How to Fish Whitefish at Sylvan Lake in Alberta – Hot Spots, Lures/Flies/Baits, and Tips

Lake whitefish is a popular game fish, for both open water fishing and ice fishing, in Alberta and the rest of Canada. It is abundant and can be found throughout much of Canada.

Lake whitefish feeds on bottom dwelling animals such as snails and many aquatic insects as well as mayflies and midges. The fish prefers cool water (i.e., 11.9 to 17 degree Celsius or 53 to 63 degree Fahrenheit) and can be caught near shore in Spring and early summer. After the lake water warms up in the summer, the fish tend to move deeper where the water could be cooler. Many fishermen go ice fishing for Lake Whitefish as well.

Check here to see a table of preferred temperatures for a variety of fish species including walleye, trout, perch, and whitefish.

Find out more about whitefish here.

Lake whitefish can be finicky, but they are very not hard to catch. The best time to catch Lake whitefish is early morning, but they can be caught through out the day.

A simple and effective way to catch Lake Whitefish is a blood worm fly/hook with a float. Try to keep the hook close (within a foot or two) to the lake bottom and as horizontal as possible to better mimic a blood worm. Whitefish has very soft mouth and is fairly shy. So, try to use 6 lb or even 4 lb monofilament fishing line or Power Pro fishing line that has equivalent diameter. Another method without using a float is to tie the lure/fly using a dropshot rig, which also worked well for me, especially when I am targeting the fish in deeper water.

Below is a picture of example blood worm flies that I tied myself using Superfly worm wires, beads and #6 and #8 hooks. They worked well at Sylvan Lake, Alberta.

Fishing lure/flies for whitefish: blood worm fly pattern
Fishing lure/flies for whitefish: blood worm fly pattern

So, now you know how to catch Lake Whitefish. Let me reveal a couple locations that are great for Whitefish fishing. I am taking Sylvan Lake as an example.

You can park your vehicle and launch your boat, kayak, canoe, or whatever via the two spots marked on the map below. In May and June when the lake water is still cool, you may be able to see Whitefish within a couple hundred meters from the boat launch. It is the best to fish on a boat, kayak, or canoe etc. to increase your coverage. But it is still doable to fish along the shore when the weather is not yet hot and the fish can be found in 1 meter to 2 meter deep water near shore.

A fish finder may be very helpful, check my post below for more information.

How To Use Fish Finders and Tips for Choosing Fish Finders

Have fun fishing 🙂

A 3-Day Trip to Tofino, BC during Christmas Holiday Season: Hiking, Sight-seeing, Food

Happy Holidays, folks. After a year’s hard working, everyone deserves a nice and lovely vacation. This holiday season, me and my wife wanted to escape from Alberta’s coldness and snow and spend some quality time in a warmer and greener place – Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, BC definitely meet our needs, although it would be nice if we had time to go there in the summer. The good thing is that we lived in a guest house surrounded by rain forest, with a wood stove that gave us extremely nice and cozy holiday atmosphere. Oh, my goodness, I just love it!

For a PDF map of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, please check here.

How we got there and where we lived

We flew with Air Canada from Edmonton to Vancouver on Dec. 23rd night and spent one night at St. Regis Hotel (602 Dunsmuir St., Vancouver), located about 2 minutes from the nearest Sky Train Station (City Centre, and Buses 257 and 250 are nearby as well). The hotel room was nice, but a bit small compared to those I use in Fort McMurray for work. Yeah, location, location, location! The housing prices of Vancouver are much higher than those of major cities in Alberta. I guess I won’t move to Vancouver anytime soon. LOL.

The next morning, we took the ferry at Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay at Nanaimo. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to cross. Check here for the official ferry schedules. The boat was really nice, huge and very stable. People bring their vehicles and pets with them. After we arrived at Nanaimo, we took a free ride with Enterprise Rent A car and rented a vehicle, with which we drove to our guest house in Tofino. We found the guest house (49.131279,-125.894765, Tibbs Place and Abraham Drive) on VRBO. We shared the kitchen, the living room and the Man’s Cave (a garage with a wood stove) with another nice and kind tenant.

