Open-water fishing opportunities are starting to happen across the Midwest. One goal that I have coming into this season is to be more observant for changes that affect fish location and behavior. In my experiences, reacting to change is often key to fishing success.
For example, one big change that is noticeable in many lakes is the increased water clarity often encountered. Spreading zebra mussel populations often get the blame for increased water clarity.
Clear water means fish locations change and changes in their feeding patterns occur too. Fish tend to locate in deeper waters when clarity increases, and they often feed more during the low-light periods of early morning and late evening.
In response to these changes, I often find myself on the water earlier or later in the day and productive fishing depths are now often deeper. For example, one of my favorite shallow-water walleye lakes kicked out good catches in 7-to-10 feet of water in years past. Now, 12-to-25 foot depths are often more productive.
Clear water also affects lure selection. For example, a bright "firetiger" color pattern used to be one of my favorite crankbait color patterns. Now, more lifelike "match-the-hatch" color patterns that imitate perch and bluegills are often more productive.
To illustrate these points regarding deeper fish and them being more susceptible to natural colored lures, I'll reference some recent bass fishing experiences while fishing with crankbaits.
The past two falls have yielded excellent catches throwing Pro Model Series 5XD baits along deep weedlines where I used to throw Series 5 baits. The "XD" stands for Xtra Deep and the deeper divers are getting more play now because the weedlines I fish are often deeper.
And, the more natural color patterns in these baits, colors like neon bluegill, natural bream, and yellow perch are getting more positive responses from the bass than some of the brighter colors.
Water clarity changes are affecting fishing, but so will many other factors. For example, as I write this, we still have deep snow and it's currently raining hard, probably meaning lakes with higher water levels than normal will be encountered this spring.
How will that affect the coming fishing season? I'm guessing bass fishing may be good in the shallows this year as there will be deeper water and more fish-holding submerged cover along shorelines. Walleyes might stay shallower a bit longer this year too, as heavy spring run-off might mean dirtier water and more baitfish roaming shallow.
These, however, are just guesses. The key, as always, will be to be observant to current conditions concerning things like water clarity, water levels and weather conditions and then react accordingly.
Because, sure as spring is coming, conditions will change and the anglers who react best to those changes will probably put the most fish in the boat this summer!
Good luck on the water and, as always, remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's School of Fish. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook to see more from Mike.