How to Fish in Ponds and Lakes
It's always a great help to know your fishing grounds. Find out what kind of fish there are, if any. You can usually get all the information you want from any nearby tackle dealer, a local resident, or almost any other fisherman who knows the area.
Once you have arrived at the lake or pond you are going to fish, plan your strategy. If it is possible for you to obtain a boat, do so. This has several advantages over fishing from shore. You can pile all your gear into the boat then move around at your own convenience. You can look for the spots most likely to harbor fish, and try your luck at each. If one fails to produce, move on to another. Then, too, you can easily get within casting distance of lily pads and weed beds that you cannot approach from shore.
Fishing from a Boat
You have your choice of three fishing techniques: (1) still fishing; (2) trolling; (3) casting.
Still fishing simply involves fishing from an anchored boat. Select your spot, then rig up your tackle. You can use practically any kind of tackle - even a hand line - but the most commonly used is the bait casting outfit.
Some anglers use a fly rod, equipped in this instance with a bait casting reel and line. Others use a fly rod and reel, with an old fly line. Don't use a new line for still fishing, for it will soon become waterlogged.
Whatever outfit you fish with, you ought to use a float, or bobber. This may be made of cork, balsa wood, porcupine quill, or hollow plastic, and is supposed to float. (Fig. I). It is attached above the baited hook, the exact place depending upon the depth at which you are going to fish. If you want your bait to go way down deep, just above the bottom, attach a small sinker to your line and let it drop into the water until it hits bottom. Raise it about a foot, and attach the float at that point. Pick up the line, remove the sinker, and attach a hook to the end of your line. Now, when you drop your baited line into the water, you'll be fishing one foot off the bottom.
Use either a snelled hook, or one to which you have attached a piece of level nylon leader about a foot long. The leader should be weaker than the line, so that it will break in case you get snagged somewhere and can't pull it loose. A piece of split shot, clamped to the leader about six inches above the bait will keep the line down where it belongs. If you are fishing in a current, you may need more than one split shot. If your line still floats up, use a heavier type of sinker.
Let's suppose you are going to fish on a lake, and are ready to begin. First, bait up. Flip out your line; a long cast isn't necessary. Now, you just sit and wait for a while. Keep watching the bobber for signs of action down below. If it jiggles a tiny bit but doesn't go down, your own live bait may be responsible, or else a little fish is stealing a few nibbles. If it ducks under suddenly, something bigger is after it.
Here's where a knowledge of fish feeding habits comes in handy. Most gamefish will strike your bait hard. Even pan fish may hit with a sharp rap. As soon as the float goes under, set the hook by raising the rod tip sharply, then begin to reel in. If there's too much strain on your rod and reel to permit you to reel in easily, just keep a nice steady tension on the line. This will tire the fish so that you will be able to bring it in gradually. Remember that the fish is fighting the plaint strength of your rod, which doesn’t tire.
Bass are different. They will strike your bait hard, then hold it in their mouths for a while before they devour it. Mr. Bass catches his dinner in one spot, then moves off to another before he swallows it. If you are bass fishing, don't make the mistake of setting the hook the first time the bobber goes down. Count ten slowly, using the photographer's method, "One little alligator, two little alligators, etc." Then, set the hook and prepare for a fight.
The exact depth at which you fish is determined by the kind of fish you are after, and the temperature of the water. Most fish feed during the morning and evening. They prefer the cooler water that is found down below on a hot summer afternoon, because cooler water contains more oxygen than warm water.
Walleyed pike, bass, and pan fish are most likely to be caught by fishing deep at this time. Pickerel and pike do not feed in schools. They lie in wait, motionless until a smaller fish passes by. Then, they streak out of their hiding places and close their jaws on their prey. These fish prefer shallows, and are usually found camouflaged by weed beds, lily pads, brush, or the shadow of a fallen log.
Pan fish-perch, sunfish, bluegills and crappies-congregate in schools. If you catch one, you're pretty certain to catch others, provided the school doesn't move away. Here's a good stunt to try when you're after pan fish. Catch the first one, and use it as a live marker to inform you of the school's whereabouts at all times. Thread a few feet of line through the fish's lips, and attach the other end to a large chunk of balsa wood, a large cork float, or an ordinary inflated toy balloon. Put the fish back into the water, and it will rejoin the school. Your marker will indicate the exact position of the school, wherever it may go. Keep following your marker, and fish for all you're worth. You can always pick up both marker and fish when you are ready to quit.
Trolling consists of fishing from a slowly moving boat. The lure or bait is trailed astern of the boat, at a distance of from fifty to seventy-five feet. The best way to troll is to sit facing the stern of the boat while someone else rows. Hold the rod so that the tip is up at an angle of about 45 degrees. If you are alone, and must row yourself, here's the way to do it. Place your rod in the stern so that the tip projects over the rear edge of the boat. Set the click mechanism on the reel to prevent line from stripping out as the boat moves. Watch the rod tip at all times for a fish may strike at any moment. Should the rod bend suddenly, stop rowing at once, grab the rod, and set the hook. Don't yank with all your might - you may be stuck fast to an underwater obstruction. You'll soon know whether or not you have a fish, for if there is anything on the line, your rod will seem to come alive in your hands.
