Casting all over a lake during the day and not catching fish easily dampens vacation days. It does the same for local outings. After a whole day in the sun and wind, anglers give up their casting and head for land.
Just before the mosquitoes come out and claim themselves kings and queens of the environment is when the migrations occur. While out on the waters this year, I've witnessed long lines of fish moving shoreward to dine in skinny water. On a Lowrance locater, I've never seen such large migrations as I've seen this year. Has catch and release helped create these traffic jams on the fish highways to their favorite dinner hotspots? Is it the increase in minimum sizes allowed to be kept by anglers? Is it the drop in numbers allowed to be kept by anglers the reason for these increased gamefish ? Or, is it the fact that panfish anglers can only keep reduced numbers of fish so that the larger, now more numerous bigger gamefish have enough fish to dine upon?
The shoreward migration allows for some hot fishing. The location my friend Paul Redel and I have been focusing upon is a river mouth coming into a good size southeast Wisconsin lake. The river entrance has created a 6 foot flat river bordered by shallower underwater river shorelines which are bordered by water in the 18 to 21 foot range on the west side, but on the east side of the river entrance, the water covers a 6 foot deep, food plain.
Food plains are flat areas having good aquatic plant growth lacking non-oxygen producing algae. This is where aquatic insects abound, and so will the panfish relying on these creatures for food. Weed cutters vastly devour natural habitat needed so that good populations of fish can occur. The more food; the more fish. It's that simple, yet too many people who make decisions on their lakes just don’t understand or seem to know or care that there is life below the surface where their pleasure boats cruise. It's not the anglers who ruin fish numbers; it's the riparians who turn natural shorelines where dragonflies and frogs abounded and many species of fish spawn into limestone eyesores or green grass that has its clippings, weed killers and fertilizers ending up in the world of our fish. Anglers who are riparians should fight for their fish.
It is the watery, weedy world where the wily gamefish enter for dinners and snacks. Without these underwater restaurant shopping centers, there are few fish.
Meanwhile, back at the shoreward cruise.
When the fish are swimming into shallower water, anglers should switch to lures that don’t dive as deep. Intercept the fish at the drop-offs. Cast along the slopes. For bass, use fat-bodied, tight wiggling crankbaits, plus spinnerbaits, tail spinners, and plastic worms or creatures. 4- and 6- inch plastic creatures are good when crawled along the slopes. This is great on the east side of the middle lake on Lauderdale Lakes. Inline spinners having some bulk are good. Experiment with colors. To narrow the selection, focus on black, white and chartreuse spinnerbaits and spinners such as those by South Bend, Yakima (Rooster Tails) or Wisconsin's Mepps.
Once in the food plains, shallower baits are better. Floating Rapalas, spinnerbaits, C.C. Shads, Rebels, and other baits producing vibrations help fish locate your baits in waning light are good. Chatterbaits and Boojahs are great. Should the vibrations stop, set the hooks,. Become a line watcher. High Vis line will help your catch increase. Keep lines tight. Should you musky fish, keep your thumb on the open bail when figure eighting. Setting the hooks when the fish is right in front of you while having the bail closed leads to poor or no hook sets and broken lines. There is no forgiving line stretch. Set the hook with the bail open and then when the fish runs, slam the bails closed to powerfully set the hooks or keep your thumb on the bail, set the hooks hard and start back reeling.
Such is southeast Wisconsin gamefishing during evening fish migrations. The same techniques work throughout the state.