It is pretty obvious to most, the differences between Freshwater fishing and Saltwater fishing, but there are some scientific points to consider in addition to simply the “Lake vs. Ocean” comparison. Freshwater fishing is when a fisherman fishes in a body of water that has less than 0.05% salinity. It is different than saltwater fishing because the species of fish are entirely different. Except, some fish like Salmon who are born in freshwater, spend a few years at sea and then return to spawn in the same freshwater body of water they were born in.
If you are like me, and live inland…you don’t always get the opportunity to saltwater fish, but the alternative can be just as fun and rewarding! Fresh Water is a vital part of life and essential to most organisms. Water covers 70% of our planet and surprisingly, only 3% is Freshwater!
Let’s break down some of the areas where you can freshwater fish. There is not an international standard used to define the difference between a lake and a pond. Many people believe the difference between the two can either be size, how water is fed into it or a combination of both. Just because lakes are land locked doesn’t mean they are all freshwater. A lake can have a high concentration of salt such as Great Salt Lake. Depending on the concentration of salt, fish may or may not be able to survive or reach sufficient size to be worthy for fishing. One thing to keep in mind is that lakes, like ponds, rivers and all other bodies of water will have creel limits. A creel limit is the amount of fish and/or size of fish you’re allowed to remove from that lake per day.
Freshwater Fishing Tips
Map it – When fishing in a freshwater lake or pond you’ll want to get a topographical map of that body of water. This will let you know what and where the different depths of the lake or pond are. It may also show you locations of sunken man-made fish cribs.
Bait Matters! – The best type of bait is live bait! Worms, minnows, wax worms and soft shell (crayfish) are good ways to start. You will want to use the live bait is best for the species of fish you’re trying to catch. Some other types of live bait that are also used are leeches and frogs or anything else live you think the fish will go for! Artificial bait works also, with the popular options being spinners and crankbaits.
Check the Water Temp– The majority of freshwater fish species have specific water temperature and weather that they prefer. You’ll want to research the specific fish you’re trying to catch to figure out the best times and water depths to catch them.
Keep those hands clean! – When fishing in water with little salinity you’ll really want to make sure you keep your hands clean. Fish have a great sense of smell and any foreign scent on your bait or lures can turn them off.
Other Essentials- Aside from obviously needing a rod and reel, other things that you will eventually need would be a tackle box, needle-nose pliers, a net, and perhaps an ice chest. Also a nice pair of polarized sunglasses will not only block the UV rays from the sun and the suns’ glare on the water, but they will help you to see a little better into the water to locate fish.
Safety first! Growing up in Florida I can say, look out for Gators as tip numero uno! Especially if you are in the south and are using a small boat or canoe. You always need to have the proper fishing license and/or stamps, if you’re caught fishing without them you could be in hot water. If you are going to wade in a river, pond, or lake make sure to use a wader belt to prevent water from rushing into your waders. If in a boat, grab a life jacket. Its is always good to have handy and necessary by law in most places. Lastly, don’t forget to drink plenty of water and apply the sun screen.
Lake Fishing Tips
Inlets and Outlets and Hang out Spots – Like humans, fish like specific temperatures and will generally hang around areas of a lake that they find comfortable. Places where water enters or drains from a lake will generally be much cooler and favorable to fish. Bait fish like to hang around these areas, along with the giant fish that eat them.
Find Sunken Trees and Branches– Fish like to hang around structures that make them feel safe and that provide the opportunity to ambush other fish. Structures such as sunken trees, branches and man made fish habitats are a great place to fish. It’s a safe haven, or so they think…kind of how Coral is in Saltwater.
The hotter it gets outside the deeper you’ll need to fish- Fish tend to like cool temperatures and will move to deeper, cooler water as the temperature outside rises. During dusk and dawn, fish will come to more shallow water to feed. You can research the specific type of fish you’re trying to catch to get a better idea.
The Wind is on Your Side – On days with a strong breeze you can expect the bait fish to get pushed closer to shore, meaning the big fish will come closer to shore to feed. Watch for drift lines and follow them, they will lead to bait fish, which will lead to the big fish you are looking for.
Scout for Weeds – A lot of big fish, like northern pike and largemouth bass, like to stalk their prey from a nice cozy weed bed. Locate some weed beds in the lake your fishing in and try getting your bait and/or lure in that area to see if you can coax a fish to bite. The weed beds that lead to deeper water and create a break line are the best spots!
Remember, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on fishing gear. Freshwater fishing should be fun, easy, and affordable. About 90% of the tackle on the market is meant to attract the fisherman, not the fish.