Become aware of conditions and catch more fish
It is a matter of degrees. Water temperature plays a major role in what fish are doing, where they are located and why. Water temp will trigger fish migrations, staging, spawning, and feeding on seasonal bait and forage preferences. The difference of a couple degrees in an area of a lake may make the difference in the fish being where they are supposed to be or not. A change of a few degrees can stimulate bite activity, or turn the bite off. Fish will also seek certain water temperatures for comfort when it is time to rest.
Being aware of water temperatures and how fish react and relate to temperature and change can increase your chance of locating the fish species you are chasing. For most of us, if you are on fish, most of the time you can catch them. The big puzzle to solve most of the time is locating the fish you want to catch. Water temp is a factor in solving the puzzle.
Obviously, many other factors come into play for locating or targeting a certain fish species other than just water temperature. Location of their food source, bottom content, and available cover are also factors important in solving the fish location and behavior puzzle. Water temperature will also play a major role in forage availability and location, thus influencing the location and behavior of the fish we are chasing.
Examples of this will be when the warmth of the water and sunlight will influence the shiners to spawn, all the predatory fish will get after them during that vulnerable time for them (that time is coming very soon!). Later, the perch hatch, the sunfish hatch, and the mayfly hatch will all influence game fish location, behavior, and preferences.
Changing up techniques can be important for success. Learning how to “match the hatch” increases opportunities for success. I have been guilty of doing the right things in the wrong place, or doing the wrong things in the right place many times. I will still make those poor judgments, but time, knowledge, and experience helps me make better on water decisions. Pitching jigs and paddle tails to cabbage weeds when the fish I am targeting are out on a bug bite on the edge of the transition from hard to soft bottom won’t create much success for my boat. But doing that when the cabbage is full of young of the year perch sure will. Dragging leeches on a live bait rig in 20ft. of water may limit the number of walleyes I catch when they are up in 6-8ft. of water chasing shiners around on the flat. If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else, change it up.
To cover all the game fish temperature preferences for the range of seasonal and forage changes is impossible to do in this short article. Many anglers and fishing experts have already written books on the subject. My interest is to stimulate your interest to learn more about the fish you are targeting to increase your odds. Get a book, check out online articles, pay attention to informational fishing shows, and most importantly, get out and practice. I have learned as much from the many outings that lacked success as I have from the trips that catching was easy.
This opening weekend, everyone that fishes will have some success, some may catch fish, some may not, but if you got out to enjoy this tradition, you had success. Most of the memories I have are not about the number of fish caught, but who I shared the event with and the unique things that always seem to occur on an opening weekend. I remember the times we had to shovel snow out of the boat, or put charcoal in a coffee can to warm up our hands. I remember the openers that it was so warm we fished in short sleeve shirts, or the times we had to solve boat or motor problems. We have had years that the ice has been off the lakes for 6-8 weeks and a year like last year where it was hard to find a lake that was open to slip in a boat. Fishing doesn’t get much better than the opener, but the catching usually does in the weeks to follow.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)