Deep Thoughts: A Great Place to Fish may be Deeper

In an attempt to better understand a fishery, I try to relate some common heights of things above water and apply this information to the habitat below water. For example on my local waters, any fish caught below the height of a basketball goal (10 feet) is considered “deep.” “Shallow” can be about the height of a kids’ juice box, (a few inches) but generally less than a table top (3 feet). Many largemouth bass anglers are “bank beaters,” casting along the shore at targets of rock, logs, or vegetation and rarely venturing to cast in water deeper than a standard house ceiling height/depth of 8 feet.

Why does fishing depth matter?

  • Stealth. Boats create noise with outboard motors and even electric trolling motors. I’ve read that a pinging depth finder can disturb heavily pressured fish. If your boat is in 6 feet of water, stand up to estimate that height and imagine dropping a pair of long-nosed pliers in the boat. That is not very far away from a fish directly underneath. Try to stay quiet and avoid sudden movement in shallow water. The deeper you fish, the more noise you may be able to get away with.

  • Light. The deeper you fish, the less light reaches your lure. This will affect lure color selection. Aquatic vegetation, algae blooms, or turbid, muddy water also block light and thus lures that vibrate such as spinnerbaits, chatter baits, or crankbaits may help get the attention of hungry fish. Deeper water also makes line less visible.

  • Temperature. Deeper water is cooler water. Fish have an optimum temperature which influences their activity. During the heat of summer fish may prefer a few degrees cooler and that difference may be located by sinking just a couple of feet deeper.

Most anglers tend to fish shallow, leaving deep fish with less pressure. If you are looking for a new place to fish in your boat, you may be able to find it simply by turning your back to the shore on your regular lakes and discovering the deep bite.

What is “deep” to you? How often to you fish deep? And is your fishing license up to date?

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.