Spotting Freshwater Fish – There are different ways to spot different freshwater fish. Trout reveal themselves by rising to the surface to take insects. But you can also spot their flashes on the bottom as their bellies show when turning to search for nymphs. You can find carp and smallmouth in shallow waters rooting around rocks in search of crayfish. They often travel together, each taking advantage of the other’s food gathering methods.
Panfish, such as bluegills, often take bugs off the surface. In the springtime you’ll find their round, light-colored beds along the banks in shallow water. You’ll find largemouth beds along the shore also, but they are larger and often found in very shallow water. Smallmouth have similar beds, but usually in deeper water.
Nervous water or any water during which you see baitfish moving or nervous can signal smallmouth, largemouth, or one of the pike or muskie families. Fishinthings is also an excellent resource for spotting freshwater fish.
Freshwater Fish Dangers
Catfish spines are very sharp and carry a toxic substance that can cause a painful, festering wound. To land a catfish up to about 5 pounds (2.3 kg), reach carefully around the sharp spines on the dorsal fin and pectoral fins. Grab the fish from the top by holding it with your hand immediately in back of the dorsal fin and the index and middle finger bracketing one pectoral fin.
Pike, pickerel, and muskie have big teeth. The best way to land pike to avoid hurting yourself or the pike is with a cradle—essentially a long, rectangular net. To land pike or muskie without a net, lift the fish by the area just in front of the tail and just in back of the pectoral fins. You can handle smaller pickerel the same way.
Big trout and bass have tiny teeth that can hurt. But they will not do much damage unless you handle them excessively. You can use the same landing method as with pike, but with trout and bass, it is a good idea to hold the lower lip at the same time you support the back of the fish just in front of the tail.