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River Fishing vs Lake Fishing

From rushing rivers to glassy calm lakes, fish are everywhere! Water temperature, depth, and techniques can quickly change from one to the other so it’s important to know how to approach each one when fishing a new lake or river. Each water body offers its own challenges but we have come up with a few go-to tricks you can use during your next fishing adventure. It is very common for the same species of fish to act differently when living in a moving body of water as opposed to a static water body, so let's talk about how to find them!

Flowing Water Bodies: 

A flowing body of water can be anything from a shallow stream exiting a lake, or a standalone river of unknown depth. Rivers offer a fantastic environment for a wide range of fish species that may not be as common in most lakes or ponds. Rushing water allows for more oxygen to be moving through the water while keeping the overall water temperature much cooler, making it the perfect environment for environmentally unstable fish such as the various species of trout and salmon. While both trout and salmon can be found in deep lakes or ponds, they prefer the rushing water ways and typically shallower conditions. 

Smallmouth bass, and the less common largemouth bass, can also be found in larger rivers that offer more depth for places to hide and ambush their next meal. Smaller fish species such as sunfish, bluegill, and perch tend to pile up in the slower parts of rivers to expend less energy when waiting for slower prey to wash by. Overhanging trees drop insects and bugs into the river, teaching the fish to feed on the surface and become hyper aware of baits being tossed into the water. For fly fisherman, rivers and streams offer a phenomenal environment for their craft. Typically speaking, smaller baits tend to work more effectively in streams and rivers because as they say, match the hatch! 

When approaching a river bank to start looking for a palace to cast, It’s important to study the landscape and locate places fish might be. Large rocks and submerged trees break the current of the water allowing a calm place for fish to rest and lie in wait. Tossing your fly or spinner bait into these calmer areas can quickly draw a strike from a hungry trout or bass. Trout and salmon typically face upstream to catch small fish and insects as the current takes them past the fish, making for an easy meal. Letting your lure or fly wash downstream with the current can entice one of these species of fish to bite even while the bait is seemingly lifeless. 

Deep pockets of water can form on the sides of the river banks that provide a backdraft current keeping the water calmer yet still aerated. Both large and small fish prefer these deeper calm areas as they offer protection along with a place to rest away from the current, with the option to swim right back into the current and move onto a new resting spot. Casting your deep diving lures, top water baits, or jigs into these deeper areas can get you hooked into a monster largemouth or smallmouth bass along with other more common fish species. Creek chubs and shad are common food for larger fish in these areas, so using a bait to mimic the look and action of a minnow proves to be extremely effective. 

Ponds & Lakes:

Now that we have covered how to approach fishing a flowing water body, let’s talk about classic pond and lake fishing! While fly fishing is still possible in these types of waterways, a conventional rod and reel combo reigns as top dog for these conditions due to the versatility of bait and technique options. A pond is shallower than a lake which offers the opportunity for more vegetation growth, making great cover for bass and other fish to hide beneath. Lakes are much deeper than ponds allowing for fish to dive deeper and can be harder to reach. When fishing a new pond or lake, it is great practice to find a topographic map of the waterbody to locate the deep sections and shallow sections. Most waterbody maps can be found on the local fish & game website or parks system website. Knowing the minimum and maximum depth of a pond or lake can give you quick insight on what baits you may want to try out even before you are out on the water. 

If you are fishing from the bank, a quick walk around the perimeter of the pond or lake can give you a good idea of the natural (and unnatural) structure along with places that may seem overfished. If you are seeing tons of fishing line and gear in nearby trees or along the bank, chances are that spot is common for fisherman in that area and it is best to avoid those areas. Fish are quick to notice patterns and areas that are pressured, and can become very aware of fisherman quite quickly. When approaching the side of a water body, walk slowly and quietly. Fish species such as pickerel, pike, and walleye love to hide in the shallow areas near the bank and can easily be spooked by the vibrations caused by your feet. Once you have located your honey hole, it’s best to have a couple different baits on deck to see what the fish are looking for. From topwater baits to deep diving crank baits, you never know what works until you try it. Remember, as you reel in your bait towards the shore the water becomes shallower and raises the potential for a snag; so modify your reeling speed per your surroundings. 

Fishing from a canoe, kayak, or motor boat can open up a wider territory for you to focus on while also allowing you to access areas not possible on foot. Situating your boat or kayak on the outskirts of lily pads gives you the chance to put your bait right in front of a resting fish while giving them ample time to follow it out of cover into open water. Top water frogs and weedless soft plastics are great for these areas as they have a hidden hook and will not become snagged on the vegetation. Like we mentioned in a previous article, fish are very curious and can oftentimes follow a lure all the way back to the boat without biting. Switching up your retrieving speed can trigger otherwise uninterested fish into biting and getting that sucker into the boat and on the scale. Heavy jigs, spinner baits, crank baits, and swimbaits are all great options to start out with when approaching a new body of water. Depending on the time of year and current spawn situation, other types of lures may prove more effective than others. Doing your research ahead of time on these two subjects can save you a lot of trial and error, resulting in more fish in the boat. 

Whether you prefer fast paced river fishing or a calm day on the lake, we hope these tips get you hooked into more fish while having some fun. Fishing a new waterbody can be a daunting endeavor, but it doesn't have to be! We strive to provide our readers with informational yet digestible content to get those lines tight and smiles wide. Tune into our other articles soon to come for more in depth information on a wide range of fishing and fishing related topics. Is there something you want covered in our next article? Leave suggestions for what you want to read about next!

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