How To: Determine Where to Fish on a Lake (Step-by-Step). How to know where fish are

Please note that lakes such as ponds, rivers and all other bodies of water will have creel restrictions. The creel limit is the amount of fish and / or fish size you can remove from that lake each day.

How To: Determine Where to Fish on a Lake (Step-by-Step)

how to know where to fish in the lake

Every time you fish in the lake, you need to make quick decisions about where is the best to fish. This is the dilemma you face, whether you are fishing in a new lake or the one you’ve been fishing all your life.

How do you know where to fish in the lake? To determine where to fish a new lake, find out as much as possible about the lake before you arrive, assess the situation on arrival, and use the seasonality and lake tips to find the best fishing spots. This is a very short summary which I will explain in more detail now.

Don’t just give your approach winged. Do your research in advance. The Internet is a huge source of information for almost every known lake in the country. You can find lake catch reports, topographic and depth maps, fishing forum posts, and even online videos posted by fishermen at the target lake.

Ask the local fishermen. If you see a fisherman in a dock, ask him where the fish bite. This is especially effective if you ask a fisherman who has already reached his limit and no longer needs to keep secret places a secret.

One of the best places to gather information is at your local bait shop. Not only will they get information gathered from other fishermen on what works and how they bite, they will also be able to pinpoint where the hottest parts of the lake are right now. Sometimes they can even tell you how to fish there.

Once you get to the lake, start judging it. Look for cover such as docks, trees, vegetation, and boulders. Look for points that protrude into the lake, as these are often the habitats of wild fish. Note the topography around the lake. Are the banks steep or even? Steep banks mean a sharp drop and deep water, while a shallow bank means shallow water that slowly deepens.

Then look for fish traces and evaluate environmental signals. Fish signs include coastal birds such as herons, as well as surface-feeding bait. Environmental indicators include seasonality (large factor) and temperature. The relative air temperature compared to the season is a huge indicator of where the fish will be on the lake.

If you fish on an unusually cold summer day, the fish will move outside the cover, while the day before and later they will be huddled in the shade trying to cool off.

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Choosing Where to Fish in a Lake

Pond vs. Lake: How does the Body of Water Size Affect Where to Fish on a Lake?

For the most part, the general concepts are the same in a pond as in a large lake. In summer, fish tend to find the coldest water and / or shade, so focus on visible cover such as docks, vegetation, and anchored boats, as well as deeper holes where the coldest water usually resides.

In winter, focus on the deepest parts of the pond and lake. Fish actively try to move as far as possible from the cold air in order to huddle at the bottom of the deepest holes. If the air temperature rises, the fish will begin to emerge and feed near these holes.

The concepts remain the same in the pond as in the lake, they are just scaled down to a smaller scale. Determine the available characteristics to attract fish and judge whether the fish should be attracting them based on air and water temperature.

While black and white crap can be found in the same waters, each one has slightly different water preferences. Both species are native to the eastern United States, but have also been bred throughout America.

Quick tips for beginners

Learn how to cast your spinning rod and bait accurately – in most cases you will need to place the bait within a few feet of the strike zone where poor casts result in missed opportunities as well as lost baits.

When using plastic lures such as worms, Senkos or craws, do not jerk – I can see this happening all the time, novice anglers have a hard time distinguishing a bite from a hook, which results in the bait being moved away from the hooking zone.

The best way to determine a bite is to hold the rod steady with a slight tension and see if there is pulsation, if so, give it a tug. When using plastic, the bass usually sticks to the bait for a few seconds – enough time to figure out if it’s a fish or a hook.

Use Cheap Lures to Be Brave

To maximize your success, never use lures or rigs that you are afraid to lose while fishing. If you are fishing for baits that you are afraid of losing, you will never put them in danger, where the fish live and where they can work for you. Cheap lures fished in the right areas are better than expensive lures fished in “safe zones”.

My best beginner tip is about self-confidence. You should always be 200% sure of what you are casting, confidence is the key to helping someone catch a new bait successfully. Always think, I’ll catch the 5-pound on the next roll!

Just make sure that if you are using this or any other cast fishfinder you are using a heavy fishing line as it is an expensive technology you really want to reel when you see a fish.


(Roman Nowicki / iStock)

The combination of a spinning reel and a fishing rod is the best choice for beginners. “Kombo” is the keyword here – it signals that the reel and fishing rod are sold together which usually means that they are easier to disassemble. Here is a great video showing the basic parts of a spinning reel. An employee of your local tackle shop will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to a good beginner rod to meet your specific needs.

Lures and lures will be your next step after the rod and reel. Live worms or PowerBait – a fragrant putty-like material that forms around a bare hook – is a good starting point, while lures, which are decoys designed to attract fish’s attention, are another effective option once you are comfortable using the bait. You will also need bobbers, which are small floating balls that sink or jump up when something hits your bait, indicating you have fish. A rubber net (which is easier on the skin of the fish than a string or nylon), a tongs to pull the bait from inside the fish’s mouth and a small tackle box that keeps all baits and baits in one place also helpful.

