The Adventurous Angler’s Guide to Fishing
Basic tips for five commonly found fish near you
Over a lifetime of fishing, I have learned a few basic tactics and strategies for many different species of fish that can be used in any fishing hole.
Here I will break down the simple presentations I have used from Maryland to California to catch my five favorite species, which are commonly found and provide year-round action without breaking the bank on gear.
There’s no need for hours of fly rod lessons and a trip to Idaho’s Salmon River to catch trout. Trout of all varieties have a reputation of being finicky biters, so there is a misconception that only dedicated fly fishermen can conjure up beautifully colored, spotted fish from a cold stream. My experience has been the contrary.
A lightweight spinning rod and a box with a few spinning lures can beat a fly rod any day. Light 4- or 6-pound test fluorocarbon line tipped with a small Panther Martin or Mepps spinner can be used to target aggressive trout in lakes or streams. The secret is to keep moving and frequently change lures until you learn what they are interested in that day. On cloudy days or in dark-stained water, use bright, flashy lures. In clear water or on sunny days, opt for black or dull brass lures. Keep moving and be willing to pass by fish that are uninterested in order to find the aggressive ones.
Use good polarized sunglasses to spot fish to cast to. Keep your silhouette hidden in the shadows or by crouching low. If you cast at a fish that ignores your invitation, just move on to the next spot. If you can’t see fish, fan cast one spot and move on to the next. Soon you will find the aggressive fish that want to play.
Big slab crappies can even get veteran anglers excited. Crappies are relatively easy to catch once you find them; often finding them is the difficult part. April through early June, crappies hang out in the woody cover along shorelines, especially if the downed trees are adjacent to deeper water. Later in the year, crappies will be found in schools hanging tight to deeper cover, rock piles, along weed lines or deep contour lines. It is hard to beat a small jig tipped with a minnow on a slip bobber. Other lures we frequently catch them on are small hair jigs or soft plastics tipped with Berkely Crappie Candy. When the bite is hot, a bare jig presented in a lively manner works well too. Flip the lure tight or right into underwater branches, let it start to settle, then give it a light jigging motion and let it fall again. Most of the time, crappie bite as it falls, so watch your line for signs of a strike.
LARGE MOUTH BASS
Largemouth bass’ popularity is for good reason. Bass can provide an action-packed day of fishing and can be caught with a large variety of tactics. In recent years, I have been terrorizing bass with a bait cast rod, heavy 65-pound braided line tipped with a floating rubber frog. Flipping these frogs over lily pads or floating weeds and retrieving with a jerking then pausing type action drives the bucket mouths crazy. They often hit the frog like a freight train and fight like crazy. Heavy braided line saws through the weeds and keeps them from busting off as they dive deep into the cover.
My other favorite lures are weedless spinners or medium-sized swimming plastic minnows or tube baits. I flip tube jigs into woody cover or under docks to trigger strikes. Spinning lures in a variety of colors will work, but it is tough to beat basic white or black. Try different spoon colors to match daylight and water clarity.
Northern pike’s predictability means anglers can easily find and catch them in any body of water they exist in. Pike are the wolves of the water; they lie in wait for their prey to pass by, then use their unbelievable speed to chase and catch their quarry. This hunter instinct makes them easy to catch.
Pike love hanging out in weed lines in shallow water of 12-feet or less. Casting baits that emulate wounded baitfish or flashy random acting spinners or spoons trigger their attack instincts. On calm water days, I like to use floating lures or spoonbills that make a bunch of noise as they come across the flat water. Mouldy’s Hawg Wobbler or big jointed Rapalas are excellent choices. They especially work well during that last hour of daylight. The sound and action of a big pike hitting a surface bait in the still of the fading day is highly addictive.
Mention walleyes to most anglers, and their eyes glaze over as they think of delicious fillets in hot oil. While I enjoy eating all varieties of fish, I must admit it is tough to top a walleye shore lunch with fried potatoes, onions and a cold beer. Much like crappies, walleyes are not hard to catch but can be hard to find. In early spring, they can be found in rivers on their spawning runs. In lakes, they typically spawn near rocky creek inlets or rocky humps. Lures that consistently work are straightforward when it comes to walleyes. Use an 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jig tipped with a fat-head minnow or a Berkely Power Bait minnow. White, pink, chartreuse and black are common colors. Fish along current breaks, eddies, mouths of small creeks or under dams. Walleyes tend to stack there to spawn. Later in the summer, walleyes can be found along deep weed lines or rock outcroppings. Using Rapala Shad-Raps or other deep diving minnow lures can usually trigger strikes. If you are having trouble finding walleyes, try wind drifting while jigging or dragging night crawlers on harness. Once you get a bite, toss a marker to return to fish that spot more thoroughly.
With two or three rods and a modest tackle box, anyone can apply these techniques to catch these fish species close to home—or farther from home. Whether going on a family vacation or traveling for work or another purpose, you can squeeze in some fishing with minimal gear and these tried and true tactics.