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Fishing In Shallow Water

By Bob Jensen - May 1, 2002
In the spring, most of your fishing action will take place in shallow water. That's where the fish spawn this time of year, so that's where you're going to find them. Walleyes and northern pike will move into an area, lay their eggs, then move on.

Bass and panfish on the other hand, will enter a spawning area in advance of the actual spawning process. The males will move in and build a nest. When the females are ready to drop their eggs, they find a nest and lay their eggs. The males will then guard the nest for a few days until the newly spawned fry are able to be on their own. That is a simplistic description of what happens, but it gives an idea of why the fish are shallow this time of year. The key is, if you want to catch fish in the spring, you're probably going to want to fish in shallow water. If you want to catch fish in shallow water, you're going to have to do things a little differently.

Shallow water fish are often biters, but they can be spooked easily. Long casts are a big help when fishing the shallows.

When fishing from a boat in the shallows, you've got to be quiet. Too much noise will spook the fish out of an area, or at least reduce the chances of them biting.

I prefer to move about in the shallows by using an electric motor. Many anglers prefer a Minn Kota because they are so quiet. Keep the motor on a low speed, as low speeds put out less sound than the higher speeds. Sometimes it works well to move into an area and shut the motor off completely. Fancast the area, then move into a new area, shut the motor off and fancast that area. This will reduce the chance of scaring the fish.

Be sure to shut your outboard motor off a good distance from the area to be fished and use the electric motor to enter the shallows.

Many anglers like to wade this time of year. Wading can be very productive, but again, you must be quiet. Anglers that are splashing around probably are going to reduce their chances for a bite.

Just like with fishing the shallows from a boat, the wading angler should quietly move into the area to be fished, then stand still while casting the entire area. Only after the area has been completely worked over should you move.

After working an area, some wading anglers like to walk back to shore, walk down the shoreline aways, then re-enter the water at a location that hasn't been fished. If walking back to shore isn't practical, move slowly and quietly into a new casting location.

Lots of fish can be caught in the shallows from now until early summer. Remember to keep quiet and you can get in on this action.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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