Of The Outdoors

Team Outdoorsmen Brendan Branick (Sioux Falls) is pictured with one of several large walleyes he caught while fishing with Glacial Lakes Guide Service on a small body of water not far from Watertown. Structure in the lake included a windblown weed line. Using crankbaits tossed into and along the edge of the weeds accounted for several of these big females.

If you are reading through a fishing publications or watching some fishing show that structure isn’t brought up and you can bet if you locate the structure in a body of water, you’re going to find the fish related to it

How do we define structure, well my definition of structure is any difference or change appearing on the bottom. It may be a huge change while others are minuscule.

If there is structure, no matter what size or type you find on a given body of water, you can bet that some sort of aquatic life exists in the area.

Now that we know the fish you’re looking for may be relating to some structure in the lake, all you need to do is to locate the right piece of structure.

This change, structure in the bottom contour attracts many numerous types of aquatic creatures.

Let’s put it in above water terms; pretend that an open pasture is your body of water with a rock pile in one corner, a large tree in the middle and a small clump of plum brush in another corner.

If these were below the surface and fish were in the area, the first thing they’re going to see is these three changes or features (Structure) and they’ll be drawn to it.

These changes if they were under water are structure.

This change doesn’t need to be huge, as I’ve caught walleyes relating to a slight depression on the bottom or areas where the bottom content changes from a soft mud bottom to hard gravel.

It could be a weedbed, rock pile, humps, points, the old river channel or submerged timber. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change; it just needs to be something different.

Studies made show us how fish relate to structure and how much is needed in order for the fish to be attracted to one particular area.

In studies, fish were placed in stock tanks with no structure, where everything on the bottom was the same, which gave them nothing to relate to and they wandered all over the bottom of the tank.

When anything was placed in the tank, something different, creating structure, the fish moved right into it.

The last part of this test really puts it into perspective. They painted black circle on one side of the tank, with the fish moving in and around the circle, which proved that even the slightest change in the bottom configuration or structure can and does attract fish.

What draws these fish to these areas is simple; structure gives the fish everything they need.

1. Food Source

Other aquatic creatures are also attracted to structure as this is where their food source is, zooplankton and other small aquatic creatures. The structure is attractive to all aquatic creatures, from the smallest microorganisms to minnows and baitfish that feed on it as well as the larger game fish, as they will all be relating to or using the structure on the bottom.

Structure is where the aquatic food chain begins and ends in some instances.

2. Security

These areas also offer security, giving the aquatic insects, minnows, fry, crawdads and other creatures a place to hide and hopefully to keep from being eaten.

3. Comfortable Water Temps

Some types of structure, for instance; weed beds and submerged timber give fish a place to get out of the sun and in the case of the weedbeds, is an area where more oxygenated water can be found

It doesn’t take much of a change!

In the past, I’ve found walleyes lying in shallow muddied water during the heat of the day next to the only structure on that stretch of the river. It was an 8” deep depression running from the shore out into the deeper water. This foot wide trench was created when a heavy rain came off an adjacent road, cutting a small depression in the shallows.

The depression had attracted shiners, which had followed the zooplankton into the shoreline and were using the depression to hide from the game fish. When one made the mistake of poking his head out of the trench, a walleye was there to make sure that it didn’t get a chance to make that mistake again.

We ran into a similar situation on recent trips to the northeastern South Dakota, the Glacial Lakes area. The only real structure in the lake that we could find were submerged trees, not exactly what most people would consider prime walleye structure.

There were several reasons why they made this ideal walleye habitat or structure.

A brisk 25 MPH wind was blowing hard into the trees and had blown zooplankton in along the shoreline, which brought the baitfish into the area.

The wind blowing into the shoreline where the submerged trees were standing had created a “magnum” mud line.

These mud lines are created when waves crash into the shoreline. As they move back away from the shore, they carry sediment out into the water.

This muddied water cut the suns penetration, giving the light sensitive walleyes the opportunity to move shallow into the flooded trees which now has became ideal structure attracting not only walleyes, but all species of predator fish.

We tried several different methods to fish this area with the heavier Firetiger colored lipless crankbaits cast up into the trees working best.

Some anglers think that only one particular structure is holding all the fish in the lake and that area is the only place where the fish are biting.

When in fact, there are probably dozens of other areas on the lake, areas where the same scenario is being played out.

If you find some type of structure that’s holding fish and don’t want to fight the crowds. Take the information you’ve learned from that area and search for other structures that’s similar as you can bet once you locate a similar area, there will be fish biting there also.

If the crowd is trolling crankbaits along a muddied up rocky shoreline with a 56 degree surface temperature with rocks extending out from the shore line into 5 to 6’ foot of water, you should be able to take this information and head to another area with similar structure to see if you can find your own hot spot.

Not all structure in the lake will hold fish at the same time, but unless something changes drastically, every year when conditions are about the same, you’ll be able to catch fish over certain types of structure.

It’s not rocket science, it all has to do with the wind, water temps and water clarity.

On calm sunny days, in a clear water lake all aquatic life will relate to deeper structure to avoid the direct sunlight.

Of course the exception to this is if the wind is blowing hard as you’ll want to fish the structure on the windy side as the food chain will bee forced to follow their food and the mud line created allows the predator fish to move shallow to feed.

If you’re fishing dirty or turbid water, you may be able to fish the shallow structure throughout the day until shallow water temperatures become too warm.

Don’t overlook even the slightest piece of structure as a small change in the bottom contour can hold some truly big surprises.

Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska, is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award winning writer, producer, and broadcaster, inducted into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. He is the Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. For more information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, outdoorsmenadventures.com or watch his shows on www.MyOutdoorTV.com.

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