Where to buy grocery

There’s a T&T supermarket near the St. Regis Hotel and we bought some food and seafood there, just in case no grocery store is open in Tofino during the holiday. Actually, there’s a nice Walmart in Port Alberni, about 1 hour driving away from Nanaimo. So, you can get your grocery there as well.

It’s time to have fun!

Incinerator Rock on Long Beach

Our first stop in the morning on Dec. 25th, a beautiful sunny day, was Incinerator Rock on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park. The Incinerator Rock is a giant tidal rock, which is a perfect spot for you to stand on and enjoy the view. If you don’t have a National Park annual pass, it’s $7.8 per adult. See here for more information about the fees.

RVs are not allowed in the parking lot in front of the beach at the Incinerator Rock. However, we did see people stayed in their small van campers (or, small RVs). I thought it would be nice to camp here and go surfing, kayaking, hiking, or fishing around. Actually, we did see one guy carrying a bucket, a fishing rod and his tackle walked onto a smaller rock and caught a fish a short moment later. Yeah, this location is a good one for shore fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island.

Shore/Beach Fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island
Shore/Beach Fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island

In addition to sight seeing and shore fishing, we saw people came here for surfing in as well, yeah, in the winter with we suits. I would imagine that more people could be here in summers. For myself, I don’t do surfing, but I kayak regularly in summers in Alberta. I thought it would be fun to kayak on the ocean sometime.

Hiking Light House Loop, Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, BC

After seeing the Incinerator Rock, we went on to hiking the Light House Loop trail (30 – 45 minutes walking, 2.6 km). You can see beautiful mossy rain forest and nice coastal line. Do enjoy the frequent benches along the trail.

Sight seeing along Lighthouse Loop Wild Pacific Trail
Sight seeing along Lighthouse Loop Wild Pacific Trail
The 100+ Year Old Landmark - Lighthouse.
The 100+ Year Old Landmark – Lighthouse.
Hiking Half Moon Bay Trail in Pacific Rim National Park

On the way leaving Ucluelet back to our guest house in Tofino, we hiked the Willowbrae Trail and Half Moon Bay Trail. There are wood stairs on the trail. Use caution when the stairs are wet or icy. They could get very slippery.

Halfmoon Bay Nice Sandy Beach
Halfmoon Bay Nice Sandy Beach
Cox Bay Beach: surfing, walking, and sight seeing

We wrapped up the day by visiting the Cox Bay Beach Resort, where we could see the cooks preparing food for their guests on Christmas, and the Beach itself.

Cox Bay Beach - Great Open Area for Gathering, Surfing, Walking
Cox Bay Beach – Many People Go for Surfing and Walking (with dogs!)

The Cox Bay Beach is very wide open and it’s a popular place for surfing, family gathering, dog walking, and so on.

Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park

On Dec. 26th, we went to Maquinna Marine Provincial Park for hiking the Hot Springs Cove trail and then we enjoyed the hot spring. Use caution while getting to the cove or the hot spring water falls, as the rocks could be very slippery. It was freeing stepping on the rocks with our bare feet. However, once we get to the host spring water, we were very happy that we made it. It was a very unique experience compared to the “landscaped” hot springs in Banff and Jasper National Parks. You get hot spring water falls! With the water coming down onto my shoulders, I felt very comfortable and relaxing. It was like having a water spa – with hot spring water!

Hot Springs Cove and Water Falls
Hot Springs Cove (hidden behind the trees) and Water Falls
Movie Nights

After hiking and having fun all day, we spent the nights watching movies with the wood stove on – nice and cosy, isn’t it?

How time flys – heading back

In the morning on Dec. 27th, we started driving back to Nanaimo. Before reaching Nanaimo, we have a short tour of the giant Douglous Firs in MacMillan Provincial Park.

