Spring is here. You head out early in the morning, your fishing gear packed into the back of your SUV. You’re looking forward to a day on the lakeshore and are hoping to catch a pickerel or perch.
When you arrive, you pack your gear to the rocky shore and decide, for the fun of it, to use a nightcrawler for bait. You slide it onto your hook and cast. The bait sinks below the surface. Bang! A fish strikes. It is a good sized catch and a fighter. You can see it flipping and thrashing in the cool water, trying to free itself of the hook. You play the fish until it tires, bring it into shore and scoop it into your net. Much to your surprise, you’ve landed a northern pike.
Lake fishing is any type of fishing that is done on a lake. It can be shore fishing from a pier or marina or from a rocky shoreline. It can also be boat fishing, trolling or fly fishing. There are a wide variety of fish species found in lakes around the world. Lake species include bass, trout, catfish, perch, pickerel, northern pike, muskellunge, sturgeon, walleye and salmon.
If you plan to fish from a boat, you will need to own one, rent one, or go lake fishing with someone who has one. To fish from a boat, you will need a rod, reel, tackle, trolling equipment and a lake or fish map. If you are a beginner, use a basic lake fishing kit. This includes a six to eight foot graphite or fiberglass rod with a basic closed or open faced reel. Fishing line should be 8 to 15 pound-test, depending on the fish species you are targeting and the depth. Fishing near the surface requires 8 pound-test, while fishing the middle or bottom requires 15 pound test. The larger the fish species, the higher pound-test line you will need.
You will also need a variety of different sized hooks, ranging from medium to large. Split shot sinkers are best. If you are planning on fishing the bottom, larger weights will be necessary. Remember, when buying sinkers, be sure they are lead free in order to protect the environment. Floats can vary from cork to plastic to foam. Torpedo floats work great as well. Floats of various sizes can be used, but remember, smaller is always better. You don’t want the fish to see your float.
A variety of bait, both live and artificial is used for different species of lake fish.
Live bait for trout includes worms, insects, insect larvae and crayfish. Artificial bait includes streamers, spoons, spinners and dry and wet flies.
Live bait includes worms, shad, insects, insect larvae, frogs, crayfish and minnows. Artificial bait includes spinners, streamers, Mepps, spoons, jigs, crankbaits and clousers.
Live bait includes nightcrawlers, crayfish, minnows, chubs and leaches. Artificial trolling bait that is best is jointed minnows and spinner rigs.
Live bait includes worms, prawns, crustaceans, insects and insect larvae. Artificial bait includes lures, flies, plugs, streamers and spinners. Prepared bait such as egg sacs and scents also work well.
Catfish in a lake are usually channel cat. They are attracted to cut bait, worms, crayfish or peeled crayfish tails, mollusks, minnows, cheeseballs, breadballs, shrimp, chicken entrails and liver.
Pickerel feed on aquatic insects and invertebrates. Use nightcrawlers, minnows, crayfish, insects and frogs. Artificial bait includes worms, spinners, spoons, streamers and Mepps.
Perch feed on minnows, insects, insect larvae, crayfish, snails, nightcrawlers, grubs and maggots. Artificial bait includes worms, lures, spinners, streamers and jigs. Use small lures when fishing for perch, as they have small mouths.
Pike are predators. They will take nightcrawlers, minnows and smelt. Pike, especially females heavy with eggs, prefer dead bait because it provides an easy meal. Artificial bait includes wobbling spoons, spinners, split minnows and red and white spoons. If you are removing a hook from a northern pike, use needle nose pliers to avoid injury.
Live bait for Musky includes live fish bait that is 10 to 12 inches. Suckers work well, as do leeches, frogs, insects and sunfish. Artificial bait includes spoons, bucktails and large plugs. Muskies are fighters and will strip reels, break rods, mutilate bait and bend hooks.
Sturgeon like fresh bait and are bottom feeders. They are attracted to clams, eel, crayfish, smelt, salmon eggs, shad, nightcrawlers and fish heads.
Trolling is the use of either large or artificial bait pulled through the water behind a moving boat. It is used on lakes, especially for trout and walleye. The boat can be powered by a motor or oars. The bait can be trolled at any depth and is intended to resemble live fish. Trolled plugs, spoons and flies can be fished deep by adding weights or using leadcore line. Live bait is fished below a sliding float when trolling.
If you wish to take up lake fishing and have concerns over equipment or bait that you should use, ask an experienced lake angler to give you some tips, or invite them to come along on a lake fishing trip. Any experienced lake angler will be able to help you with equipment, bait, casting and trolling issues. This could be a family member, friend, neighbor or a staff member at a bait and tackle shop that specializes in lake fishing.