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STRUCTURE Makes the difference By Gary Howey

  You won’t have to look very far in most fishing publications or on a fishing show where you won’t hear the words structure mentioned several times.

  One thing is for sure, when you locate the structure on a farm pond, Lake Oahe or Lake Kampeska, you’re going to find the fish.

  Structure, exactly what is it?  A good definition of structure would be any difference or change on the bottom configuration.  At times, it might be large and at others, not large at all.

  No matter what size or type of structure you find on any body of water, it’s a good bet that there will be some aquatic life in that area.

 Now that we know the fish you are hoping to catch might be relating to some sort of structure in the lake, all you need to do is to locate the right piece of structure. This change in the bottom contour can attract numerous species of aquatic creatures, which creates a food chain.

  To make our body of water the underwater structure easier to understand let’s put it into above water terms. Let’s imagine a large pasture is your body of water with a large tree in the middle and a small clump of plum brush in the corner.

  Fish are like any other animal such as a deer or coyote and when they enter the pasture, the first thing they’re going to see is these two changes or features in the field and they’re drawn to them as these may be a good place to look for food.  If they’re underwater, these changes would be called structure.

  As I mentioned earlier, the change doesn’t need to be huge, as it can be a slight depression on the bottom or areas where the bottom content changes from soft mud to hard gravel.

   I’ve caught fish around some structure so small, unless I’d seen it when the water was low, I’d have never known it was there. 

  It could be a few weeds along the shoreline, a change from mud to gravel, a depth change in the old river channel, submerged trees, humps or points in the Missouri River reservoirs lakes. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change; it just needs to be something different.

WHY FISH RELATE TO STRUCTURE

  Studies have shown us how fish relate to structure and how much is needed in order for the fish to be attracted to one particular area.

  In studies, fish were put into a large stock tank and when the bottom configuration is all the same, the fish roamed around the tank. However, when rocks were placed on the bottom, the fish moved onto those rocks.  This example didn’t give the fish all they needed as most real structure does, but it gives you an idea as to how fish react to it.

  What draws these fish to these areas is simple; structure in a lake, reservoir or pond gives the fish everything they need; a food source, security and in some cases comfortable water temperatures. [Read more…]

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Keeping minnows alive worth extra steps By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | There’s a lot more to keeping bait — minnows or chubs — alive and active than simply tossing them into a bait bucket filled with water.

Minnow baits catch fish best when they are in good condition, not when they are oxygen-starved or stressed by water temperature.

Some minnows, especially shiners, creek chubs and redtails, can be really difficult to keep alive. That’s why you seldom see them in smaller bait shops. Aeration in their tanks has to be spot on, and aeration is expensive.

The biggest mistake you can make is putting too many bait fish in your bait bucket. Overcrowding will cause the bait to begin dying almost immediately.

In the fall months, water cools down and that certainly helps you keep your bait alive. Metabolism slows down in colder water and oxygen requirements are less. That helps. So, rule No. 1 is to keep your bait in cool water. Also, take care not to shock them by removing them from warm water and dunking them quickly into cold water. Add the cold water gradually.

Change the water often in your bait bucket. A couple of things are happening in your bait bucket. One is oxygen depletion. If your minnows are swimming to the surface, they need more oxygen. Dump out the old water and add new. The other thing is, fish release ammonia when they are confined. This can kill them. If you’ve ever had a tropical fish tank, you know about ammonia.

When it comes to baitfish water, I advise reading your fishing regulations carefully regarding the transporting of live bait. In an effort to stem the spread of invasives, many states have changed their laws regarding live bait. For instance, in South Dakota you must not use lake or stream water to transport your bait fish. Instead, you must use bottled water or tap water.

If you use tap water, you should remove the chlorine in it before putting in your bait. Pick up a small bottle of dechlorinator liquid from a pet store. One drop will be all you need to add to the bait bucket to ensure chlorine is gone.

The traditional bait bucket was the old galvanized pail with an insert into which the bait was placed. Those buckets have a lid that can be opened and as you lift the insert out, the water drains and you can select your bait fish. The insert can also be removed from the bucket and placed in the water over the gunwale of a boat or off a boat dock. They are still available, but most bait buckets today are made of plastic. They come in a variety of sizes. [Read more…]