Giant Douglas Fir - 800 Years Old
Giant Douglas Fir – The Oldest was 800 years, more than 70 meters high, in the Park

For food lovers

In Tofino, we enjoyed great sea food in the beautiful restaurant: Shelter. At the Departure Bay ferry in Nanaimo, we really enjoyed the fresh, delicious tuna sandwiches. And, before we get back to Edmonton, we bought a full backpack of smoked salmon at Sea Drift sea food market in Nanaimo, not far away from the Departure Bay in Nanaimo. In addition, we also bought some nice spaghetti at the market on Granville Island. Oh man, the spaghetti could be one of the world’s best. We took the sea bus to get on Granville Island. It was a very short, fast, and convenient way to get on the Island.

Sea bus to Granville Island: short and fast
Sea bus to Granville Island: short and fast

Moose Lake Fishing Hot Spots and Tips

Moose Lake is a popular recreational area for local residents and a great fishing destination for all anglers. It’s a relatively small lake with a surface area of 40.8 km2. The average and maximum depths are 5.6 m and 19.8 m, respectively. It offers excellent fishing opportunities for people using power boats, kayaks or canoes because of the narrows, bays, points, dropoffs, and other structures present. Please read my post about how to catch fish successfully and consistently: 6 factors every fisherman needs to know.

Moose Lake Depth Chart helps you find fishing hot spots
Moose Lake Depth Chart helps you find fishing hot spots. Source: Angler’s Atlas

Before your fishing trip to Moose Lake, make sure you read the depth chart and Google Map to give you an idea what specific areas may hold the specific fish species you want to fish for. A PDF version of the Moose Lake Depth Chart can be found here. I am gonna focus on Franchere Bay fishing hot spots and tips in this article, because that’s where I enjoyed fishing every time I went there in the past two years.

Below is a map of Franchere Bay of Moose Lake with markers on it. Marker A (GPS location coordinates: 54.256789,-111.004129) indicates a beach; Marker B (54.253329,-111.003805) a boat launch; Marker C (54.253209, -110.996430) a good hot spot for Walleye fishing; Marker D (54.261490,-110.991267) a deep hole 14 to 15 meters; Marker E (54.261933, -110.997890) a great Pike fishing hot spot; and Marker F (54.261833, -111.004842) also a great Pike fishing hot spot with good shore fishing opportunities. I like Franchere Bay exactly because of these structures which may hold a variety of fish species.

Moose Lake Franchere Bay Fishing Spots
Moose Lake Franchere Bay Fishing Spots. Great Pike and Walleye Fishing.

We started kayaking in a tandem kayak at about 8:30 pm in mid-July, right after a storm. The moment we reached Marker C from B, I saw a fish mark on my fish finder at about 4 meter (13 feet) depth on 6 meter (20 feet) deep water and asked my wife to drop her fishing lure to about 4 meters deep immediately. She caught a 53 cm (21 inches) Walleye with fat belly at Marker C right after she dropped her soft plastic lure (Powerbait minnow) in the water. The surface water temperature was around 21 degree C (70 degree F). We had a great time kayak fishing with beautiful sunset lake scene around us. Ha, I can’t wait to do that again.

Read my post about the 7 great soft plastic lures for fishing for Pike, Walleye, Trout, and more. And also how to use and choose fish finders.

Fishing Sunset Lake Scene (Moose Lake Alberta)
Fishing Sunset Lake Scene (Moose Lake Alberta)

The second day, we launched our kayak again at the boat launch (Marker B). This time we wanted to target Lake Whitefish. Knowing that Lake Whitefish is a cold water fish and often goes deep in summers, we headed directly to the deep hole at Marker D. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any bites. So we headed toward the outflow mouth at Marker F. Before we reached Marker F, we stopped by Marker E as I saw fish signal on my fish finder. I then put down my anchor and started jigging there. Bang, game on! We then enjoyed catching Pike one after another. The size ranged from 50 cm (20 inches) to 67 cm (26 inches). In the end we didn’t go to Marker F at all because we were tired of catching Pike and Pike only. Nevertheless, I did catch a 82 cm (32 inches) Pike a year ago fishing on shore near the bridge at Marker F.

