The only way to catch a lot of fish is to put your lure or bait where the most fish are. That sounds simple enough, but most anglers have a hard time managing this task. The answer is usually there, right before your eyes—all you have to do is look.
Train yourself to pay attention to the following list of fish-holding areas and you’ll catch more fish. It really is that simple!
1 Transition Zones:
All rocky areas have the potential to hold game fish, but you can improve your score by focusing on the “transition zones.” Look for places where big rocks give way to small ones, where the rocks give way to a steep drop-off, or where a group of boulders meet a sand, grass or gravel bottom. Any change in the makeup of the bottom or shoreline has the potential to hold fish.
2 Shady Shores:
As the sun rises or sets, it creates another type of transition zone. Shadows cast by trees, docks, buildings, rocks and other objects tend to attract game fish by offering protection from direct sunlight. As the sun rises, fish the eastern shorelines first. This will give you the longest possible time to fish, especially if the shore is lined by tall trees or buildings.
Docks are frequently overlooked as fish-holding hot spots. They are best fished at night, or early in the morning, especially if they have lights on them. Floating docks offer shade as well as cover for bait and game fish. Silversides, mummichogs, peanut bunker and shrimp all use docks for protection, and their presence will attract predators.
4 Windy Shores:
Most anglers head for a protected shore when the breeze kicks up. However, this can be a big mistake if you want to catch fish. A strong wind tends to concentrate plankton and baitfish against a lee shore. This in turn will eventually draw predators to the area. Wind will also create currents and eddies when blowing across points, bars and where a river or stream enters open water. If the wind keeps blowing you into trouble while you try to fish, use your anchor to maintain position.
5 Color Changes:
After a storm or heavy rains pass through an area, you’re likely to encounter water-color changes, especially near the mouth of a river, creek or bay. The dirty water abutting the cleaner bay or ocean water creates a color change—a major transition zone where game fish like to feed. Places where streams and creeks feed into a river will often see color changes after a storm. If there’s structure close by, these spots get even better.
6 Dark Bottom:
Patches of eelgrass, gravel and shell along a sandy beach or light-colored flat are magnets for game fish. The fish tend to hold over the dark areas, or patrol the edges (another transition zone). If you add some current to the mix, you’ve found yourself a great spot to fish.
Bridges are some of the most diverse and productive fish-holding structures in any inshore system. Most involve a channel drop-off, moving water, points, rocky structure, abutments or pilings, current breaks and more. Bridges also produce a shadow line created by road lights or the sun. Depending on where the bridge is located, the sun can create a shadow line well into the late morning. It’s important to figure out how the predator fish relate to the bridge structure. As the tide rises and falls, their position will likely change. In the early morning or late evening, for example, stripers will almost always hold along the shoreline structure, especially during high water. As the tide drops and the sun rises, the fish will usually move into the deeper mid-channel area.