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Look for hungry fish

Fishing the Midwest

— Submitted photo This mid-summer walleye was taken from a small group of fish that were willing to eat. There was a larger school nearby, but they weren’t biters. Fish the biters.

When a person decides to go fishing, a primary goal is to catch some fish. And, while we certainly enjoy the time spent with our boat partner or just being on the water, catching a few or a bunch of fish is the main reason that we go fishing. We know that we’re not always going to catch lots of fish, but we also know that there are some things that we can do to increase our chances for catching a few(or a bunch). Finding the fish that are most willing to bite is a big part of catching fish.

To consistently catch fish, we first need to find them. However, at times just finding the fish isn’t enough. You’ve got to find the fish that are willing to eat your bait. You might have a bunch of walleyes hovering off the edge of a deep water structure, and just a few walleyes on the top of that same structure. While it’s tempting to work the big school of fish that are on the edge, it might be more productive to work the smaller group that’s on top of the structure. Here’s why.

You can sometimes determine the activity level of a fish by where it is. Walleyes that are shallow or on top of a structure are often looking for something to eat.

Walleyes that are near structure, maybe suspended just off the edge of the reef, point, or whatever, are fish that have probably recently eaten and are now just hanging around. They probably aren’t interested in eating. When they do get ready to eat, they’ll swim back to the structure and find a meal.

There are always exceptions. In some bodies of water the walleyes spend much of their summer suspending near baitfish. When they get hungry, they move into that school of baitfish and start eating.

I’m reminded of a day on the water in Minnesota a couple of years ago. This event really emphasized the importance of fishing for fish that are more likely to eat. We were fishing a reef that had been holding lots of fish, and we had been catching them pretty good. After a while though, the fish-catching action had attracted a pretty large group of boats with anglers in them. We could still see fish on our sonar, but they didn’t want to bite. The additional boat traffic overhead caused them to shut down. We left that reef for a similar one a couple of miles away. The new reef wasn’t usually as good for fishing as the reef we’d been on, but we had the new spot to ourselves. There were fewer fish on the second reef, but the ones that were there were biters. We had more success fishing a spot that had fewer fish because the ones that were there hadn’t been pressured as much and were more willing to eat our bait.

A similar thing happened the exact next day when we were after largemouth bass. We started fishing the shallow, sloppy, heavy vegetation and caught a good number of bass on Pad Perch. These baits are designed to go through the shallow, sloppy vegetation without hanging up. But when the sun got higher in the sky, the shallow fish lost interest in our baits. When they didn’t bite, we moved deeper, tied on Ocho jigworms, and found more bass willing to bite. Different area, different bait, and more aggressive fish.

When you go fishing, keep in mind that sometimes you’re better off fishing areas that hold fewer fish if those fish are willing to bite. It’s more productive to show your lure to a few fish that want to eat than to a lot of fish that don’t want to eat.

Look for hungry fish

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