Busy Water Fishing Tips

By Nick Simonson


For many, the Independence Day holiday weekend represents a great time to get on the water.  Whether it’s cruising in the warmth of the afternoon or anchoring up and watching the fireworks display reflecting off the surface of a favorite lake in the evening, the water goes hand-in-hand with the mid-summer holiday.  With a three-day weekend on tap for many, fishing is also something to add to that list, but the added challenge of a busy water can hinder successful angling.  However, with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to and the action can be just as explosive as the evening light show, especially with this month’s full moon coinciding with the long weekend.

Early Bird


The best fishing trips occur when there’s the least amount of boat traffic, and on any given summer weekend, that’s usually from sun-up until around mid-day.  The same holds true for the Fourth of July.  While others are sleeping off their late-night campfire talks following the fireworks show, launch the boat and hit the water, filling the early morning hours with fast action while others remain snug in their sleeping bags.  Additionally, the low light hours are good for targeting favorite fish like walleyes and bass, and the temperatures are often cooler and more comfortable for some run and gun fishing, before things heat up literally in terms of temperature, and figuratively with the increasing hum of outboards later in the day.

Off The Grid

There are certain stretches of water, particularly on larger lakes, where the cruising crowd doesn’t go.  Identify bays, coves and other fishing areas away from popular travel lanes to target on the busy weekend.  Know where the wakeboarders and tubers will be circling and avoid those areas, instead focusing on smaller tucked-away spaces where fish can still be found.  If the option is available, try targeting a smaller nearby lake that doesn’t receive a great deal of recreational pressure and pull the boat there for an off-the-grid outing and a better shot at success. Do a little research with maps of the area along with stocking reports and fisheries surveys – or check with a local tackle shop – to find other options that don’t take on the swarms of jet skis.

Make Adjustments

Where the added boats are unavoidable and fish are harder to come by, you can still connect by making adjustments to their moods.  This may mean going deeper and exploring those areas where fish seek out a greater vertical distance from themselves and the buzz above.  Check out the deep side of break lines or the next deepest reef to find fish on the move for some peace and quiet. Additionally, consider downsizing lures and using lighter line for a more natural presentation.  Live bait should be an option too, as neutral-to-negative fish will find a trolled nightcrawler or a slow-moving leech under a slip float difficult to ignore, even with all the disruption in their world.  By experimenting with locations and lure and bait options, it’s easier to adjust to the attitude of fish which might be a bit spooked by the holiday weekend commotion.

See My Vest

Finally, remember to wear a properly fitted life jacket, and be certain that everyone in your boat has one and those that are required by law have theirs on.  The Independence Day holiday weekend has more than its share of intoxicated boaters on the water, and the constant back-and-forth of waves can create some unbalanced situations in the boat.  The best way to survive an unplanned dip in the water is to be wearing a life jacket, and making sure others are as well.

In addition to the batch of bottle rockets and the Coleman stove for the shoreline cookout, don’t forget the fishing rods this Fourth of July weekend.  While watercraft of all kinds will be out there, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to connect with great fishing.  Find those times and places where traffic is less and adjust to how the fish are feeling.  Stay on top of them and stay safe, while enjoying every aspect of the upcoming holiday weekend.


Featured Photo: Success can still be found despite busy times on the water.  Adjust locations and presentations to connect with walleyes, bass and other fish as they shift with increased surface traffic. Simonson Photo. 



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