Monday, July 18, 2011

Prospecting New Wading Spots for Smallmouth

When searching for new fishing holes, you may encounter
beautiful and breathtaking scenery along the way.
One of my favorite things to do during the dog days of summer is to get in the water and wade a river or stream to fish for smallmouth bass.  I have some favorite spots to wade on the rivers and streams near me.  But, every now and then my buddies and I will crave something different and venture off to find a new fishing spot.  With today's technology and the ability to use the information super highway, you can save time and energy when scouting for new fishing holes.  Of course, there are scads of fishing forums out there where you can ask questions about where peoples fishing spots are, but good luck with that.  Most folks are pretty tight lipped about giving up there honey holes.  So, what you have to do is go find your own.  Below are some tips that will help you accomplish that.

You will enjoy the entire experience while finding your own new fishing spots especially if you do your homework in advance.  Think of these trips as if you were an explorer on an adventure to find that dream fishing trip close to home.

The first thing to do is to establish a plan.  Identify the body of water that you'd like to fish.  If it's a river, then you need to narrow down your search to find a specific spot that has everything you need to wade safely while still providing fish holding features.  For me, that means public access, water that's shallow enough to wade but deep enough to hold fish, and plenty of structure or cover.  If you want to find a small stream to fish, then for the most part you are looking for public access.  Maps will give you roads and bridge locations, and that's great for finding your way there.  Zooming in on a satelite image might give you clues that will help rule a spot out or perhaps place it higher on your list of spots to try.

Second, establish a back up plan.  You need to plan to check multiple spots.  Maps and satellite images don't tell you everything.  You might find a spot on a satellite map that seems to have all the characteristics that you're looking for and you may have everything in your favor.  But you may be disappointed when you arrive to the spot and there's no place to park, or the body of water doesn't have the qualities that you had hoped for, or access to it is posted.  Therefore, you need to find one or more spots to check out and fish given the amount of time that you have left in the day.  So, make sure you have several locations to check. 

Gravel or rock bars can be seen when you
zoom in on the satellite view of an on-line map.
Google and Mapquest offer on-line road maps along with Satellite imaging that are very effective in locating potential bodies of water to check out.  Not only do they assist you in finding fishable waters, you can also detect fishing structure from the satellite images.  When you zoom in on these satellite images you can sometimes see detail from above that might help you find structure or cover.

If you're looking for good spots to wade a river, look for shallow locations on the satellite image.  This will help you identify rapids or shallow rock or gravel bars.  You can find creek mouths, outside or inside river bends, sometimes deeper river channels, and even see parking lots in some cases.  Not only that, but you can print them out with the road map overlay so you can find your way there.  Or, you can purchase a state, county, or other road map or atlas.

There are many useful tools that are available to assist you in your quest to find a new fishing hole.  Paper or hard copy maps are the simplest form of media.  Of course, the more detail on your map the better.  Road maps that detail all roads and bodies of water are helpful to find bridge crossings and other access points.  Some have state parks, state game lands, parking lots, and other access clearly labeled.  If they have physical relief or topography, so much the better.  Often, topo maps will give you a clue as to what the depth of a river might be.  Usually, underwater contours of bodies of water take on the characteristics of the contour of the surrounding land features.  They come in handy when you're on the road trying to locate and finalize your search, especially if you've lost your ability to use electronic media.  With electronics, whether it's cell data phones, laptop computers, or GPS units, they're only as good as the signal that they receive or the charge on the battery.  When you travel through remote locations it's likely that you may not have the data conneciton or signal that you need.  So, don't rely solely on electronic media when on the road.
Creek mouths are easy to locate using on-line mapping with Satellite layering features.
GPS units will help you find your way and often include map software.  Cell data phones, like Iphones or Droids, are like mini personal computers.  They have internet access or GPS, so you can use them to narrow down your search as long as you have a good data connection.

My buddy Howard is shown with a nice smallie
from a newspot that we found yesterday.  It had
all of the qualities that we were looking for:
public access, easy wading, smallie habitat,  less
fishing pressure, and most of all, plenty
 of smallmouth.
Once you've done your homework then it's time to put your plan into action.  By now you've made a list of spots to check out, mapped your destination to your first spot and others that you want to check, and brought the necessary tools that you'll need to locate your potential hot spot while on the road.  Now, all you have to do is to drive to your spot and check it out.  Hopefully, you'll find that the spot is accessable, has adequate parking, and the features of your spot on the body of water are conducive to wading and make for good smallmouth habitat.

Once you get to your first spot, you need to assess it to make sure that it's suitable to fish.  Once you have parking access, you might have to hike a ways to find how to access the river or creek.  Often, bridges of any kind have paths down to the water.  You might have found a great place, but perhaps it's too overgrown to reach the river.  I'm not into carving a path with a machete, which may be an option for you.  Machete's tend to weigh me down on a wading trip as I like to pack light!  Rather, I prefer to move on to the next spot and not hack through poison ivy, stinging nettles, and the like.

When prospecting, you might find a place where
you can catch good numbers of smallmouth bass
and like we found yesterday, have the place to
You might have some luck at your first stop and find a new fishing honey hole, or you may strike out and have to move on.  Your work to get to this point isn't a waste of time even if none of your spots pan out.  Sometimes you have to rule a few places out to eventually find good spots to fish.  One more final piece of your backup plan is to have a spot in mind as a last resort to salvage your fishing day in case none of your spots pan out.  You need to gauge when you've spent enough time prospecting and save some time to fish.  Having a known spot in mind will help you save your day and catch a few fish.

The methods described above don't solve all of the problems when prospecting for new fishing locales.  There are no guarantees that you'll find a spot worth fishing on any given trip.  However, you will at least increase your odds in finding a fishing hot spot.  The ultimate reward is finding a new spot to fish.  Like anything else, it takes effort, but in the long run it is worth it.  The way that I look at it is, the more fishing spots that I have, the better.  Variety is the spice of life, isn't it?

Edit - Note:  If you aren't sure about a spot being public or not or it's posted, make sure that you get permission from the property owner to access the stream or river.  Check your local laws regarding access to streams too.

To read a story about small stream smallmouth fishing, click on this link that will take you to my story page:

For more info about fishing for river smallmouth bass, click here:

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