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by Jason Mitchell
High water in the spring can make the water turbid, sometimes so turbid that it negatively affects fishing. The best way to find walleye in extremely turbid water is to avoid it. Sometimes, cleaner water can be found by moving up or downstream. Strong sustained winds out of one direction can also stain the water to the point where it negatively affects the bite. An angler can sometimes beat the turbidity caused by pounding wind by fishing below the mud in the water. When the sediments in the water get so thick that it negatively affects the fishing, you can see the sediments on your electronics. We often find fish right below this veil of turbid water. There has been much said about finding fish in shallow water during strong winds and extremely muddy water but we often find the exact opposite. Too much of a good thing often seems to cause the exact opposite to happen. We have never found any fish in a couple feet of water when the area was getting pounded with four foot rollers. The fish often seem to duck just below the mayhem. Actually, the shallowest we find walleyes is often after the winds die down and the water remains stained a day or two afterwards.
While high water flows or sustained wind can send an angler searching for cleaner water, we usually find ourselves in a scenario where the lake is predominately clear and any kind of stain in the water is an advantage. Any kind of chop on the water can stain the water enough in some areas causing fish to turn on like a light switch. Mud lines are usually great places to look for fish and are easy to find visually. Mud lines are often taken advantage of by opportunistic anglers. The bite often fizzles down to nothing as soon as the water clears.
When faced with clear water and no wind, we often find ourselves scratching on “yesterdays wind” so to speak. looking for areas that are still somewhat stained from getting pounded by previous winds.
water clarity is something that is relative and always changing. fish location can change dramatically with spots turning on and dying quickly. For some reason or another, some parts of a lake will often be more stained than others, some shorelines will muddy up quicker and stay muddy longer than some others. Anglers often talk about how they use their electronics to find fish but the water itself holds many visual clues as well. If the water you are fishing is predominately clear and you notice an area that is slightly stained, check it out. Once this veil of stained water is found, your electronics will reveal just how deep this stained water runs into the water column.
We might assume too much about fish at times but it seems like presentations that emit vibration or sound might give an angler an advantage when fishing dirty water. Bottom bouncer and spinner rigs are one presentation that has proven itself when water clarity is reduced. The flash and vibration of a spinnner blade might enable a walleye to find the bait easier. Crankbaits also emit extra vibration and are typically noisier than some other presentations. What so often surprises us as anglers however is just how effective of predators walleyes are under the cloak of stained water. We have done so well at times with nothing but bait. No color, no flash, bells or whistles. Anchoring in prime locations and drifting slip bobbers through the mud line has proven to be very effective. Live bait rigs and jigs will also take fish. I guess my point is, using color, noise or vibration in stained water makes sense and will catch fish but there are times when the fish will tell us different.
Day in and out, we often find ourselves looking specifically for stained water. Making our livings as guides on North Dakota’s Devils Lake, we have to be opportunists and take advantage of situations that can possibly cough up walleye for our customers. Most of the time, stained water will offer that opportunity. To a point. Some color in the water is generally good but only if not in excess.
Editors Note: The author, Jason Mitchell heads Mitchell’s Guide Service on North Dakota’s Devils Lake. Mitchell’s Guide Service is considered one of the busiest and most highly respected open water guide service in the Midwest for walleye fishing. Mitchell’s Guide Service can be reached at (701) 351-1890. Accomodations available through Woodland Resort, (701) 662-5996 and the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort, 1-800-WIN-UBET.
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