By Nick Simonson
The near silent whir of the trolling motor pulled me away from the metal dock under the gray skies which spit tiny raindrops that made half-dollar-sized circles which rippled into one another and disappeared into the mirror-like surface of the lake. It was a water I had never been to before, and a decade ago, hadn’t even existed, but the small impoundment had stood out on my must-visit list for the summer, as it was stocked with all my favorites – largemouth, crappies and trout – to maximize angling opportunities.
Like skeletal hands, old trees that had been claimed by the rising water upon the damming of the small creek reached skyward, gray and black with nine seasons of being partially or mostly underwater. Around each waterline knuckle, they sported green rings of moss that waved slightly when my boat drifted by. On the downwind side of each stand, schools of seven-to-nine-inch crappies sat mid-column and pecked at the tinsel jigs and plastic tubes I offered up to them in the light, but chilly north breeze that blew in under the dark skies. Picking through each group, I pulled the same cookie-cutter sized specks down the south shoreline, which ranged in depths from 18 to 30 feet deep.
Similar to all new waters, the small reservoir provided a chance to explore new territory, angle for some favorite fish, and see how the species reacted to my standard offerings in a new set of boundaries, including water clarity, forage base, bottom composition and structure. Trolling small spinners and drifting jigs, I covered open water and found a few more fish, including some nine-inch bluegills down near the bottom as I made a turn into the farthest corner of the lake, formed by the primary creek that kept the reservoir full. While I didn’t bump in to any of the bass I had hoped to encounter by slow-rolling spinnerbaits along the weed edge and around the old tree clusters, or dragging a Texas rigged tube around the structure, I was confident that as the weather warmed once again, they would be there later this summer.
The trout eluded me too, but as I came in to the landing, my confidence in catching one on the new water rose as a father helped his two daughters bring a small flipping rainbow to hand on the nearby fishing pier. Giggling and squealing, they laughed as he unhooked it and it flipped away, and the moment brought a smile to my face, not only for the passing on of a pastime but that the next trip should be so simple as a piece of nightcrawler on a plain hook under a slip float for the stocked fish.
Lessons learned on new waters make us better anglers, fine-tuning our tactics or giving us glimpses at new ways that work, or sometimes, help us keep it simple and provide the reminder that not everything has to be the newest, most expensive or most complex option to find fish.
I loaded up the boat as the renewed tiny circles on the lake’s surface grew into bigger ones, and the rising rain resounded with an elevated pitter-pat that chased all but a few of the shore anglers from their spots along a nearby rock point. Pulling the plug and cleaning a green-coated branch of one of the old trees from near the prop of the outboard which needed no use this calm day, I jumped in the truck and made a few quick notes in my log book regarding the lake before I drove up the concrete ramp, determined to get back later in the season to test some theories and thoughts that continued to develop in my mind as I drove through the busy camping area.
It was a reminder that summer provides the perfect chance to explore new waters and learn new ways (or remember old ones) to fish for my favorite species. I highly recommend the experience of turning a new water into an old friend. If not to become a better angler, then just for a change of scenery, and to have someplace different to go when a bite stalls out elsewhere. Better yet, share the experience with family or friends and find a hidden gem together, saving it for future reference and banking photos and memories of those initial explorations for seasons to come…in our outdoors.
(Featured Photo: This nice black crappie was part of the author’s reward for exploring new waters. Simonson Photo)