In addition to fishing, we saw people power boating, water skiing and sailing there. Furthermore, a little bit about the campsite. There were lots of RVs and tents there at the Franchere Bay campground, though it was not one of the long weekends. Many of the campers were families with small children. The water there was a little bit eutrophic with green and blue algae. No big waves there under about 20 km/h wind, which is good news for paddlers with kayaks or canoes.

Related information:

You can reserve a campsite here at AlbertaParks.ca

Alberta Fishing Regulations can be found here. Below is a quotation for Moose Lake:

The portion south of a line from the easternmost point of land in
NW2-61-7-W4 (locally known as Pelican Point) to the southernmost
point of land in E2-61-7-W4 (locally known as Deadman’s Point)
and southeast to the northernmost point of land in SW31-60-6-W4
(locally known as Ferbey Subdivision).
l June 1 to Mar. 1 – Walleye limit 1 over 50 cm; Pike limit 1 over
63 cm; Perch limit 15; Lake Whitefish limit 10; Burbot limit 10.
l Mar. 2 to May 31 – CLOSED

The remainder of the lake
l June 1 to Mar. 31 – Walleye limit 1 over 50 cm; Pike limit 1 over
63 cm; Perch limit 15; Lake Whitefish limit 10; Burbot limit 10.
l Apr. 1 to May 31 – CLOSED

How To Use Fish Finders and Tips for Choosing Fish Finders

How to Interpret Sonar Fish Finder Signal
How to Interpret Sonar Fish Finder Signal (features an older product EAGLE FishEasy 350C Portable Sonar Fish Finder, replaced by newer product LOWRANCE Elite 4X)

Sophisticated fish finding technologies including sensors, sounders, and sonars greatly increased the efficiency of modern commercial fisheries. For recreational sport fishing, commercially available fish finders are quite commonly used by savvy fisherpeople. With the help of a fish finder, you’ll be able to save tons of time trying to locate the fish and thus to catch more fish faster and easier.

This post tries to cover the following Sections in a broad and easy-to-understand way:
1. Operating theory/principle of fish finders.
2. Type of fish finders.
3. How to read fish finders / how to identify fish on a fish finder screen.
4. Three questions you need to know before buying a fish finder.
5. Frequently asked questions related to fish finders.

First, we want to know that the most recent/newest signal/data is shown on the right most part of the screen, and older signal/data are being pushed gradually to the left side of the screen (see the time bar of the picture above). The signal of a conventional fish finder is just one-dimensional. That is to say, it will only show you the depth of the fish. No information about how far away the fish are to your left, right, front, or back, horizontally. One thing for sure, of course, is that when there’s a signal on the screen, there is a fish in the sonar beam cone down there. Jump to Section 3. for an infographic that I drew to help you understand how fish finders work.

Operating theory/principle of fish finders

A transducer sends out a sound wave into the water. Solid objects such as fish will reflect the sound wave back to the transducer and fish finder for data processing and display. Knowing the speed of sound wave in water and the time lag between sending and receiving the signal, the distance to the object that reflected the sound wave can be determined.
Jump to Top

Types of fish finders

If you want a all-season (open water and ice fishing) bundle/package that comes with a battery pack and works as a stand-alone unit, you definitely want to check the great product below. It’s my favorite pick because it’s so portable and versatile. It works on your kayaks, canoes, and small boats; on open water and on ice!

(1) Broadband Sounder: the most common fish finders nowadays (see the picture on the top). It uses a single-frequency signal. 200 kHz (high frequency, short wavelenghs) for shallow- to mid-range depths (to about 100 meters or 300 feet); 83 kHz (medium frequency) for mid-range depths; and 50 kHz (low frequency, long wavelengths) for very deep waters (up to 1200 meters or 4000 feet). The picture in the beginning of this post is from a single frequency broadband sounder. Below is a cheap and great product with great customer reviews from amazon.

