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The Three R’s of Fishing #2

By Lake Michigan fishing charter Capt. Jim Hirt
This is article number two of a two part article. Look for part number one for rigging tips. This article will focus on reacting to change. Read all my articles and see video fish reports at

Reacting to time of year
Time of year is also to be considered when trying to catch moody fish. As the seasons change, so do the temperatures of the water. Fish are cold blooded and their metabolism changes as their body temp changes. Most anglers know there are cold and warm water species of fish. Which means all fish if given a choice will find their preferred temperature range. In fact too high or too low beyond their limits will cause stress and eventual death. In large fresh water lakes, the time of day isn’t nearly as critical at locating the depth of the preferred temperature level for the fish species you’re seeking.

Thermocline Explained
Lakes layer into three separate layers of water in the spring and stay that way until cold weather. The middle layer, where there is a larger concentration of dissolved oxygen, baitfish and therefore predator fish, is called the thermocline. It can usually be found anywhere from ten feet to the bottom. This is a temperature layer, as well as an oxygen-saturated layer, and fish will relate to it as both a comfort zone and one where their body metabolism functions the most efficiently. These fish will be suspended and feeding on alewives, smelt or other forage fish.

Temperature by species
The peak feeding and optimum temperature for Coho and Chinook is 52°, with an active range from 44° to 58°. For Lake Trout the peak feeding and optimum temperature is 51°, with activity from 43° to 53°. Fish will rarely venture out of these zones, once stratification has taken place, except to catch a meal and then will quickly return to it. The only exception is when fish are spawning. One thing to remember when fishing the thermocline is that its depth can change from day to day because of wind and wave action. It may be several feet deeper or shallower from one day to the next so you’ll have to relocate it each time you go out. Having said all that, when fishing in water temperatures near the bottom of your target species preferred temp, adjust to small spoons like the regular size Vulcan Spoon exclusively sold at Badger Tackle in a slow presentation. At their optimum temp go aggressive with large baits in quick presentations. Most anglers under estimate the speed of their quarry.

Keep good records
I cannot stress record keeping too much. Your ability to document good and bad days will be your magic rabbit in the hat. This info will shorten your learning curve and should be reviewed before every fishing outing. Record the date, location, weather, lures or bait, presentation, for each type of fish you catch. Good Luck let’s go fishing! Jim charters out of Milwaukee, WI. with Blue Max Charters. He can be reached at 414-828-1094 or web site at Copyright© 2011 James J. Hirt, All Rights Reserved.

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