April 19, 2012
I want the fish that tried to eat this one. While not a big 'un, this 'gill fell for that color I've been writing about that inspired questions in recent posts — a metallic green nail polish that mimics some of the surface skimmers in this particular lake. The color is Maybelline Express Finish #900 and it's called Go Go Green. (Nail polish colors always have weird names.)
Few folks have the time to make comments on these blog posts. Or maybe I write well enough that everyone always understands what I'm trying to communicate?
Nah. Probably not, and that's one reason I love getting comments — it demonstrates where I skipped over things or went too fast. Comments often point out where I was simply being vague. I hate being vague and I'm repentent about it.
For instance, Dan (last names omited to protect the innocent) writes in with this question regarding "the elevator," that sharp drop between winter and spring habitat that tends to collect fish after a front: "When you talk about sharp drops into deep water, how steep of a drop are we talking about? The lake I fish is manmade but pretty much flat with depth changes measured in inches and no major drop-offs. The sharpest drop is from the bank into the water, and from there it pretty much slopes gently downward into the deepest water."
Good question. I've fished lots of lakes like this, both manmade and natural. Location late under the ice and after fronts can be really problematic. Where you can find a slope even one degree sharper than the surrounding area, it tends to become "the spot." But, where slopes are truly gradual and barely distinct, other factors can become more important. Like bottom transitions. To narrow the search, consider the water clarity and compare it to other area lakes, reservoirs, or ponds. What depths do bluegills and crappies retreat to after a front in those bodies of water? Narrow the search to those contours and start hunting. Crappies are easier to find than bluegills because they tend to suspend more while 'gills hug bottom after fronts. Slow down and combine the search with a slow backtroll using a small Lindy rig or split-shot rig with a leech on light line.
Sometimes you can't find a steep drop, but if you can locate a spot where the depth quickly changes by just a foot, fish will use it. Generally the key is finding an area where the 10- to 18-foot contours (depending on the maximum depth of the lake and the distance to the deepest basin) are closest to shallow spring foraging areas. You may not be able to distinguish a sharper drop, but fish know where the straight line is — the shortest distance between point A and point B — and they'll use it to travel back and forth. Even when plenty of fish inhabit the shallows, you should check out "the elevator." Sometimes the beluga blues go back to those spots when done foraging.
Another clue is spawning habitat. Bluegills will be immediately adjacent to their spawning areas in most cases both before they move up in spring and after a front. Find them and here's betting they'll be on a transition between soft and hard bottom, or at least between soft and harder bottom.
I have more questions to answer and I'll cover them in the next post.