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By Sam Anderson
Listening to the TV station report record rainfall during the months of June and July in the Midwest I knew that walleyes would be rebounding from raising or lowering water levels on the rivers and lakes that are controlled by a dam system.
One of the most obvious causes of fish relocation is a change in water level. While a more prevalent influence on river or reservoir fishing, an extremely wet or dry season can also raise or lower a natural lake’s water level. Sometimes only a change of a foot or two can have a dramatic effect on fish location in a natural lake. Spring spawning hotspots are particularly vulnerable to changes in water level. There is only so much lake bottom that is conducive to fish spawning. Since most walleye spawning takes place in shallow water where the sun’s rays can help hatch the eggs, a small drop in water level can wipe out vast areas of walleye spawning habitat. A rise in water level can also eliminate spawning habitat, though it usually opens up other areas.
Generally, low water hot spots are super producers, because the fish are more tightly schooled due to reduced lake area. Rising waters have the effect of scattering fish and breaking them into smaller schools.
While some walleye hot spots seem to attract fish year after year, others will be super one year and completely dead the next. Why? Some biologists believe that relocation of prey seems to be a logical explanation. Walleyes are more nomadic than other species of fish, and if they feed on an open water prey, like ciscoe or tullibee, their movements can be very erratic.
If you discover a walleye hot spot in early summer, it should hold fish until the fall turnover. But the chances of the same location producing walleyes next summer are not guaranteed. The walleye angler just has to be flexible and clever to keep up with the wandering walleye clan.
Knowing why our favorite fishing spot is no longer producing fish makes for a more adaptable angler. I know a friend who continues to fish one of his old hot spots religiously, he insists that the fish are still around, and he is going to wait them out. If your hot spot has turned cold, it did so for a logical reason. There was no " black magic" involved. The best response to such an unwelcomed change is to forget about it and move on to a new location. Sure, check out the old spot every once in a while, but don’t waste a lot of time.
A second consideration is to keep a seasonal eye on your fishing holes. If you find a hot spot in the early summer, it may continue to produce until the fall, unless there is a dramatic relocation of prey, or change in weed growth. If last year’s hot spot hasn’t turned on by the end of July you can probably forget it.
Finally, if you should locate a hot spot, don’t exploit it! The real challenge of fishing is locating the fish. Once you locate the fish, don’t over harvest the area. Take a few smaller "eater" fish and put the rest back. Also look for other locations on the lake that are similar to the pattern that you are finding fish.
With rising waters especially after a lot of rain the water will get muddy and that can be in your favor. Muddy conditions are great structure to fish in the summer because the angler can fish them quickly. If you fish an area and you don't have a fish within 10 to 15 minutes move on to another location.
Lure selection in the form of crankbaits should appeal to the fish senses. They should be big lures that displace water and give off vibration, or rattle and they should be flashy with bright metallic finishes. A great choice here would be the Thunderstick. It has all the ingredients for fishing muddy water, color, flash and vibration.
To slow down your lure presentation a little, use a jig tipped with a minnow. But don't get stuck in a slow pattern. Utilize extremes. Rip the jig back to the boat on one retrieve, then work the jig slow, bouncing it along the bottom on the next retrieve. My favorite jig in this situation is a 1/8 ounce Fuzzy Grub jig tipped with a minnow. I prefer the Fuzzy Grub because it is round and I can easily attach a stinger hook to the minnow and up my chances of catching a finicky walleye. When in doubt if you have contact with the bottom, increase the size of your jig and minnow. You might get hung up more, but you might also have a wallhanger on your hands.
Equipment becomes essential when fishing mud lines, especially line. I like to use the new Vanish line. The reason I use Vanish is it is completely invisible in both muddy and clear water making it difficult for the fish to detect. This may seem like it would make line watching hard out of the water but the contrast in the air is clear even on over cast and bright sunny days. The critical aspect is the fish can't see the line in the mud line at all and all of a sudden a bait appears before them.
A good choice of rod is the 6'6" or 7' with a fast tip for watching or making a sweeping hookset in muddy water. You will be positioned outside of the mud line and it will be crucial to have a rod that can detect and react at a moments notice. Team this rod up with a Quantum Energy reel and you have a combination that will help you catch fish during changing water conditions.
Let me know what you have experienced fishing the changing conditions
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