For antsy anglers with some free time, nothing is worse than waiting for muddy waters to clear from their favorite fishing hole. What would you do, though, if you were told you don’t have to wait?
You can cure your angling itch regardless of the roily aftermath that Mother Nature might conjure. You just need to know what kinds of fish will still take your bait or lure in such conditions and where you should look for these fish.
Heed a few tips on how to change or alter your tactics and you can find some success when you can’t see an inch below the water’s surface.
Stepping up to the boat launch or shore of one of your favorite fishing holes to only see water the color of mortar or tea with too much cream can be most disheartening.
However, before throwing in the towel and heading back home, think again. You can lure a fish to your hook in such dreary circumstances if you use the right tactics.
Some fish—bass, for instance—offer an angler better chances in muddy water than other fish, such as trout. You can generally coax almost any fish, however, if you fish the right spots and use the right baits or lures.
Catching Bass in Murky Water
Bass usually pursue food more aggressively than many other species of fish. Their appetite lingers for longer hours than your average fish during the day.
As with any other fish, you must first realize that muddy water inhibits the bass’ vision, but not its other senses, including its very visible lateral line.
Therefore, think of baits or lures that either make noise or cast a decent-sized silhouette or wake. If using bait, make sure it’s fresh and plenty vigorous. Also, keep your bait scents at arm’s length to spread on your offerings.
Plenty of lures you already keep in your bass arsenal under normal conditions will work:
- Any of the plastics (e.g., grubs you can jig, plastic worms) as long as they are bulky; even better should they feature wiggly legs or little, flappy ribs. Use the dark ones because color won’t matter much in muddy water.
- Of course, noisy surface lures; the noisier the better in this case.
- Don’t leave the crankbaits or spinnerbaits in the tray, though. These can be a good backup choice if none of the other options are drawing hits. These are most productive, however, if you already know the bottom structure of the lake or pond you choose to fish in these low-visibility situations.
One caveat: If your dark lures aren’t working, don’t be afraid to cast some brighter or more colorful ones. You have nothing to lose and perhaps a hit or two to gain.
Crappie, Perch and Sunfish in General
Sometimes these types of fish will roam more freely in murky water because they feel a bit more secure when they are harder to see and they need to find food as readily as a bass.
Grubs tipped with a scent or a portion of worm and live bait itself (i.e., nightcrawlers and small minnows or pieces of minnows) will cause some commotion on retrieve and catch these scrappers’ other senses no matter how muddy the water.
As under normal conditions, these types of fish tend to school. Wherever you find them in a muddy lake or pond, make sure you exhaust that fishing hole. That said, you are likely to find more loners than usual just because they feel less threatened in dark water.
In muddy water, first opt for the tried-and-true live minnow (check your state fishing regs) or large nightcrawler, with spinner or other attractant that imparts motion.
More so than with bass, brighter colors can make a difference at times. Use the same chartreuse or flame-orange beads or similar small buoys on your warm harness that you would use under normal conditions.
Again, it is best to already know the water and its bottom-to-top structure when seeking walleye because these features won’t be as visible in muddy water and perhaps not even navigable (prior knowledge of all-the-sudden invisible structure or obstacles makes for a safer experience).
Big jigs, even if you must tip them with a nightcrawler or other scent-filled bait, can work just as well in muddy water as they do in clear conditions. Give them a bit more rod tip action than usual should your normal retrieve prove unproductive.
This species makes you work a bit harder in muddy water and invariably takes rivers out of the equation. Stick to lake, ponds or reservoirs.
There is a reason steelheaders disdainfully use the word “out” during the steelhead season after heavy rains.
Trying to coax this migrating oversized rainbow to anything in a river with less than 10 inches of visibility—not to mention a current traveling two or three miles an hour faster than normal—is akin to spinning gold from hay. Streams in such condition are considered “out of shape” for fishing.
Rainbows, browns, brookies, cutthroat and other types of trout found in still waters mostly prefer clearer conditions when pursuing their meals. Even flies become less detectable or available.
All this said, when fishing in muddy lakes or ponds for trout, you will find scents, worms, eggs or even corn to be your best bet.
A wobbler—whether a flatfish trolled or a fairly heavy casting spoon that imparts a sound wave—poses a decent backup should your bait be snubbed. A weighted spinner equally serves as a good second-string lure.
Trout will also follow their alternate senses when seeking food, but remember that 90 percent of their diet consists of insects and this is why muddy water poses a greater challenge for trout anglers as opposed to those fishing for bass or other spiny rays.
Consider These Advantages
Actually, fishing in muddy water can be more advantageous than in clear water.
- For instance, you can use a little heavier pound test in your line because of the low visibility
- You can also be free of the worry of casting your shadow upon the water as you would on a sunny day with clear water.
- Another major advantage to fishing muddy water is the lack of competition. Not many anglers will make the choice to launch or set up on the shoreline when the water looks so uninviting and challenging.
Just be safe by knowing that structures visible in clear water will not necessarily be visible in muddy water, especially if you fish from a boat.