Northern pike

The author had to use some different tactics to catch this Northern pike in muddy water last week.

ANGLING is a sport that so thoroughly mixes mystery, skill and luck that the governing processes are rich in personal observations and varying approaches. While there are certainties, rules and tactics, there is also a lot of wiggle room.

While conditions follow a predictable pattern from year to year, a successful angler must be prepared for anything.

When the ice finally lost its grip on New Hampshire and water began to flow freely, a longing for fast-moving rivers called to me as it does every spring. These April flows are typically fueled by frequent rain and snowmelt. Not surprisingly, this year has been a little different.

One of my favorite proverbs for both fishing and life is to be careful what you wish for. As I fished the cold waters of rivers and their setbacks, the conditions felt more like early summer and I secretly longed for a good slug of rain. Recently, my wish has been coming true.

The weather pattern for New Hampshire has changed and rain and snow are falling at a substantial rate. One of the most significant challenges to fishing after these precipitation events is the discoloration caused by sediment being washed in. Simply stated, heavy rain often leaves the water dark and dirty.

Muddy water can make things difficult for a number of reasons but there are many ways to combat them. An obvious approach is to assume that fish cannot see very well and offer them oversized baits.

The baitfish that exist in the spring are very small and a predator fish will seek the largest, most substantial meal. Casting a six-inch minnow imitation can convince the most stubborn of fish to attack.

These big lures can be fished in any part of the water column or on the surface. Skating a huge bait across the calm surface of dirty water can produce some explosive strikes. If the water is clouded by sediment, a lure on the surface may be easier to detect against the contrast of the sky.

In addition to sheer size, I like to cast something loud, with a lot of moving parts into dirty water. The rattling and clacking of a segmented bait might produce enough sound and commotion that fish struggling with vision can detect the bait in another way. Chatterbaits and plastic prop-baits will have the same effect.

Dark water also inspires me to use lures and flies of bright, flashy colors. When it comes to fishing, there is no color that should be considered ridiculous. There is no food source in a fish’s ecosystem that is chartreuse, for example, but no other color triggers as many strikes. In addition to bright colors that stand out in brown water, there is a number of sparkling tinsel-like additions and rubber skirts that hang off all sides of an effective bait.

Imagine that muddy water is like a dark room where the occupants are shuffling about slowly, occasionally bumping into a wall. If the occupants were fish, they would need a lot of encouragement to feed. Lately, fishing has been an act of following this metaphor with big, bright, loud baits.

I have managed to show a few fish the light and kick off the open water season with encouraging success.

Adventures Afield appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Andy Schafermeyer at


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