(2) CHIRP (Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse): it sweeps a spectrum of frequencies, instead of one single frequency as used in Broadband Sounders. Using this cutting edge echo-sounder technology, CHIRP sonar fish finders have the advantages of better target separation and less interference. Below is an example chart and a good pick at amazon. Note that this product may support down imaging mode but it does not come with a down imaging compatible transducer. To get a fish finder with down imaging feature, check number (3) below.

CHIRP (Compressed High Density Radar Pulse) sonar fish finder example chart
CHIRP (Compressed High Density Radar Pulse) sonar fish finder example chart

(3) StructureScan HD or Downscan: this type of fish finder units scan an area with very high frequency signal, allowing you to get picture-like images (charts). With this function, it’s much easier to see where the fish are in the chart. Below is an example downscan image and a good pick with great customer reviews from amazon. This product has all of the three functions/modes: broadband, CHIRP, and down imaging, a truly value product with all the features.

StructureScan HD / Downscan sonar fish finder example chart
StructureScan HD / Downscan sonar fish finder example chart

(4) SpotlightScan: fish finders with SpotlightScan features allow users to scan (horizontally) the surrounding areas to locate fish faster, before you reach there. The transducer can be positioned toward a specific direction desired by the user. This fancy feature empowers you to locate fish accurately and efficiently. Below is an example chart of a fishfinder with SpotlightScan feature. And also, for your convenience, I posted a great product from amazon that has all the wonderful functions to empower you: broadband sounder, CHIRP sonar, DownScan imaging, StructureScan HD, and also Trackback view. In addition, it features a 9-inch touch screen, and built-in wireless and Bluetooth.

SplotlightScan sonar fish finder example chart
SplotlightScan sonar fish finder example chart (scanning chart (left), CHIRP chart (top right), and also Downscan chart (bottom right))

 

Jump to Top

How to identify fish on the screen of a fish finder?

How does a fish finder work? Sonar fish finder operating principles
How does a fish finder work? Sonar fish finder operating principles. How to interpret fish finder signal (arches, bars, etc.). Conversion factors for calculating coverage diameter from depth and cone angle.

Signal/marks shown on a fish finder screen can be caused by fish, vegetation, debris, or other objects. So, how to identify fish signal and distinguish it from others?

When your vessel (be it kayak, canoe, or boat) passes over the fish, or the fish swims under your boat, the distance between the fish finder transducer and the fish changes. The closer the fish is to the transducer, the stronger/thicker the signal/mark would be displayed on the fish finder screen. Lets ignore the 60 degree cone first and look at the 20 degree cone only. So, the first moment the fish enters the leading edge of the 20 degree cone area covered by the sonar beam, the signal would be relatively weak or the mark shown would be thin (see Fish Position A and Mark A of Scenario (1) in the picture above). As the fish moves further into the sonar beam cone to Fish Position B, the mark on the screen becomes thicker (see Mark B of Scenario (1)). Similar to when the fish enters the sonar beam cone, the mark would become thinner when the fish is about to leave the trailing edge of the sonar beam cone (Fish Position C and Mark C of Scenario (1)). When the fish goes out of the 20 degree cone, there would be nothing shown on the screen for this fish for the transducer with a cone angle of 20 degree. However, this fish is still detectable with a transducer of 60 degree cone angle before it moves beyond the 60 degree cone to Fish Position D.

If the fish has a chance to be fully covered by the sonar beam, it will form a full arch on the screen of the fish finder (see the full arch in Scenario (1)). However, if the fish headed back at Fish Position A, then we probably would only see Part A of the full arch in Scenario (1). That is to see, we don’t always see full arches of fish. Actually, we could even see flat bars on fish finder screens when the fish stays under your boat/transducer for a while (see Scenario (2)). In this case, you’ll see a steady signal or mark moving to the left side of the screen.

Now, let’s get back to the picture shown in the beginning of this post. The signal of the fish was flat instead of in arch shape because my kayak was anchored and the fish stayed under my kayak and transducer for a while. If I were moving fast passing the fish, the signal would be in shape of arches.

