottom or ravine. Evening hunts can have the opposite affect. As air cools from the sun lowering in the sky, air becomes more dense and sinks lower. One way to counteract this is to get set up high during morning hunts, and low during evening hunts.

Periodically check the wind throughout your hunts under different wind directions, speeds, and conditions to learn how this may affect your stands that are in hilly areas. Understanding thermals and how it affects deer hunting is a great tool to add to your scent control methods.

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Look and Listen to Catch Saugeyes and Walleyes Near Shore at Night

Saugeyes and walleyes are frequently found near shore at night. So you have prepared for your night of fishing. You’ve considered wind direction, as well as the time of year to decide on the best location that has the best odds of success. However, one factor that is often overlooked is food. Other then during the spawn, food is the primary factor of fish location.
Baitfish tend to move deeper during the day, and shallow at night. Sometimes they will stay shallow in the day in stained water. At night, they can be so shallow that you can see them from the bank. If you see baitfish along the shoreline at night, you’re odds of success are way better.

Listen closely and you may hear them swimming swiftly and frantically along the surface. If you hear this, immediately start casting. There’s a good chance that marble eyes is beneath the surface trying to get a meal in. Sometimes you can even hear these toothy predators break the surface as they stalk their prey.

One common mistake people make when this happens is casting too far. When fish are this shallow, keep your casts within the proper shallow depth to keep your presentation in the strike zone longer.

Be patient. A typical feeding period can be as short as only 15 minutes. Being there at the right time is the key.

In conclusion, some of the largest fish are caught at night, and long hours along the shoreline can really pay off. If your lifestyle allows it, take advantage of this strategy for catching saugeyes and walleyes at night.

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