Lake fishing can be incredibly rewarding with a wide variety of fish and a safe way for all members of your household to have a great time. My house has backed to a lake for the last 8 years and I grew up fishing lakes continually. What I know about fishing lakes is that it is quite different from river or canal fishing. In some ways lake fishing is easier, and in other ways it can be more challenging.
Let’s get you started on your way to success for your next lake fishing excursion with these proven tips to help you catch more fish in lakes!
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How to Catch Fish in a Lake
Choose the Right Lake
Finding lakes that yield a lot of fish is important. I use an app called Fishbrain when looking into a new area. The app provides me information like
- Types of fish in the lake
- Parts of the lake others have caught fish
- Lures and baits used
- Water levels and temperatures
- General comments and pictures from other anglers
This information is really the easiest way to get started. Simply go to lakes and particular parts of the lake where others have caught fish. Look at what the other anglers used and at what time of year they caught fish and you will be much more informed than just showing up to a lake for the first time and winging it.
Shore or boat
Another important aspect of picking a lake is whether you are fishing from the shore or from a boat. A lot of lakes I have been to have amazing reviews from other fisherman, but when you look more closely, they are all in boats. If I didn’t have a boat, I wouldn’t be able to get to the same places. So, when deciding on a lake know which type of fishing you are going to do and then evaluate the lake for your needs.
If you’re fishing from shore, it’s good to use Google Earth to look for shoreline accessibility, parking in close proximity, and other factors that ensure your fishing group can be comfortable and safe. I can tell you from experience, that scaling a massive wall to get to that “secret hole” is fine and dandy until you add the kids into the equation.
Keep Track of the Weather
Lake fishing is often one of those sports that can be influenced heavily by weather conditions.
The biggest factor in lake fishing is usually wind. Wind will mess up your day whether you are in a boat of from shore. It’s not that you can’t catch fish in the wind, but it does generally make things more difficult. Here’s an entire article on when is it too windy to fish that may help make the right decision.
Another weather related factor is temperature. Both air and lake temperature can change the activity of fish and therefor also change the types of baits and lures that will attract fish. When it’s really hot, fish tend to be in deeper water or in shaded areas under cover. When it’s really cold, fish can be closer to shore, but can also be a little lethargic and may need a bit more look at a bait before biting.
Knowing the forecast will make sure you have the right gear for the appropriate time of the year and associated temperatures.
Lake Fishing Tips – Bring the Right Gear
Personally, I think brand name fishing gear is a little overrated, especially when it comes to lake fishing. I’ve caught fish (and big ones) with my daughter on a $12 Walmart princess pole. It is certainly nice to have flawless gear that works beautifully, but I don’t think it is an absolute requirement. Here are a few things though that I think you will definitely need when lake fishing.
- The appropriate sized line. I have noticed that oversized line has an impact on fishing especially in really clear lakes. If you are going after average sized trout, you don’t need 30lb braided line! Opt for a line that fits the type of fish you are going after. Generally a braided line is thinner but stronger, but many fisherman still want the flexibility and simplicity of fluorocarbon or monofilament setups. It’s up to you, but remember, don’t over-size your line. Heavier line could mean less fish in the end.
- Multiple numbers of the most effective baits. Whether you are using worms, shiners, powerbait, spinners, lures, or whatever….find out what works and then make sure you have enough of it to last through your fishing day. For instance, in Wyoming, there is a chain of lakes that I frequent where I know these steelshad lure / jigs catch both trout and walleye. I have had a couple of times though where I went to buy the 1/2 oz variety and they weren’t available. So now I stock up just to be sure. Bring enough worms, bait, or lures to make sure you have enough to sustain through your time fishing.
- The right ancillary tools. When lake fishing, don’t forget to take other things you may need to make life easier. Things like hook removers, a stringer, an easy to carry tackle box, possibly a chair and umbrella, a net, are all things that can be easily overlooked, but will make your day on the lake so much better.
Location and Observation
Here’s the number one lake fishing tip. When starting on a new lake, I always recommend starting by doing some observing of the lake. Look for areas with underwater structures like submerged rocks, fallen trees, or weed beds, as these provide shelter and feeding grounds for fish. Additionally, pay attention to factors such as water temperature, wind direction, and current flow, as these can influence fish behavior and their preferred locations.
Mostly I’m also looking for fish activity. In the mornings, look for surfacing fish. Many fishing guides subscribe to the 80/20 rule. 80% of the fish can be found in 20% of the lake. So choose areas where you see fish activity. I also sometimes do a little cheating and fish in places where other people have obviously fished before. Footprints, trash (unfortunately), or even just a stick in the ground that was used to hold a pole are all good indicators that someone thought this was a good spot.
Bait and Lure Selection
Use the right bait or lures based on the type of fish you are targeting and the prevailing conditions. Research the species in the lake and learn about their feeding habits and preferred bait. Experiment with different types of bait or lures, such as live bait, artificial lures, or flies, to see what attracts the fish in your specific location. Keep in mind that different colors, sizes, and retrieval techniques can also make a difference.
When in doubt, start with worms. In freshwater lakes, almost all types of fish will eat a standard variety earth worm. When starting in a new area on the lake, I almost always have one pole with a worm on it. Either on top with a bobber or on the bottom with a weight…either way, just start with a worm and see what happens.
From there, I usually start working different types and colors of lures. I give each selection 10 casts or so before I make a switch. Try different methods of retrieval as well. Slow or fast. Twitch or straight reel. Top or dive.
Patience and Persistence
Fishing can require patience and persistence. I’ve found that I can start in a given area and have it be a little slow at first, but then after an hour or so, it can really pick up. Fish are drawn to activity, so persistency can bring them in. If you are using baits, the scent trail can take some time to expand out. So don’t be afraid to play the waiting game for a short time. Especially if there is fish activity in the area. Don’t give up, just continue to work different types of things until you find what they are looking for.
Mimic the Environment to Start Catching More Fish
The same species of fish in different parts of the country will hit different types of lures and bait. Mainly that is due to how they were raised (breeding ponds or wild), what kind of food they are used to, and what the natural environment gives them. In lakes that are full of fresh water shrimp for instance, fish may not come to the surface to feed on bugs as much as they do in Michigan (as an example) where mosquitos and flies are everywhere.
My advice, have a good look around the lake and see what is there for fish to eat. Are their crawdads in the water? Are the fish hitting the top of the water to eat insects? Are there a lot of minnows or small fish for food?
Each of these types of questions can help you decide on the answer to bait versus lure, and which type of each.
So there you have it. Lake fishing can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but it requires careful consideration and preparation. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can significantly enhance your chances of catching more fish. Remember, location is key, so take the time to observe the lake and identify potential hotspots. Selecting the right bait or lures based on the species and prevailing conditions is crucial for enticing bites. Lastly, be patient and persistent, as fishing often requires time and perseverance. With these strategies in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to make the most of your lake fishing adventures and increase your chances of success. Happy angling!