Hello, high water!

Posted on May 25th, 2018

Out See Go
By Chris Engle, contributor

These are the evenings I dream of all year – especially back in mid April as I begrudgingly dug myself out of a late-winter snowstorm along with everyone else in Gaylord.

It was that historic snowfall of 30-some inches in one weekend which has helped make the coming month the best time for fishing inland lakes.

All that snow melted fast and sent lake levels soaring. Not only is this their high point for the year, but they are probably the highest I’ve seen in the dozen years I’ve lived here.

There’s little chance of ants spoiling a picnic here — but a hungry goose is another story. Photo by Chelsea Engle

With water up so far, low-lying shoreline areas that are usually dry have flooded, and marshy areas are now well underwater, drastically expanding habitat for both fish and the things they eat.

I wonder how many satellite TV technicians carry waders in their work trucks? Photo by Chris Engle

As water temperatures start to rise, panfish and bass prepare to spawn, which typically happens in mid to late June. In my experience, the larger, mature fish won’t bite during this time except to defend their beds, and I personally don’t like going after nesting fish. They have a job to do and I leave them to do it.

But in May and early June, fish are feeding heavily to replenish their stores after a lean winter, develop their eggs, and fatten up in advance of spawning.

This coincides with the emergence of all kinds of bugs, which abandon their aquatic bodies for airborne ones. Insect nymphs move to the shorelines, rise to the surface, climb reeds and grasses, and shed their skins for wings. It’s a vulnerable time for these bugs, and fish pounce on the opportunity to pick them off like Halloween candy in their shallow neighborhoods.

When that happens, I like to drift along shore casting dry flies, nymphs or small jigs for panfish, and topwater baits for largemouth bass, and the last two hours before sunset is the very best time to do it.

A black crappie caught roaming the shallows. Photo by Chelsea Engle

What’s particularly great about spring is that a boat is not necessary to reach the fish. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboats grant exclusive access to the best backwaters, and even public-access points like boat launches or campgrounds are fine for wading and casting along shore. It only takes a rod, a few hooks and bobbers, a box of worms and a bucket to bring home a meal of bluegill or, even better, introduce young kids to fishing.

Sunset over Manuka Lake. Photo by Chris Engle

Good luck to everyone and have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend!

Chris Engle is a freelance columnist and outdoorsman in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at englemobile@gmail.com.

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