Locating Fish in the Water

No matter what sort of gear or equipment you use, you cannot catch fish unless you cast where they are in the water. These tips will help you figure out how to read the water and figure out where the fish are hiding. Using the techniques suggested here will improve your fishing success.

First off, if possible ask an experienced local angler to share his favorite fishing holes or ask an employee in a tackle store for suggestions of areas that have recently provided good fishing.

Finding Fish in Streams

  • Look at the direction of the water flow. When fishing in streams and rivers, the current is usually the determining factor on where fish will hold. Fish often sit directly downstream of a boulder or other current break because it takes less energy to maintain their position here than in the main current. These spots also have a constant flow of food drifting by that makes for easy feeding, and often as a result, successful fishing.
  • Observe other fishermen at the location and note the type of gear they use, the types of fish they catch, and what lures and baits are working.
  • Use the sun’s position to help you determine where fish might be hiding. All fish like spots that provide cover from other predators. If the sun is straight overhead, you probably will not find fish in shallow, exposed areas. More likely they will be in the shade, deeper pools or among rocks or vegetation.
  • Look for heavy insect activity or hatches in the water. You will often find fish in the middle of the action gorging on the emerging bugs before the action is over. Depending upon the type of insect, hatches can take place in both fast and slow water.
  • Look for areas that combine factors from all the previous steps. A spot that is shaded and has a log underwater will provide cover, a current break for the fish, and if enough water is flowing past, a constant supply of food being swept by.

Finding Fish in Lakes

  • Look for areas in lakes where fish can find food or comfortable water temperatures.
  • In lakes, the principles are still similar to those for rivers and streams, but there is usually no current to consider. A lake might look the same everywhere at first glance, but inspect more closely and you will find coves with more insect activity, deep channels that provide cover and cool water mid-summer and shorelines with boulders that are cover and ambush points for fish.

Finding Fish in the Ocean

  • When you head into the ocean to start fishing, you need to keep the same principles in mind. Most of the ocean does not have very many fish, so any structure, natural or man-made, will usually hold them. Both reefs and sunken debris will be home to small fish, which in turn attract larger fish.
  • Take your time and observe the water before fishing. Look for activity above and below the water. Eagles or seagulls fishing for small fish are often a sign that more fish will be in the area. Look for fish rising to the surface or jumping at insects. Take note of locations where you see fisherman catching fish and notice what makes that area different.

Finding Fish When on a Boat

  • Use an electronic fish finder when other methods do not work. The device uses sound waves transmitted through water to detect the depth between the boat, the bottom of the water and any object in between, hopefully a fish.

Tips to Help Locate Fish:

  • A pair of polarized sunglasses will cut down on glare and make seeing into the water easier.
  • Try reading a local guide book before heading to a new location to gain insight on likely spots to start your search.


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