Dropoffs and humps provides ample forage for fish
Fish arches (top left and near the bottom and the hump) shown on a fish finder screen. Dropoffs and humps provides ample forage for fish.

Jump to Top

Tips: What do you need to know before buying a sonar fish finder / How to choose a fish finder for your specific needs?

Here are three questions you need to ask yourself before you decide which fish finder you’ll invest in.

1. Does it come with a sonar transducer?

Most sonar units come with a transducer. For geeks who want to know the technical details of various transducers, visit this webpage of LOWRANCE, a company with a good record of producing great fish finders. Some fish finder modules have expandable features, but you may need to buy an additional transducer to have those extra features.

2. Do you fish deep waters (say, hundreds to thousands meters or feet) or shallow waters (say, less than 30 meters / 100 ft)?

LOWRANCE Fish Finders Elite X series modes
LOWRANCE Fish Finders Elite X series modes. Maximum water depths under different modes.

As discussed above, fish finders typically use three frequencies (50 kHz, 83 kHz, and 200 kHz) for different ranges of water depths. Some fish finders support only one single frequency while others (usually more expensive) ones support dual or multiple frequencies. Ask your sales or read the manual to see if the fish finder satisfies you with enough depth capability.

If you almost always fish shallow water, there’s no point for you to get a low frequency (50 kHz) fish finder with narrow sonar beam cone angle (e.g., 20 degree). Instead, you want to get a high frequency (200 kHz) one with a wide sonar beam cone angle (e.g., 60 degree) to cover a bigger area at a certain depth instead of deeper water but smaller area at the same depth.

3. Is it portable? do you have a 12 V marine / RV battery on your boat?

Many fish finders assume that you have a 12 V marine / RV battery on your boat. However, if you don’t already have power source on your boat, which is often the case for paddlers on kayaks or canoes. Here’s a great combination of products (about $200) for your vessel. Clicking the images will direct you to amazon. You may find here the LOWRANCE Elite X series Users Manual.


Jump to Top

FAQs

Can I use an ice fishing sonar fish finder in summers? Or can I use an open water sonar fish finder in winters?

Yes. Make sure that you have a portable battery pack for your sonar fish finder. Then you can use your fish finder either on open waters or on ice. To build a portable battery pack by yourself, you’ll need a battery holder (for 8 AA batteries, each AA battery is 1.5 V, so 8 of them used in serial outputs 12 V) and a container to protect the batteries from water. You can use whatever container you have, e.g., a water tight Lock & Lock lunch container would do the trick. I bought a sonar fish finder with a portable power pack, which saves a little bit hassle. However, I think it will worth the effort to make your own portable battery pack as you can save some good bucks. Clicking the image below will direct you to amazon.

LOWRANCE All Season Sonar Fish Finder with portable battery pack and charger is a great value product for open water fishing and ice fishing.

Portable battery pack for sonar fish finder
Portable battery pack/holder for sonar fish finder (8 AA batteries connected in series outputs 12 V)
Water Tight Lock and Lock Lunch Container for Portable Battery Pack
A Water Tight Lock and Lock Lunch Container is great for housing the Portable Battery Pack

How to mount a sonar transducer on a kayak or a canoe or a small boat?

A previous post describes an easy and cheap way to mount a transducer on a kayak using a slotted flat metal bar. In addition to the easy installation, it’s also highly detachable, i.e., very easy to remove the transducer and mounting hardware. Only minimal tools and work are required. Other DIYers have demonstrated innovative ideas on mounting transducers using PVC pipes. While many of the ideas using PVC pipes produce great results, I find that they do take quite a bit of time to design and finish the work.

Does a sonar fish finder tell you the size of a fish?

The closer the fish is to the transducer, the thicker the signal shown on the screen would be. So, when you see a strong signal on the screen, it could mean a big fish further to the transducer or a small fish closer to the transducer. However, the certainty increases when the depth of the fish is shallow, i.e., the vertical distance between the fish and the transducer is short. Since the shallower the depth, the smaller the diameter of the area the transducer covers, we would then expect that the size of the fish, instead of the distance between the fish and the transducer, becomes a dominant factor in forming signal on the screen.