Use a stiff rod for trolling. One that is too soft will cause you to miss many strikes for the flexing power of the rod is not enough to set the hook in a fish's jaw. Your fish actually hooks himself when you are trolling, but you must use a rod with sufficient backbone to do the job. Figure 2 shows the kind of trolling rod you would use when fishing for large game fish, such as salmon, muskellunge, lake trout, and northern pike.
Bait casting involves repeatedly casting out and retrieving, the idea being to take the fish while your lure is in motion. You may use any of the lures that are used for trolling, but they are handled in an entirely different manner.
Trolling moves the bait at a constant speed, but bait casting gives you a chance to introduce some variety into the manner in which the bait is presented to the fish.
Beginners seem to think that luck is the most important factor in determining who catches fish. Sometimes two people will cast side by side; one man will be catching fish, and the other won't. Luck may play some part in the action, but "know-how" is more important.
Let's assume that it's a hot day, and the bass are lying way down deep. The unlucky fisherman is using a surface plug, and retrieving it with a fast, even motion. The other fellow is using a deep-running plug, and retrieving it with a slow, hesitating movement. He's bringing his lure down to the fish, instead of trying to attract them to the spot of his choice.
This would make it seem that two things are important to the bait caster-fishing at the right depth, and hitting upon a retrieving movement that entices the fish into striking. Since nobody knows just what goes on in the mind of a fish, the angler must experiment until he hits upon a method that works.
Plugs are designed to be fished at different depths. Surface or top-running plugs will float. Many of them are noisy in action, and kick up a splash as they are moved along. This attracts fish, particularly during the early morning and evening hours, when they may be feeding in shallow water.
Shallow-running plugs are fished just a little below the surface. Other plugs are made to go down deep; a slow retrieve will keep them down, while a faster movement will bring them up higher.
Use your imagination when casting. You can make your plug behave like a darting fish, or a wounded minnow, by using an uneven retrieve. Instead of reeling in steadily, let your plug sink a bit before you bring it in. Then, reel, pause, reel, pause, and manipulate your rod tip up and down at the same time. Watch the plug while you experiment. Work out several different kinds of retrieves; you may find that only one particular movement will take fish at a certain time.
It is very important to bring 'your lure right up to the boat after each cast, before you lift it out of the water. There may be a fish following the bait, and he may decide to go for it at the same moment that you yank it out of his reach.
Vary your fishing tactics when fishing live bait, too. You can't tell just what may tickle a fish's fancy. If one method works, stick to. it as long as it produces fish. If they stop biting, try another system.
Fly Rod Fishing with Bass Bugs
The best time for bass bug fishing is during the late afternoon and evening, just as the sun is going down. That's the time the big bass come up out of the deep water to forage in the shallows for food. They feed on anything that happens to be around, and on a quiet evening you can hear them splash as they go after minnows, frogs, or insects. If the water is as still as glass, and there's no wind, you have ideal conditions for bass bugging. Row the boat very slowly, about thirty-five feet from shore, and parallel with the water's edge. Learn to cast while sitting down in the boat; standing may be dangerous. Every once in a while an excited fisherman takes a step forward, then finds himself in water up to his ears.
Set up your fly rod and line, and attach a level nylon leader about six feet long. Fasten the other end of the leader to the bass bug you are going to use. Bugs are usually constructed around cork bodies that float. They are considerably heavier than trout flies, and much larger. Most of them resemble moths or other insects; some are tied to imitate small frogs, crayfish, or field mice. Still others don't resemble anything ever fashioned by nature, but represent the proud handiwork of a fisherman who has tied his own lure. Some home-made bugs are strangelooking indeed, but if they• attract fish, they're good.
Cast toward shore, dropping the bug as close to the bank as you can. As in bait casting, the manner in which the lure is retrieved is very important. Here again, don't stick to one method, but try several different ways of bringing the lure back to the boat. Don't use your reel; retrieve the bug by pulling the line with your free hand. Let it coil loosely at your feet.
Try this one first: After the bug has hit the water, allow it to remain motionless for a while. Then, twitch the line a bit, causing the lure to agitate the surface of the water as though it were a fallen insect. Stop, wait a while, then try it again for a second or two. Then, retrieve the bug very slowly, stopping and twitching it at irregular intervals. Some lures are made with concave heads which make a burbling sound when they are suddenly drawn underwater by a pull of the line. These "popping" lures are standard equipment for bass fishermen.
Bass bugging is exciting, for you never know exactly when a fish may strike. Sometimes the fish will hit savagely as soon as the bug hits the water. At other times you may get results while your bug is in motion. Be prepared for something to happen when you are least expecting it. Should you tie into a good-sized bass, you are in for a hectic time. Don't be surprised at anything that happens from now on. Keep a steady tension on the rod, but don't try to "horse" the fish in. If you insist, you may find yourself holding the butt end of what was once a nice fly rod. Bass will surge furiously away, rush to the surface and jump clear, then shake their heads in an effort to dislodge the hook. If your line is slack at any time, you may lose the fish. Keep the fish headed away from dock pilings and logs, if you can. Many a battle has been lost when a wise old bass wrapped the line around an old stump and got away.
