Every year in November I write a blog detailing things that I learned, or maybe was reminded of, during the open water fishing season that is now mostly in the books. Interestingly, 2022 offered more profound fishing lessons/information for this angler than maybe the last 10 years combined! Those lessons deal with my first season using forward-facing sonar technology.
Forward-facing sonar is technology that allows anglers to “see” ahead and to the sides of the fishing boat in real time, almost turning fishing into a video game like experience. Fishing partners and I used Active Target forward-facing sonar in conjunction with a Turret motorized transducer mount with foot control that allows the transducer to be manipulated independent of the bow trolling motor. So, for example, we could slowly work down a drop off weed edge scanning ahead and side to side looking for fish with the transducer that we could cast to while using the trolling motor to hug the edge with the boat. Or, with the trolling motor in anchor mode holding the boat in place, we could scan around the boat looking for fish to cast too as well. In either case, this fishing style was fun, productive, and taught me a great deal about fish behavior.
Since we mostly fished for walleyes with the technology, most of the lessons learned about fish were about walleyes in particular. First, I was very surprised, almost amazed, at how much fish move! We often would spot pods of maybe 4 to 8 walleyes that we would quickly cast our lures towards. Often, we only got a cast or two in before we had to adjust our casting angles or even start to scan again to find where they went. This scenario happened time and time again and has me wondering how much of my previous walleye angling involved fish that I had marked on traditional sonar moving before I ever was able to circle back and fish for them after seeing them in what I called search mode.
Seeing so many on the move fish was eye-opening to me, but the other thing that was really significant was how often and how much the fish were suspended off bottom. In natural lakes across the Midwest, we often assumed that walleyes hold within a foot or two of bottom. Simply put, from what I saw this past season, that is not true. We often saw those pods of walleyes 4, 6, or even 8 feet or more above bottom. Seeing them had me wondering again, this time, about how much of my previous walleye fishing was spent with my bait below the level the fish were at. These suspended walleyes are a big reason the venerable slip bobber fishing rig has made somewhat of a comeback in walleye angling circles. We often had bobber rods ready and, when we would see fish up off bottom, would adjust our baits to be a matching distance below the bobber and then cast to the fish. This in your face approach was often effective in triggering walleyes.
I could go on about more things learned this past season from this new technology, but space limitations dictate I need to wrap this up. Nevertheless, the two biggest takeaways from this past year were detailed above in the discussion about moving fish and suspended walleyes. Keeping those lessons and behaviors in mind for the 2023 fishing season should help me become a better angler and can probably help you too.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit Fishing the Midwest at www.fishingthemidwest.com.