How big an area would my fish finder cover? Or, how far can my fish finder see?

For a 60 degree cone sonar beam: use a conversion factor of 1.15, that is to say, if you are on 10 meters (or say, 30 ft) deep water, your transducer will be able to cover about 10 meters x 1.15 = 11.5 meters or 30 ft x 1.15 = 34.5 ft in diameter on the lake bottom. The area covered decreases as the depth decreases.

For a 20 degree cone sonar beam: use a conversion factor of 0.35, that is to say, if you are on 10 meters (or say, 30 ft) deep water, your transducer will be able to cover about 10 meters x 0.35 = 3.5 meters or 30 ft x 0.35 = 10.5 ft in diameter on the lake bottom. The area covered decreases as the depth decreases.

What’s the difference between sounders and sonars?

Sounders typically only look downward to find the bottom or determine how deep the water is while sonars can often scan around to find fish or other imaging/reflective targets. Sonar stands for SOund NAvigation and Ranging. There’s no fundamental difference between sounders and sonars. Usually sounders are cheaper than sonars because sounders have less features than sonars do.
Jump to Top

6 Factors Every Fishermen Need to Know to Catch Any Fish Successfully and Consistently

Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor sports in the world. There are many reasons and benefits to go fishing, such as for fun, for social bonding with family and friends, to relief stress, to get fit (especially if you are paddling and fishing), as well as to contribute to wildlife conservation. Below are some quoted data showing the economic impacts of recreational fishing on Canadian and U.S. economies.

$8.3 billion were spent by anglers in Canada in 2010.
$5.8 billion on durable goods related to recreational fishing activities.
$2.5 billion on fishing expenditures during fishing trips.
Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada 2010.

$24.6 billion were contributed by anglers to the U.S. economy in 2012.
$20 billion on durable fishing-related equipment.
$4.6 billion on fishing trips.
Fisheries Economics of The U.S. 2012: National Overview.

Once I read somewhere online saying that “A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good Day at Work.” So, great, many of us enjoy fishing. But, there are always days when fish are finicky. And you have to deal with snags, line twists, and bad weather, etc. Yes, those are part of fishing. That being said, we all want to be successful every time we go fishing, right? Definitely. Now, the question is: how can we catch any fish species successfully and consistently?

The Art of War by Sun Tze says “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles”. It is also true when it comes to fishing. You need to know the the fish you are targeting, the area you go fishing, and talk to local people who fish there regularly, if possible. Here are 6 factors I believe every fishermen or fisherwomen need to know to catch any specific fish species successfully and consistently.

Shelter

Fish need shelters to hide from predators, hide and wait for their meals to swim by, or simply shade themselves from sunlight. These shelters include rocks, stumps or sunken tress, lily pads, reeds or other aquatic plants. In rivers or creeks where there could be strong currents, fish also need to rest and/or feed in back eddies, deep pools, and river bends etc.; or behind islands, bridge or dam structures, etc.

Forage

Fish feed on a variety of forage. But they do have their preferences depending on fish species and locations. Common fish forage include minnows (e.g., smelts and shiners, etc.), shrimp, crawfish,  aquatic insects and their nymphs (e.g., bloodworms, mayflies, dragon flies, and stoneflies, etc.), terrestrial insects, fish eggs, mollusks (e.g., clams and snails, etc.), earthworms, algae, and plant matters.

Temperature

Fish feel comfortable in their preferred ranges of temperature for many reasons. Higher temperature usually means less dissolved (available to fish) oxygen, increased metabolism (fish get hungry faster), respiration and oxygen demand. Change of temperature is one of the key components for seasonal and diurnal movement patterns of fish.

According to Kikolsky (1963), “The behavior of fish, particularly their diurnal activity and many other aspects of their life, are significantly related to the degree of illumination”. Fish are influenced by light in terms of their metabolism, coloration, breeding, and also predation. Sight-orientated fish (e.g., rainbow trout) feed actively mostly during the day, usually with feeding peaks in early mornings and evenings. Other fish like burbot/ling may become active at night. On sunny days, fish may hide themselves in covers. On cloudy days, fish may be more scattered.