As with any outdoor pursuit, your fishing needs will only develop as you gain experience; you’ll probably want to upgrade your gear after a few months, while waders and boots can also be added to your kit further down the road.

Useful Skills


Below are some basic knots you need to know to get started. As your fishing skills develop, the Book of Shared Fishing Knots will be a good source of information.

The Clinch Knot

The most important knot in fishing is the improved clinch knot. This knot allows you to attach a hook or bait to your line. Once you’ve nailed it, you’re ready to go.

The Palomar Knot

This knot is another option for hooking up a fishing line. It is known for its strength and ease of bonding.

The Double Surgeon’s Knot

A double surgical knot is used to connect the two sections of line. This can come in handy if you get hooked – when the lure catches a log or rock and the line breaks – and you need to form more line before engaging the hook.

Reading Water

It is good to know where fish may be hiding so that you can better track them – in other words “read the water”. In lakes, fish usually roam around weeds and fallen trees close to the shore. They can also accumulate near bus stops; for this reason, in some lakes it is easier to fish if you have access to a kayak or a kayak. A similar tactic is used with rivers, where you’ll want to look for places that can provide good cover – for example logs or overhanging banks – because the main purpose of fish, besides finding food, is to hide from predators.

The concepts remain the same in the pond as in the lake, they are just scaled down to a smaller scale. Determine the available characteristics to attract fish and judge whether the fish should be attracting them based on air and water temperature.

Ice Fishing Tip-Ups

I went back to jigging and did one jig before the flag flew off. As we sprinted excitedly, we froze the first fish of the day, a 10 inch fish. There was nothing to write home about, but there was something to learn as this dump truck was the shallowest, positioned at 4 feet of water. I reset the bait and after five minutes the same flag flashes again. We sprinted and I immediately saw the line fly out of the reel. I grabbed the line and tightened the hook, and the weight immediately told me it wasn’t panfish or pickerel. Eventually, the gaping mouth of a 3.5 kg largemouth was caught in the hole.

I got a little excited because it was the first big fish of the day – after less than 45 minutes of fishing on the new lake. The moment was priceless. Then I moved the tips, bringing the two deeper into 4 and 5 feet of water. As soon as I reset, another flag fired. We ran to the flag and noticed that the reel was not moving at all. Thinking it was a small fish to be a good training fish for Josh, I trained him through the process and he ended up landing on his best bigmouth bass, a 19 inch, 4 pound fat man! For the next 3 hours we ran back and forth in pursuit of flags, catching mostly pickles and the occasional greedy jumbo perch.

By noon the fish got picky. We were about to launch the flags, but when I looked down the hole, I saw the stalkers and perches were hiding the bait, but they were not doing it. So, if the flag went off without the fish, I would pull out the bait and send out a small spoon and end up immediately icing the pickerel. Pickerel is really fun on jig rods as he loves to run and put every 1000 reel and 24 inch ice fishing rod to the test. We also toured the area a bit and found some good jigging spots by catching on the yellow perches.

a 4-pound largemouth bass that ate a little sheen below the ice fishing tip.

a 4-pound largemouth bass that ate a little sheen below the ice fishing tip.

Then the biting began again. The flag flew off, we froze a strong pickerel, set up a washer, then another flag exploded. We did this until the sun went down beneath the trees, ending a perfect day on the ice.

A day on the water is something I live for – filming, fishing, and helping friends catch fish. Finding success in a new lake is one of the best feelings in fishing. Whether I’m traveling south or north, I’m always excited to learn something new, catch fish in a new place, and catch it all in a movie for everyone to see.

Here we see a very undulating bottom. Based on the yellow color in the traditional sonar image, we can say that it is quite hard or rocky, and what we are looking at is a rocky outcrop in about 9 meters of water.

Using traditional sonar, downscan and sidescan

Sidescan combined with vertical sonar

There is a lot to explain here. For this image, Romen has set Lowrance so that the screen is split in half vertically, with the top half of the screen showing vertical scan and the bottom half pointing to the side scan. (For the best advice on setting up a split screen and using sidecan effectively, check out the Ryan Moody Sounder Skills 1 course we review in this post.)

So the top half we should know now – traditional sonar on the left, downscan on the right. Again, the left side of both pictures shows what is in front of the boat and the right side shows what is in the back.

As for the image that occupies the bottom half, we need some further clarification.

Sidescan on a fish finder

Shows views of the left (left) and right (starboard) side of the boat with the sonar beam firing horizontally from the transducer. The numbers on the bottom axis are in meters from the centerline of the boat. When you are five meters (about 5.5 meters) on each side, it begins to lift the bottom.

