Fishing Rivers Under Lakes
Actually, many lakes we fish are not lakes. They're
impoundments. Originally, river drainage systems that have been
dammed by humanity.
A golden concept that applies to impoundments year-round but
especially each spring is this: Fish impoundments as if they
still are the original rivers. This means targeting the locations
that were active flowing parts of the original river system
before being dammed by man.
Even though their banks may have been overflowed and flooded
over decades ago, the age-old creek channels and feeders can
still be important to the bass. The creeks and gulches and washes
and trickles were the oases of life before being flooded by the
dam - and may still be the meccas of motherlodes of fish.
Although buried under water now, the riverine environment is
still intact under the impoundment, and the bass still use the
impoundment as if it still is a river system.
A river system (and hence an impoundment) is a mesh of
countless connecting feeder veins and water flows of the
following exemplary types which you should learn to recognize and
target. Some of the larger constructs can be recognized from far
away, and may extend down into the impoundment from far back on
the adjacent land. Some of the smaller constructs often have an
additional traipse of garnishy greenery on the way down to the
shoreline, which is a surefire cue to a few water veins that fish
like gold veins.
However, many original river features may be far offshore
underwater now, and spottable only on a map (more on maps later).
Here are some of the key river constructs underneath an
- MAJOR CONFLUENCES. Where
two rivers or streams that rarely dry meet (or would have met if
they were not flooded under water by man). Confluences can be
great summer and fall staging spots for bass.
- PERENNIALS. These are
more or less steady creeks that never completely dry up or only
stop flowing during the very driest spells. These usually have
silty flood plain deltas in the back, and may be marshland or
flooded brush basins in the back.
- NON-PERENNIALS. These are
where an intermittent creek or wash, which may have been dry for
most of the season, is now underwater. The confluences where
non-perennial or lesser side creek would have met a stream or
bigger creek - some of these MINOR CONFLUENCES can be great
winter or summer deepwater holding areas for bass.
- SEASONAL INFLOWS. Places
that don't flow year-round but bring water in predominantly
during the snow-melt season and/or only during the rainy or
monsoon season. Snow-melt is more "systemic" and runs
off from deeply-saturated grounds whereas rainy season inflows
can often be but are not necessarily shallower surface ground
run-offs. In other words, snow versus rain water may not
necessarily journey across the same terrain nor enter the
impoundment at the same places.
- INCIDENTAL INFLOWS. Places
that usually do not flow but only convey excess water as a result
of heavy downpour or flash flood incidents. These can come from
high ground, and may result in temporary waterfalls or spills.
The area may be highly dangerous to approach on rainstorm
forecast days or during the wet or flood season, but during dry
and stable conditions, you may find a sand or sediment delta and
washed-in debris deposits at the base. Sure spots for bass.
- SEEPS AND SPRINGS. Water
squeezed out of rocks or coming out of the ground. Actually, I
don't think such water gets wrung right out of the rocks, but
squeezed between the thin space between two layers of rocks.
Nevertheless, even such innocuous "drip rocks" seem to
have enhanced food chains on and about the drips - more
terrestrials, insects, moss, algae - and right on up the food
chain that ultimately attracts bass.
- SHINING SAND OR WET SPOTS. I'd hardly call these any sort of
serious water inflow, but still bass have an uncanny affinity for
such areas, especially in the spring. Usually, they're a dimple
or depression in the back of a bowl or a teacup-type sand flat.
They may be the last spot of shoreline to dry after a rain, or
the last spot to stay wet as lake water levels decline. A good
way to notice them is simply sun reflection shining off wet sand
rimming the shoreline - or a darker, damp tongue of dirt
impressed on an otherwise drying shore. Upon closer inspection,
the spot may reveal an old channel cut either coming out of or
bending in close to the shoreline.
I may have lost many readers here with the drip rocks, shining
sand and wet spots - but hopefully at least a few of you are
nodding wisely about these heretofore undocumented bass hotspots
in every impoundment.
Some of these spots, the smaller ones, are only recognizable
from a certain angle, and you really do get better at spotting
them with experience. Often times, on a steep shoreline, such
spots can be more easily seen far up the land mass, and then
traced down to where their journey descends into the impoundment
MORE ON MAPS
Maps can be extremely important and often are the only way to
get a full picture of the rivers and creeks still flowing under
and into an impoundment.
Impoundments can range from several hundred acres to several
hundred miles long. On some of the smaller impoundments, map
availability may be limited.
On the larger impoundments, new and different maps can be
ferreted out readily - and each new map has a habit of showing
different creeks, different inflows than the other maps. Not just
fishing, boating and topo maps, but shoreline camping/hiking
maps/books often note or describe water flows not documented
elsewhere. I've come across snow melt maps, rainy season drainage
maps, water rights usage maps, environmental impact statement
maps, even forestation/vegetation density maps can give clues to
creeks and water seeps. Bottom line, most every map I come across
on a large impoundment may reveal yet another feeder creek clue
or riverine perspective not previously marked on other maps.
Now, never go target any of these areas while they are still
gushing or spewing water or even soggy rain-drenched - and most
of the time, most places, they probably aren't like that. But I
take great caution to avoid any such areas while they are gushing
or active or rain-drenched or whenever inclement weather
advisories are broadcast for an area, since the land around them
(which may be above you) seems to have a higher chance to be
unstable when wet - as in landslides, rock slides, cliff walls
falling, and flash flood surges of uncontrollable dangerous water
can enter an impoundment from rainstorms happening many miles
Always keep in mind, if your favorite lake was once a river,
it probably still fishes like a river. Many anglers I've met
never realize this about impoundments. Much of the rest of an
impoundment (which was formerly dry ground) may be a poorer
fishing prospect at times, although the original river and all
its tributaries and veins still teem with life. In a very real
sense, even though dammed by humanity, the original rivers remain
the oases of life, and the connecting mesh of hidden underwater
creek channels are often the premier places to be for bass.