Surviving a Winter Lake Drawdown
One of the best things about living in Tennessee is the year round fishing opportunities that are available to anglers. And one of my favorite spots to fish is from our dock. However as part of the lakes management is a controlled winter drawdown. As you can see this does give homeowners time to do maintenance on their docks and their sea walls as the water recedes. A drawdown will also control some of the unwanted shallow water vegetation that can become a nuisance around docks. What about the fish during this time? How does a draw down affect the fishing? In this post I will share some tips for surviving a winter drawdown.
In the winter as the water temperature drops, only a small percentage of bass are active through out the day. However once the water levels are drawn down, the bass are concentrated even more as they seek the comfort of deeper structure and cover. This gives anglers a cold-water advantage for catching bass. Another advantage to anglers is that during a drawdown period the lake will get much less fishing pressure. With most ramps closed many anglers will not launch in the soft sedimentary mud of the newly exposed shoreline. This will give a great advantage to canoe and kayak anglers willing to face the cold and get out on the water.
Winter bass relate to structure, and nothing is more suitable for them that steep banks. The structure of a steep bank gives the bass quick access to feed in remaining shallow flats. Keying in on depth ranges from ten to twenty feet for winter bass during a drawdown can be a productive approach. Much of the wooden cover that the bass relate too normally is now above the water, this makes fishing any remaining wood cover a must for the winter trophy hunter.
Jerkbaits produce cold water bass very well, and perhaps jigs are the best all around bait for winter bass fishing in a drawdown period. Jigs with trailers pitched to stumps and any remaining cover work well for many anglers. Large Texas rigged worms have also produced many cold-water bites in a drawn down lake.
Time spend on the lake in the periods of low water can make you a better angler all year. Even better than structure scan and side imaging this is the time to study the topography of the lake. Look for bedding areas and cover, make notes of potential hot spots. Look at the water line and imagine if the level was up to vision the places that a bass would make his home. Isolated cover with quick access to deep water is always a good place to start. Return to those spots in the spring and you will be a local fishing legend.
Winter drawdowns have both good and bad points for anglers, but it is not the end of fishing. The controlled lowering of the water level helps lakes to be more fertile and protects the shoreline from winter erosion, and aquatic weed control. Drawdowns also limit ice damage to docks and loading ramps. One of the best things about a drawdown in the chance to greatly improve the habitat for fish. Spawning benches are a relatively new type of fish attractor for smallmouth bass.
Unlike tree attractors or stakebeds, spawning benches have the potential to enhance smallmouth populations by providing more spawning habitat.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency biologists construct different types of fish attractors that can be placed in reservoirs. These devices do not normally enhance sport fish populations, but do provide structure around which fish can aggregate. Bass, crappie, and sunfish utilize these attractors and anglers may key on these sites to increase their fishing success. The most common type of fish attractors used are sunken trees which can be weighted down to the bottom of a lake.
TWRA's Christmas tree habitat project in east Tennessee is a great example of how the Agency partners with anglers to build fish attractors. Stake beds for crappie are also used in lakes with dense crappie populations and the right combination of bottom slope and composition. Like, tree attractors, stake beds are marked by TWRA so that anglers know where they are located.
A drawdown can be a great way to gain an education about a specific body of water for a fisherman. Take advantage of the change to better your understanding of the lake structure, it will pay off. This is also the time to cash in as you find stray lures lost by others underneath docks, on stumps and laydown trees.
For more information on habitat enhancement for fish, visit the TWRA website at://www.tn.gov/twra/fish/fishmain.html
And now I will share some of the pictures of our drawdown improvement projects of dock repair and sea wall maintenance.