The first thing you see on the left side of the side scan image is the same group of three fish we saw in both vertical scan images sitting on that rock.

Additional information from the side scanner is that these fish are approximately 10m (or 11 yards) to the port side of the boat. We would have had no idea which side of the boat they were sitting on had it not been for the side scan.

It also shows that there are rocks and a fallen tree as well, and there are several fish to the right, possibly out of range of the vertical scanning sonar cone, as they cannot be seen in this view.

Live Sonar: Watch your lure working

This photo was taken while Romen was fishing lures in the river. You can see it’s a hard bottom with a yellow there. It is rock or compacted sand in the river bed.

“You can see the bait descending towards an actively moving fish,” says Romen. “They look quite big, but you have to remember that you are not in very deep water.”

“The fish number four actually fell and caught the bait.”

So there you have it – with these five Lowrance sonar images, we’ve explained the basics of what you need to look for. The second part of this article is devoted to a short and simple explanation of how a fishfinder works from a technological point of view and what to look for in a sonar.

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(A “return” is the image that a fish or piece of structure creates on the sonar screen. A “hard” return is a hard surface, such as rock or compacted sand, which is pale yellow depending on the color palette.)

Where to Go Freshwater Fishing

You have chosen a target. You know when to go. Now you just need to know where to fish in freshwater. Where you end up casting your line relies heavily on the fish you are trying to catch, but from natural to man-made ponds there is certainly no shortage of options to choose from.

Natural lakes: From small mountain lakes to the Great Lakes, natural lakes are the result of natural events such as plate tectonics or melted glaciers. Fishing in the lake can be done close to the headwaters of the river or stream.

Man-made lakes: Man-made lakes are the product of damming or mining activities, causing the water level to fluctuate more than in a natural lake.

Reservoirs and flows: Reservoirs and flows are created by artificially adding a dam to a river or stream bed. To fish in these waterways, look for places where the depth or structure of the water changes.

Ponds: Ponds can be on public or private land as they are usually created for recreational or agricultural purposes. If you are fishing in a private pond, make sure you have permission from the property owner and follow all state fishing regulations before casting the line.

Rivers and streams: Rivers and streams offer anglers one of the most convenient fishing experiences as they can be fished while wading, kayaking or kayaking. For the best chances of biting, look for areas where the fish are protected from predators and the flow of water, such as sunken trees.

Types of Freshwater Fishing

Once you know where you plan to fish, it’s time to decide how. This can also be determined based on the type of equipment you have access to; for example, do you have a fly fishing rod, spear, or boat.

a man fishing

the man is fishing from the dock

fly man

Dock Fishing

Fishing in the docks is the perfect introduction to freshwater fishing for any new angler, including children, and does not require special equipment such as a boat. While you should never expect to be struck by a fish trophy when fishing from the docks, it is a great way to get a feel for the water while practicing the art of fishing and hooking.

Spearing or Noodling

Spearing is a great method for catching larger river fish that tend to ignore baited hooks. Noodles are a very basic method of fishing as it uses the angler’s fingers to move around and become bait, tempting the fish to grab a hand. One of the most popular fish for spear and noodle fishing is the catfish.

Boat Fishing

The most popular type of freshwater fishing is boat fishing as it gives the angler access to a greater variety of fish species. The boat can be a large boat, a small rowing boat, or even a kayak or kayak depending on where you are fishing. A boat can be advantageous for trolling if circumstances permit, but it will usually allow you to reach different stretches of water before casting the line.

Freshwater Fly Fishing

If you fish in waters where it’s safe to wade, you can try fly fishing. Fly fishing uses a tied fly that mimics the appearance of a natural insect to trick the fish into the line. This is a great way to catch trout and other species, but requires more knowledge and technique than other fishing methods.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing, popular in the north, is usually done in lakes or ponds using an auger, a special tool for making holes that creates a hole in the ice and allows the water underneath to be accessed. This method is a great way to catch larger northern pikes or other species that can be caught in summer, such as crappies and bass.

Summer Stagnation: In summer, the water undergoes a process called stratification, in which the surface of the water heats up to form a layer over the cooler water. Between the two layers is a thermos zone, two to ten feet deep. This is where you want to fish during stagnation.


Walley on a fishing jig

Walley caught jigging. Bob McNally

Walley is an extremely popular sport fish, native to the northern part of America and Canada. Walleye have been stocked in many waters across the country – as far south as Alabama and Georgia (they were once even stocked in Florida), west to California, and throughout the Midwest and Mid-South.

The Columbia River system, which touches the states of Oregon and Washington, is great for fishing for zander, as are Montana, Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other northern states. Lake Erie has an abundant zander fishery, offering anglers in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada plenty of great fishing opportunities. They feel best in large lakes, reservoirs and deep, wide rivers. Parts of the Upper Mississippi River offer high-quality zander fishing.

