Changing Minnesota, Ontario water levels this summer demand ‘rising tide’ angling tactics

You can’t look up tide tables for inland freshwater lakes, but fish in all bodies of water seem to have a common tendency when it comes to rising levels: They surf in on them.
This is a lesson that has repeated itself over and over this summer, here in Minnesota and Ontario, and I’m betting anywhere water levels have been higher than normal. We got so much rain that lake levels were up everywhere, prompting no-wake restrictions on a lot of popular boating lakes. We’ve had to wear rubber boots on our permanent dock in Canada, and for the first time ever, had standing water in our dock house that usually holds fishing tackle and other important items, but this year was mostly cleared out.

John Christianson, known as “Big John” used to talk about this during my days working for Babe Winkelman. Based on whether water levels were generally high or low, he would make predictions that it was going to be a summer of catching fish shallower than normal, or deeper than normal.

Makes sense, because it’s believed that fish have an innate sense that helps them avoid becoming stranded should water levels recede quickly. Just as bonefish and other inshore saltwater species surf in on the rising tide and slide back to the relative safety of deeper water when the tide goes out, many freshwater fish seem to do that instinctively as well.

Now, granted, other elements have to be in order for this to happen, such as food being available in the shallows, water temperature being reasonable, and water clarity suiting the feeding style of the fish. But if you can get lures in and present them in shallow water, it’s often the zone to focus on during years of high water levels.

Mark Strand blogs and produces films and audio at

Categories: Blog Content, Mark Strand

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