By Dan Grulke
A few of our previous articles have talked about how to maintain and service your fishing gear in preparation for the upcoming spring fishing season. This article will highlight other aspects of fishing that will help you improve your fishing success in the upcoming 2021 season.
As with any activity or sport that you partake in, research is a key element of fishing success. Use the wintertime to research possible new fishing locations and specific fishing locations on the bodies of water where you fish. Visit the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams you fish to locate areas that may offer a higher success rate when the weather warms. Winter is the best time to do this.
Lakes and ponds sometimes have pockets of warmer water than the rest of the lake or pond. This can be the result of springs, creeks or underwater rocks that can warm the water by a few degrees. As a lake or pond starts to ice over, you will spot areas of the lake that still are free from ice. Note these areas and in the spring, when water is cold, these areas are often a little warmer. As a result, small baitfish will often gather at these areas, which in turn draws the bigger fish to them. In the summer, these areas are also productive, as the water is often times cooler than the overall temperature of the body of water. As a result, the baitfish and larger predatory fish will often use these areas as well.
During the winter months, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams will undergo water level fluctuations. This can be caused by nature or humans.
Sometimes lakes, ponds, and reservoirs will undergo what is called “winter drawdown.” This is the intention-lowering of the water level so that ice does not destroy parts of the dam. When this occurs “structure” and “cover” (drop-offs, flats, trees, rocks, etc.) can be revealed. Remember where these features are in the coming warmer months, and you will likely be fishing areas that hold more fish than other areas.
In the winter, there is often long periods without precipitation, this will also cause lakes, ponds, streams, and creeks to naturally have lower water levels. This also makes it easier to identify what we call “high percentage” areas.
Another key aspect of fishing is online research. Use the web to locate possible new areas to fish. You can identify their locations, whether they are public or private, and what type of species they may contain. Remember if planning to fish private properties to get landowner permission first. When seeking permission to fish private properties, I have had the most success offering to clean up areas of the lake/pond in exchange for the fishing opportunity.
The final piece of online research of the angler is understanding the species of fish you like to catch. Study the behaviors, characteristics and biology of the fish that you want to catch. This will help you understand what parts of the water your target species will most likely be located at during different times of the season. You will also be able to identify what types of lures and what type of presentation is mostly likely to be effective.
Taking time to research, whether in person or online, is an important piece of the puzzle in making your upcoming fishing trips successful. By researching before the fishing season, you can identify productive areas, new fishing locations and add or eliminate lures and fishing techniques based on the species you target.
Dan Grulke is the Fishing Coordinator for the Fairfax County Park Authority. He has lived in Northern Virginia for all but five years of his life. He has been fishing locally, in other states and in other countries for 40 years. He has previously been a freshwater fishing guide on the Susquehanna River and Upper Potomac River for eight years. Although he currently is not a guide, he enjoys introducing others to the sport of fishing. You can contact Dan at Dan.Grulke@fairfaxcounty.gov.