Catching fish starts with preparation! Yes, a big statement…but in the end successful anglers have discovered a tool more important than custom fishing rods, “secret” lures or state of the art depthfinders. Preparation spent studying quality contour fishing maps is always important. This time spent reading and learning from researched fishing maps is the most significant key to improving skills so fish are caught on most outings- for gamefish in our lake such as walleye and northern pike.
It has been said before but deserves repeating. A quality fishing map has been compared to the pirate’s treasure map, leading us to the spot that yields our special prize…treasure in the form of the fish we want to catch. Good anglers take that next step in skill by challenging themselves with new waters – whether a family vacation to northern Ontario or serious fishing trip to Wawang Lake located in NW Ontario. And going to new water without studying the contour map is like going to fight a grizzly bear armed with a pen knife.In the last 30 years hydrographic maps (with contours) have come into their own as fishing equipment has moved through a sea change of technology – quality depthfinders, GPS, underwater cameras, along with huge changes in rods, reels and terminal tackle. Much of the push has come from the incredible success of walleye tournaments and further enhanced recently by other fishing organizations promoting tournaments. While all of us can get swept up in the latest fad, lure or gadget, fishing maps and map books provide the basic knowledge for everyone – from novice angler to the pro’s.Satellite mapping is now being used but remains limited because of the inability to “see” and map below the surface of stained water. New computer created mapping technology has enhanced accuracy, but most fishing maps remain based on Ontario or Provincial efforts, which originally came about not for fishing but boat navigation.
A quality fishing maps starts with the fundamental framework – an accurate representation of the lake outline and contours. Contours are no more than a series of lines that depict the lake slope from the shoreline to the deepest basin. With contours in place, quality fishing maps providing superb clues to fishing success – displaying submerged islands, reefs, humps, flats, elongated submerged points, flats, and more. These basic components are loosely called “structure” – a term dear to the hearts of any fisherman – beginner to expert.
Each map – no matter whether detailed or hand- drawn will have some form of legend and compass direction – the arrow pointing north. The contour map is far from the whole story. Most lake maps get to the contour stage, including some of the newer computer generated on the market…but won’t take the next steps, which require research, study and understanding of the relationship of fish to their environment throughout the seasons. This fish migration of information that we’ve gathered for over 40 years has been detailed on our lake map specifically for our guests.
All of us quickly discover the fundamental law – no “food” – no fish. With the sole exception of spawning, gamefish will always – and “always” is a strong word – be relating to “groceries” and weedlines tend to be the most important attracting cover. Fish will never be far away from their next meal…except for the most unusual circumstances, not important to our discussion. The forage or prey ranges through the whole cycle – from microscopic zooplankton for fingerlings to juvenile fish and large minnows for gamefish. All are available on the weedline cover and the legend of a good map must display the symbols of the three basic weed types.
Changes in bottom materials can be everything to fishing success. As anglers ourselves and host to many fishermen, we know where one component transitions to another is and where fish will be caught. The change from shoreline sand to gravel or gravel to broken rock, or sand to mid-basin muck, for example, creates edges attractive to all fish. Walleye will often move loosely along transition zones of gravel merging to broken rock or cobble. All pertinent bottom materials and shoreline structure is shown in detail on our lake map.
Let’s pause for just a moment. Everything said before indicates that gamefish are creatures that relate to objects – boulders on the lake bottom, humps, submerged points, weedlines, docks, well you get the idea. Let’s think of “edge” as the key concept….fish relate to anything that provides an “edge” and all of these structure and cover elements provide something different…our “edge.”
With that said, contour lines are the tools that allow us to visualize the slope and shape of the lake bottom. To visualize we have to “see” below the two dimensional world of the lake surface. One must create a mental image of what lies below…the gradual slope that drops sharply to the lake bottom; a hump that rises from a bottom of 20 feet and tops out at 10 feet; the long underwater point that is shown by the contour lines, a lake hole surrounded by shallower depths; an inside turn depicted by the contour lines, and so forth. For example, a submerged point – usually an important lake structure for a variety of gamefish – will appear as a series of contour lines pointing away from the shore like a finger or knife blade.
Remember the basic rule – the closer the contour lines the steeper the drop-off edge…or conversely the wider the interval the more gradual the slope…perhaps to even a region very flat. The numbers on the contours tell us the contour interval – if one line indicates five foot depths and the second line 10 feet, we have a five foot contour interval. This interval again helps develop the visualization of how steep the slope.
When a good fisherman sits down to study a fishing map, they are looking for those “edges” already mentioned. An edge or change in bottom or cover (weeds, drowned wood, docks, etc.) will attract and hold fish for a number of reasons although the most important one usually revolves around attracting forage. While looking at the contours try drawing the hump, inside turn, submerged point, basin hole, etc. depicted by the contour lines. This exercise really helps in learning the visualization process.
But a restrained comment about angler behavior is needed. Pulling out a map book or fishing map while motoring away from the dock is too late…unless serious time has been spent studying the map to formulate a plan for fishing. They will plan every detail, including favorite “secret” lures but not look at the map to formulate a game plan based on the basics – what species and what season.
Catch fish by solving the location puzzle. The basic parts are quite simple:
A. Study your favorite species seeking several answers. When do they spawn, what is their forage, what is the water temperature preferred, where are their locations on a seasonal basis. Significantly, where does your favorite species live in the lake – weeds, drop-off edges, drowned wood, docks, cribs, deep underwater points….well, you get the picture. Expert anglers are knowledgeable about the fish to be pursued. It can’t be said more forcefully – know the habits of the fish you’re after.
B. Obtain a quality map book or fishing map that shows species and forage available and describes structure and cover (weeds, drowned wood, etc.)
C. Learn the map and mark areas to begin fishing…again based on where fish should be located based on the season – spring, summer, and fall. If provided marked fishing areas, fish them and add to the areas by marking the map with information important to you.
D. Seek information – ask questions for the lodge host. Are the fish in the shallows yet? Is spawning complete? Are the walleye still relating to the shallow weedlines…or have they moved deeper yet? What are the lake levels….because if down 3 feet; we have to be aware of possible “new” hazards because of the change in depth. Go over a map with the lodge personnel, asking good questions on location of your favorite fish.
A researched product – map – is a library of information – far more than a mere depiction of contour lines. It starts with species…is there a good walleye population on this water. Our fisheries is sustained by natural reproduction and YES, we do have a slot policy on the lake What are the trends – is the fishery up, have populations improved…or have changes occurred? What are the growth rates – fast or slow. Each question answered opens the door to success – fish caught.
Successful anglers use a combination of tools for success. Obviously, a quality depthfinder is a must…as is learning to interpret what is being shown. However, knowledge about your favorite gamefish coupled with location details and the fishing map – is the real key to success. No secret lure, new rod or reel, or gadget can match knowing your fish and their aquatic world. The location question is easily solved when equipped with great information based on solid research and analysis.
We at Wawang Lake Resort believe our lake map provides the absolute best combination of years of researched fishing information with accurate details showing fish species migration for the different seasons and contour lines accurately showing depths that many fisherman have found to be quite helpful during their fishing trip.
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