How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Shore Fishing for Muskies

Although this article mentions mostly bass, you can also apply it to Muskies as well.

How to Fish from the Shore
written by Babe Winkelman

At certain times of the year, we'd all be better off leaving the boat in the garage.
Early spring is the best time of the year to catch bass and other game fish from shorelines.Just because you don't own a boat doesn't mean you can't enjoy fishing. Modern anglers have become so enamored with their fancy high-performance boats, they've forgotten about shore fishing. That's too bad, because there are certain times of year we'd all be better off leaving the boat in the garage, and early spring can be one of those times.

It seems to me that the biggest difference between bank fishing and fishing from a boat is that shoreline anglers aren't as aggressive. They tend to get locked into one place and one presentation. It's like Dave Genz says about some ice fishermen, "When they put their boats away, they put their brains away, too." It doesn't have to be that way.

With a little effort and versatility, anglers can increase the odds of catching fish from the bank of any river or lake. Here are a few tips:

Be mobile. Locating a hotspot on any body of water is as easy as following the signs. There are vehicle tracks in the ditches, trails through the woods and forked sticks in mud. While these high-traffic areas are proven hotspots, they're not the only places that hold fish.

Lake maps are available for most bodies of water. Pick one up and study the areas where most people fish, then look for other, similar, areas. If other fishermen are bunched on a long, hard-bottomed point, look for other points that are similar. All the fish in the lake aren't bunched up in one spot.

Play the wind. If you really want to get away from the crowds and increase the odds of catching fish, trying setting up on the windy side of the lake. Sure, it's not as comfortable there, but wind is the fisherman's friend.

When the wind blows it riles up the shallows, cutting light penetration and stirring up the food chain. It stacks plankton on the windy side of the lake and oxygenates the shallows, which in turn attracts baitfish. And guess who shows up when there are baitfish in the area?

If the wind is calm, fish "yesterday's wind," that's the side of the lake where the wind was blowing the day before. Chances are the water will still be stained and active fish will still be in the vicinity.

Be versatile. It isn't necessary to invest your life savings in tackle to go shore fishing. On the other hand, it's a good idea to have a variety of lures available.

Instead of the usual round bobber, get some tiny, inexpensive slip bobbers that allow you to quickly adjust the depth quickly. Use a bobber that's just big enough to float your lure. Try fishing next to the bottom. If that doesn't work, set the bobber a little higher. Keep changing until you find a depth that works. Attach a small jig to one line and a bare hook to another.

Try floating jigs. If you're fishing for bottom-feeders like walleyes, a floating jig will keep your bait just off the bottom where it belongs. Sometimes color makes a difference, sometimes it doesn't. The only way you'll know is by trying different colors.

Change baits. A lively little minnow usually works best for just about any gamefish early in the season. But try other baits, too. Try hooking a minnow through the top of the head, which will force it to struggle to right itself. That little trick can be deadly.

Use as many rods as the law allows, each with a slightly different offering and each at a different depth. If one presentation out-produces the rest, switch all your lines over to what's working.

If you're fishing for pike, try a frozen smelt on one line and a lively sucker on another. If you're catfishing, try different stink baits. Never assume what the fish will want on a given day.

Try casting a minnow bait, spinnerbait or big spoon beyond your stationery lines and retrieving them at different speeds. This tactics accomplishes two things. First, you might get a reflex strike from a lethargic fish. But it's more likely a fish will follow your moving lure towards shore where it will take your live bait.

If you really want to get serious about boatless fishing, get a float tube or a pair of chest waders and get in the water. Catching bass or bluegills from a float tube is one of fishing's greatest thrills. I once caught a 300-pound sturgeon from a float tube, although that effort was one of those don't-try-this-at-home experiences. Fly-fishing is another great way to enjoy angling without a boat.

If your goal is simply to soak up some sun, eat a sandwich and listen to the ballgame, get out there and have a ball. But if you really want to catch fish or want to introduce a youngster to the joys of catching fish, try these tips. You may be surprised at how many fish you can catch sitting on the bank.


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