In late spring and early summer, lots of fish species will be in shallow water. Panfish and bass will be in there spawning, and walleyes will be hanging around in the shallows after the spawn. If you’re after fish that are in shallow water, you need to keep in mind that they are going to be spooky and easily scared. You don’t want to alert them to your presence if you want to catch them. Following are some ideas for sneaking up on shallow fish.
We can make noise in several different ways when we’re on the water, and it seems some noises will spook fish more than others. When you’re approaching a shallow water spot that you want to fish, shut the outboard off a good distance away and sneak in with the electric motor or let the wind push you in.
Once you’re in a fishing position, don’t give the electric sudden bursts of high power. Just leave it on a low speed and keep moving slowly. It seems like the fish adjust quickly to the low humming noise of an electric motor on a low speed, but if you give it sudden high bursts of power, they’ll spook. If you want to fish an area more thoroughly, quietly drop anchor. There are also new anchoring systems out, such as the Talon, that enable you to touch a button and a pole drops from the boat and anchors you in position.
As you move along, you need to keep as quiet as possible in the boat. A tackle box scraping across the floor of the boat will spook the fish, as will a hook remover or anything else bouncing off the floor of the boat.
Just as you want to be as quiet as possible, it’s a good idea to keep your actions to a minimum. Fish instinctively know that bad things, such as birds of prey, come from above, so shadows or motions above the water cause them to get skittish. Some anglers believe that it’s a good idea to wear clothing that blends into the background that the fish are looking at. Blue or light colored shirts will usually reduce the spooking effect from motion because they blend in with the sky.
Make long casts. The farther you are away from the fish when they detect your lure, the better your chances for getting bit.
If you’re wading a river, it works well to fish from the bank that is the lowest. If you’re profiled on a high bank above the fish, you’re much easier to see. If you’re closer to the water level, you will be less visible.
It often works well in shallow water to use a bait that lands softly. Something like an Impulse Dip-Stick Worm rigged wacky style will hit the water without spooking the fish. However, sometimes a bait that makes some noise when it hits the water will get a fish’s attention from farther away and attract it to the bait. The only way to figure this out is to experiment with baits.
The fish will be shallow off and on for the rest of the year. If you want to catch them, you need to remember to keep quiet. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but if you are successful at being quiet, you will be more successful at catching fish in shallow water.
PHOTO CAPTION: When the fish are shallow, you’ll catch more of them if you keep quiet and sneak up on them.
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