For the past couple of years, there have been a lot of us who have had to fish in some pretty skinny water – and make it work. Yeah, it’s been tough sledding, but I think there are some serendipities we can profitably harvest from the low-water conditions. For example, we could be fishing some areas we haven’t touched in a long time, places currently high and dry and easy to scout right now.
Looking at the barren hills around San Luis, Millerton and Hensley, I can spot the places where I’ve caught fish and it’s usually obvious why the fish were in those areas. You can look at topo maps all day long, but seeing the totality of a good fishing area when it’s out of water can give you tons of clues about other unknown and less obvious nooks and crannies you should have been fishing before! It’s a goldmine of information many anglers overlook when the water is low, and it’s still available for the looking.
I was shocked late last year when San Luis got down to its low pool and I saw key structures I didn’t know existed. For example, I found a trench in the middle of the lake, which at the right time could be a hotspot. In addition, there was a large dropoff that my NAV maps marginally showed, and I had never considered at all.
Roads, old canals just a few feet deep, stands of willows, unused launching ramps and saddles between islands were all exposed, giving me a new perspective on why the fish do what they do at times. Locating and marking these gems will automatically make you a better angler and could be the difference between nothing and a great day in the future. Knowing when to hit these key spots is the other part of the art and science of it all.
Of course, many guys take pictures of the lake beds when they’re at low pool, but others are utilizing the new mapping technology that’s coming out on some sonar units. It allows anglers to make their own high-definition maps and note key spots or structures. Why is this so helpful?
I’ve found that in lakes where there is not much structure, any kind is a potential hotspot. Since NAV maps don’t normally show where a tree, a bunch of bushes, or an old sunken boat may be, having the ability to accurately mark that spot is key. Many of these spots are almost impossible to find, even by trial and error! Staying alert and noting anything different above or below the water can make or break your fishing as the water level goes up or down. Once you mark it, you got it!
If the water comes up a lot, it will feel like a new world again. But I’ve found that the fish will probably be holding right where you caught them a couple of years ago. I’ve had to stop and think back about the things I did when the lakes were last full. It’s been awhile.
Looking at the barren dry lake beds, I’ve also kicked myself for not fishing some obvious spots that I know had to have held fish back then. I’ve promised myself I’m not going to miss fishing them again when the water comes up. Good logs help, too!
The low-water years have been a challenge, but if we get some good rain now I believe the fisheries could explode in the next year or two. Why? Well a big influx of water and food would be a good start, as well as the unimpeded growth for a few years of all the weeds and bushes along the exposed banks. Cover them with water and these growths hide all kinds of small fish, insects and all kinds of little critters. A fish feast in the making!
I’m excited about this season, especially this spring, when I think our lakes and rivers will peak! Getting another chance to fish my favorite areas in high water not only fuels my enthusiasm, it offers hope of a major resurgence in all our fisheries! It might buy us some time to adapt, too. Never give up!