First, you need a long, lightweight bamboo pole-the longer the better. Then, tie on a piece of fishing line that is as long as the pole. Attach a snelled hook to the line, and bait up with practically any live bait. Frogs, minnows, and crayfish are tops. You may also use a spoon, a spinner and bait combination, a pork rind, or a pork chunk. Now you are ready for skittering. Swing the pole, allowing the bait to skim over the water, or just beneath the surface. Don't be afraid to make a few splashes, for this attracts fish. Flip the bait over to each likely looking spot, let it lie there for a moment, then start it moving agam. You may also use the bamboo pole and line for still fishing. Just attach a float, and you're all set to go.
Where to Fish - Hot Spots
Every person who is familiar with a particular lake or pond knows that certain places are considered better than others for fishing. The fisherman who knows the pond will usually head for a favorite spot where he has caught fish in the past.
What makes some places "hot spots," while others never seem to harbor fish? We don't know all the answers, but what we do know seems to make sense. The instinct for self-preservation seems to be highly developed in all wild creatures, and fish are no exception. They like cover, which hides them from their natural enemies. They develop a protective coloration which helps them to blend with whatever background they swim against. This accounts for the great differences in markings that are to be found among fish of the same species. For example, not all bass you will catch may look alike. Those from light-bottomed lakes will have fairly light coloration; dark bottoms will produce fish with much darker backs. In addition, there will be a variation in the actual color of the fish.
Fish seem to be creatures of habit. As they grow older and larger, they develop feeding patterns which don't vary much. The same fish will usually be found around the same places, day after day. They swim about, of course, but eventually get back to doing business at the same old stand. Every experienced fisherman knows at least one old finny monster that lurks around a favorite spot.
It also seems to be pretty well established that certam kinds of fish prefer definite conditions under which they like to live. Your job is to look for them in those places where they are likely to be found.
Smallmouthed bass like clear, cold water. If you are fishing a large, warm, shallow lake that has an inlet created by a brook or spring, that's the first place to try. The incoming water is cooler, and may wash in food. Look for smallmouths around rock formations, and fish deep. Don't neglect shallow areas with rocky bottoms, for these contain crayfish which are dearly loved by all bass. Smallmouths will take almost any bait, such as worms, bucktails, minnows, frogs, pork rind lures, spinner and bait combinations, and spoons.
Largemouthed bass aren't quite so choosy about water temperatures. They will thrive in almost any water, be it clear and cold, or tepid and murky. Fish deep holes during the day, then try near shore during the evening hours. Cast toward shore from a boat. If you are a good caster, drop your lure right over the splash made by a feeding fish, then hang on to your hat! Baits for largemouths include almost anything you can think of. Use plugs, spoons, live bait, or bass bugs. Noisy surface plugs are often fished at night. Try trolling one about fifty feet behind a very slowly moving boat.
Bass like the cover afforded by another object. Cast next to docks, overhanging banks, lily pads, and rocks. Drop your lure into every nook where a fish may be hiding. Work your lure past that old stump, and don't neglect submerged logs and brush.
Pickerel and pike are not social fish. They are lone wolves who hunt and feed alone. They prefer the cover provided by grass beds, lily pads, and sunken logs. Troll past these areas, working your lure in close. If you're casting, it's a good idea to use weedless lures, and get into the fish's home grounds. Cast into the grass, then retrieve rapidly. These fish hit your bait with a smash, hooking themselves. Both pickerel and pike have teeth; be careful when disengaging hooks.
Walleyed pike will be found over clear, gravelly bottoms. They like cold water, and stay deep during the day. The best way to take them is by still fishing, using a juicy night crawler and a float. Towards evening, walleyes often come into shallow water to feed on minnows.
Pan fish-sunfish, bluegills, crappies, rock bass, and perch-offer great sport to the light tackle fisherman. A favorite method of fishing for these is with a fly rod. Your terminal tackle should consist of a small hook, attached to a level nylon leader about six feet long. Clamp on a split shot sinker to keep your bait down. If you are using a float, fish about a foot off the bottom. These fish will take almost any bait, and are caught by small boys and girls all over the country who use small pieces of kneaded bread for bait. Some of the conventional baits for still fishing are crickets, grasshoppers, grubs, caterpillars, worms, minnows, and crayfish. Small spinners, bucktails, wet flies, and combination lures are effective for casting.
You can have fun on any body of water that contains fish. Suit your tackle to the kind of fishing that you are going to do, and you'll enjoy it. You don't have to catch the big ones in order to make fishing enjoyable. Pan fish taken on a fly rod, a spinning outfit, or a light bait casting rod can provide you with enough conversation material to last for a long time. Besides, they're delicious eating.