knapp 11-23-21

Sid Brown showed off a 24-inch walleye taken recently from the depths of Glendale Lake.

The retorts of high-powered centerfires rumbled in the distance as my friend Sid Brown and I settled over our first spot on Glendale Lake. The state’s bear season being in full swing served as a reminder that we were in late fall, that open-water fishing options might soon diminish, particularly on higher-elevation lakes like Glendale that freeze early.

Several hours later, the boat was back on the trailer, the livewell well-seasoned with an assortment that included walleye, crappie and yellow perch. All the fish came from deep structure in the 30- to 35-foot range.

Come late fall — when the surface temperatures of lakes fall into the low 50s and below — many gamefish and panfish species will set up on deep structure and cover. This includes rock, rubble, wood, old foundations, roadbeds and submerged bridges (and abutments).

While these zones can be productive, bear in mind that fish caught from such depths will likely suffer from barotrauma and will not be candidates for successful release.

ROCK/RUBBLE: The deeper basins of our reservoirs and lakes generally are comprised largely of muck and silt. Where hard bottom exists it often serves as a fish magnet. Natural rock formations and the remnants of manmade structures can offer such habitat.

Farms, homesteads, even small towns were present in the valleys of many of our reservoirs prior to being filled. Foundations can be present, and even if the structures were bulldozed over there may still be piles of rubble. Such hard spots can be located on sonar units, particularly ones that feature side imaging as hard spots will show up as a much brighter target.

Hydrographic paper maps and web resources such as Google Earth can reveal such spots. In the case of the latter scrolling back through the historic images of a reservoir often provides views when a lake was at a low level revealing many of its secrets. The GPS coordinates of these spots can then be entered into your chartplotter for future examination.

DEEP WOOD: Like rock/rubble, deep wood comes in many forms. It could be a shoreline laydown where the tree extends into deep water. This is a common scenario as bank erosion along seep reservoir banks — where deep water/creek channels swing in close — results in such laydowns over time. Since the base of the tree is often above water this cover is easy to locate.

In other cases, the wood is submerged, often large branches of trees that become imbedded in the lake bottom. Flood control reservoirs, which receive substantial amounts of wood during high water events, contain a lot of this. Locally, Crooked Creek Lake is a good example. Traditional (2D) sonar and down imaging sonar will show such imbedded wood, but it’s much quicker to find it with side imaging sonar. Crappies love deep wood and show up well on sonar when idling over such cover.

Artificial fish attractors like those placed by the Fish and Boat Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provide another source of deep wood. Porcupine cribs and brush bundles located in 20 to 35 feet of water often see fish activity this time of year when they have been vacant during the spring and summer months. The PFBC offers maps on its website that shows the general location of such cover. Look under the Fish Habitat section to locate them.

BRIDGES: Nearly all the region’s reservoirs have submerged bridges and/or culverts that can collect gamefish and/or panfish now. Creek channels often funnel fish, and bridges and old abutments provide additional cover that can hold them in place.

These can be located by examining lake maps for places where roads traverse creek channels. In some cases, the entire bridge deck will be present — there are three such bridges in Glendale — but in most it will just be the abutment and perhaps piers.

Blade baits, jigging spoons, gliding jigs such as the Rapala Jigging Rap, and bucktail jigs are all good options for fishing deeper water. Also, invest in a good lure retriever as these areas are quite snaggy.