Preferred temperatures for walleye, northern pike, bass, trout, and more
Preferred temperatures for walleye, northern pike, bass, trout, and more (credit: various sources online)

A sonar fish finder may tell you a lot about structures beneath your boat, the surface water temperature, and the thermocline.

Dropoffs and humps provides ample forage for fish
Dropoffs and humps provides ample forage for fish

Read my post: how to use fish finders to help you catch more fish

Oxygen

Fish get their oxygen via their gills. Some fish can tolerate lower oxygen level than others. The amount of dissolved oxygen changes with water temperature, water movements, water depth, and the amount of algae and others in the water.

Barometric pressure

Fishermen have long discovered the positive correlation between upcoming low barometric pressure and increased feeding activities of fish. The barometric pressure tends to be lower when the weather is stormy. Right before (could be hours before) the storm comes, fish tend to feed heavily. No one knows exactly why and many factors including the factors discussed above affect the behavior of fish each day.

Below are some Rule-of-Thumbs (not exact science) that you may want to know about barometric pressure, typical weather, and feeding activities of fish

About to drop and dropping barometric pressure: The weather is going to become stormy. Fish feed actively. Great time for fishing.

Low barometric pressure: The weather is stormy. Fish dive deep, hide in covers, tend not to feed. Bad time for fishing.

About to rise and rising barometric pressure: The weather is becoming better. Fish may still need some time (maybe up to one day) to adjust themselves after the bad weather and start feeding normally.

Normal and high barometric pressure: The weather is good with some clouds or clear skies. Fish feed normally. Good time for fishing.

What’s the best time to go fishing?

Recall that I quoted earlier in this article “A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good Day at Work.”. So that leads to the answer: the best time to go fishing is when you have time and you are OK with the weather. Once I fished Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta in a stormy day, even though I was caught in the heavy rain and got wet all over, I was happy as I had a wonderful time catching fish one after another. About 20 minutes before the storm, fish were biting like crazy. Meanwhile, I could see thick and dark clouds coming toward my kayak along with the wind (~20 km/hr). Anyways, that was a fantastic experience.

Where to go fishing and how to find good fishing spots?

Lakes and streams are not all created equal in terms of fishery. Some waters may offer great walleye fishery while others may be fabulous in bass fishing, or maybe trout fishing. So, you want to do you research online or talk to experienced people if you can. All in all, you need to find out there the fish are holding in the first place. And then you can focus on how to catch them. Enough said, here are some good spots you should look for:

Drop-offs, mid-lake humps, dips, and rock outcroppings offer sharp depth gradient. Fish like to hold at these structures because it’s easy for them to access different depths of water for various reasons including to adjust themselves to changes of food availability, temperature, light, oxygen availability, etc.

Ledges,  tree stumps, sunken trees, lily pads, and reeds offer great shelters for fish to hide from predator or wait for ambushing a swimming-by bait fish. In addition, these structures offer places for aquatic plants, aquatic insects, and mollusks and so forth to live in, which attracts both bait fish and predator fish.

Outflow/inflow river/creek mouths provide ample forage, oxygen, and often eddies, deep pools for fish to feed and rest.

Sandy or rocky bottoms may be good places for some fish to spawn in.

Rocky points together with waves create oxygen.

To sum up, these areas/structures provide fish with shelter, forage, oxygen, and easy access to different water depths to adjust to changes of temperature, air pressure, and light conditions. Fish always move around, but they don’t move just randomly. They need to stay comfortable. That’s why every fishermen should keep the 6 factors we just discussed in mind to catch fish successfully AND consistently. The next step is to present your carefully chosen baits or lures to them and get many bites.

An interesting side note:

90/10 Rule-of-Thumb: 90% of the fishing time is spent on finding fish while only 10% on catching them. 90% of the fish is located in 10% of the water.

Happy fishing!