Most zander caught by anglers weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, but the regular catch is 5 pounds and the world record of 25 pounds comes from Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee. Walleye fight well and are highly prized as fish to eat. They are olive green, with a white belly and a silver-tipped lower caudal fin that is easily seen in clear water.

Walleye are gifted predators and have an array of sharp, pointed teeth to hold the feed. They have remarkably good eyesight, with cloudy, opaque eyes that allow them to see in dark water and low light. They are well-known nocturnal predators and many anglers catch them at sunset, dawn, dusk, and in cloudy weather.

Walleye spinner jig

Walleye harness for spinner with night rover. Bob McNally

The Best Natural Baits for Walleye

Walleye are carnivores and eat a variety of small fish and invertebrates. Small lures such as mallets are popular, but other lures such as nightworms, leeches and crayfish also work. The best lures are often located in a certain body of water during the season. Local knowledge of what bait is best for the water and at what time is invaluable to the enduring success of a zander.

The Best Artificial Lures for Walleye

The jig is one of the most popular walleye lures as these fish are notorious for feeding on the bottom. Jigging in front of the walleyes is important to success, and sometimes the shoals of fish can be hung from the ledges and bottom structures 25 to 35 feet down. For this reason, heavy jigs, as large as ounces, may be required, and jigs with tilting fish, nocks, or leeches can be effective.

Trolling is a popular and productive way to catch walleye. Dive plugs and spoons work, especially when the fish are relatively shallow, under 15 feet. Sometimes slow plugs or trolling spoons from specialized bottom bouncers can be very lethal.

cast iron pan for frying fish fillets.

Fried pike perch is a classic dish wherever the Pixabay silhouette will be caught

How to Fish for Walleye

The best times to catch zander are dawn, dusk and night. Cloudy weather can make for great fishing as walleyeys move shallow to feed all day long. Windy weather can also be great as it “chops” the water, reducing light penetration and forcing the walleyes to move shallowly where they are most exposed to anglers.


Crappie caught on the spinner.

Crappie caught on the spinner. Bob McNally

There are two species of crappies, white crappies and black crappies. They are both overgrown members of the sunfish family. They can be found in the same waters, and both are similar in color, mostly silvery white, with numerous black spots. However, the speckle patterns differ between them. The white crappie spots are less dark and distinctive than the black crappie spots. The white crappie spots are also loosely arranged in a series of vertical stripes along the sides of the fish, while the black crappie spots are irregular and scattered along the sides of the fish.

The white and black crappies are almost identical in shape, habits and size. They have a small head, a deep body, and are thin on the back.

Most crappies weigh between 1/2 and 3/4 pounds. The single-pounder is fun, and anything that weighs more than 2 pounds is considered a prize or so-called “record.” Crappies grow up to 4 pounds and sometimes up to 5 pounds. They are very structure oriented fish and spend a lot of time suspended in brush, weeds, flooded wood, and around docks, hangars and stakes. Catching them in spring while spawning in shallow weeds and lakeside wood is a tradition all over America.

While black and white crap can be found in the same waters, each one has slightly different water preferences. Both species are native to the eastern United States, but have also been bred throughout America.

Black Crappie

Black crappie is widely distributed from Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba south through Florida and west to California and British Columbia. Only in certain parts of the West and Southwest is black nonsense relatively rare, especially in Utah, Nevada, West Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho. Black crappies can be found in large ponds as well as clean, deep, overgrown and cold reservoirs.

White Crappie

White crap is known to “hang” in the water column rather than being seabed like some other species. White nonsense can also tolerate warm, cloudy waters, muddy streams, and slow-flowing rivers. They are widespread and rare in only a few areas, such as Florida and several states in the Midwest and North. It is also believed that white nonsense is more prolific than black nonsense and can sometimes be found in schools containing hundreds of fish.

The Best Natural Baits for Crappies

Crappies are very carnivores, feeding on insects, crustaceans and small fish. Ripe crappies are aggressive fish eaters, preferring small minnows over most other forages available. This feature is well used by anglers who mainly use live large-headed fish by hooking them through their trolling lips. If you want to “calm” fishing for crappies, it’s best to hook the fish just under the dorsal fin or by the tail. Makes them more active and attractive to crapies.

A fishing box full of crappie jigs.

Jigi Crappie are available in a variety of colors. Bob McNally

The Best Artificial Lures for Crappies

Jigs undoubtedly produce more crap for more anglers than any other bait. Crapies are well known to be variable in bait color. Seasoned anglers carry 1/32 to 1/8 oz. Small jigs in many colors and color combinations. Soft plastic instruments are popular, but those with marab bodies, mylair, and other synthetic materials also perform well.

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