Its that time of year. April showers bring about plenty of stained water in our reservoirs, rivers and lakes. For a lot of fisherman, this new influx of debris in the water puts a damper on things. But it doesn't have to be this way. It can work to your advantage if you know what to look for.
We are going to look at two situations.
The first is a lake or reservoir that is normally nominally clear...say the clarity is right about 4-6 feet which is about standard for reservoirs and lakes, depending on algae blooms and lake dynamics. A few days of thunderstorms and higher winds have roiled your fishing hole until the water clarity is about as clear as mud. You are marking fish holding tighter to the bottom structure but they seemed to have developed a case of the "won't bites". What do you do?
Well, this is a common situation. If you are bent on using artificials in this situation, get out your jigs and smaller spinner baits. While you are at it, round up a few of your smaller spoons as well for vertical jigging. You know from past articles that fish react negatively to the passage of cold fronts, hugging bottom structures and contours and being generally lethargic.
What you might not know is that every time a storm or front passes through, the upper atmosphere is cleansed of dust, allowing for more sunlight to penetrate the waters. Another reason the fish go deeper than usual. Thus, you can use the stained water to your advantage.
The fish are not going to move very far under these conditions. You can usually position a boat right over the top of them and work them over with a jig/minnow or jig/plastic grub combination slowly. It is possible that you may have to "finesse them". In other words--fish them thoroughly and very slowly. Up to the point of slow crawled retrieves.
You can try smaller safety spin spinner baits and slow roll them over the bottom, hugging the contours with your retrieve, if you find them generally receptive to moderate jig retrieves. Another option is the jigging spoons. The only reason I bring this tactic up is that few and I do mean few people use it. If the fish are biting on jigging retrieves, I would normally stick with what works, but if you are fishing a heavily pressured lake and marking fish, but having a heck of a time getting them to bite, then check out the jigging spoons.
If that fails as well, all is not lost. There are still other options. Many bass fisherman would include in this arsenal the plastic worm on a carolina rig, or the jig-n-pig combination. Those have their time and place during stained water periods, but for the sake of general species reaction, I am limiting the different methods to a mere handful so they are best remembered.
The other option for stained water is to look for an edge. What I mean by this is sometimes an influx of stained water into your favorite fishing spot is merely brought about by an incoming tributary or wind action on a nearby shoreline. if this is the case, then there is an edge of stained water that meets clearer water.
Generally the more stained the water, the sharper this edge will be. This can spell big fish and active fish. In this situation, I would opt for lures that emit sound, like rattle baits or flash like big bladed spinner baits or vibration like wider wobble crank baits. These three things are vital to scoring bigger fish, especially since visibility is of little consequence in these conditions. The earlier you can get to this breakline the better.
What I mean by that is simple. If the breakline is the result of shower runoff no more than an hour ago, this is prime. If the runoff is from about two days ago, chances are the fish are around but not quite as willing to cooperate, seeings how they already have stuffed their gullets with food washed down earlier, but with a little persistence you can still catch some fish.
The second situation deals with reservoirs that are normally "dirty" as a result of our near constant state of windiness. One reservoir that comes to mind immediately is Willow Creek SRA near Pierce. Every time I have fished there, the water is unusually murky and the lay of the lake promotes this. But there are some nice fish there and they can be caught all year. Perhaps more so because the water condition is part of their daily cycle. Spinner baits, cranks, rattle baits and slash baits (cicada's, Heddon Sonars, etc.) can score bigger fish when used in close conjunction with structure and wind direction.
This is a key to remember. Wind plays a vital role in determining fish location, even in murky waters. To the fish it is an unconscious act, responding to it much like we would respond to a light touch from something we couldn't see. Our first reaction is to move. Flashes from metallic lures offer the resemblance of bait fish like shiners, fatheads, and chubs and spell easy pickings to predatory fish. Add a distinct rattle emission or vibration and you are usually ready to go.
Experiment with different retrieve speeds and methods to see which works best for the current conditions The only real exception to this generally is river fish, which normally do not use the wind as much as they use the current.
However, if it is a slow meandering river, don't rule it out. using the principles outlined above, you should be able to take some fish, by concentrating on wing dams, abutments and jetties, rock piles, etc. The fish will be closer to cover and don't be afraid to let the artificial bang into these structures. Sometimes the fish can use the wake up call and that metallic crash into granite is enough to induce a vicious strike.