Barbs and Backlashes


High and Muddy by whitetips
May 6, 2010, 10:08 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

Last weekend I ventured out to a couple of our reservoirs south of Lincoln and discovered that they caught a darned lot more rain down there late last week than we did in north Lincoln.  Water levels were high and the water was muddy.  Conditions are always changing, the only constant in nature is change, so if you want to be a consistently successful angler you will have to adapt to change every day you are on the water.  As with most angling situations I have no magic, no sure-fire advice for high and muddy water.  But let me offer a couple of tips, a couple of “rules of thumb” that should help.

Generally as water levels rise, fish follow the rising water.  Rising water levels tend to “pull” fish into shallower water, water near the shoreline, water closer to the surface.  As water levels rise, new habitat is flooded and those flooded shallows tend to be very productive.  Fish will take advantage of newly flooded, productive habitats.  That can make fishing a challenge because you might have to go right into the flooded “jungle” after those fish.  High water levels will generally mean that fish are relatively shallow and relating to cover, flooded cover of some type, and you will have to “tackle-up” and go in there after them.

I have seen fish activity decline dramatically when the water muddies.  I believe that in general, fish move less until they adjust to the decline in water clarity.  Yes, they will follow the rising water into flooded shallows, but generally they may not move around much in that muddy water.  After a few days fish activity will increase as they adjust to the dirtier water or as the water begins to clear.

So, put those two things together and it suggests some fishing strategies and presentations.  Look towards the shoreline, towards shallower water and expect fish to be holding tight to cover.  Plan to fish slow presentations close to cover objects in order to get fish to bite.

Consider that sight or vision may be less useful to fish in dirty or muddy water so try to maximize your bait or lure’s appeals to other senses–hearing, touch, smell and taste.  Fish can still find food in dirty water and in fact I believe their lateral line is one of the most important senses fish use to find food.  In most seminars that I have done I spend considerable time talking about the lateral line and how fish use that sense.  I suppose that would be a good blog post sometime, but right now let me explain it by saying fish can “feel” objects moving through the water with their lateral line.  In dirty water they can feel prey long before they see it.  The action and vibration of different baits or lures can make a huge difference as fish can detect those movements with their lateral line.  Baits or lures that give off hard, distinct vibrations may work better in dirty water.  Upsize your baits or lures, use baits or lures with larger bodies, baits or lures that will displace more water.  I will always tell you NOT to make too big of a deal out of the color of baits and lures; a good rule of thumb in dirty water is to use colors that offer contrast–dark colors with a splash of orange or chartreuse.  Flashy chrome or gold baits are usually less productive in dirty water as there is less light penetration for those flashy colors to reflect.

The senses of smell and taste can be much more important to fish in dirty water.  Muddy water would be one of the times when I would tell you it is most appropriate to use baits with “built in” scents or to use sprays or pastes that you can apply to your baits.  Also consider adding some sound to baits that may give off little or no sound; rattles, clicking weights and beads or even split rings and treble hooks may help fish find your baits.

I am sure the biggest challenge for me when the water turns high and muddy is to convince myself that fish can still be caught under those conditions.  Sure, the fishing will improve when conditions stabilize and clearer water is almost always better for fishing, but fish still got to eat under all conditions, and they can still be caught!

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[…] habitat About a month ago I made a post about fishing in waters where the water was high and dirty, https://barbsandbacklashes.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/high-and-muddy/ .  This past week I spent most of my time fishing interstate lakes, fished 6 different interstate […]

Pingback by Clear Water « Barbs and Backlashes

[…] have mentioned some general tactics for fishing high and dirty waters before, https://barbsandbacklashes.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/high-and-muddy/ , but let me tell you what I did once I found the conditions on the river to be less than […]

Pingback by Where I’ve Been, June 14, 2010 « Barbs and Backlashes




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