Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Finding ways to fish through zebra mussel-infested water

By Steve Carney

Contributing Writer

Zebra mussels in places I fish have become much more plentiful the past season or so, and this summer is no exception. I’m finding zebes in numerous lakes and have had to change things around on my walleye presentations.

Instead of the standard walking-style sinker, I have had to switch to a bullet-style sinker that allows my live-bait rig to slide through the vegetation where the mussels have become attached. Reducing the size of my swivel also has helped a lot, and I use the smallest swivel possible. 

Even downsizing my hook has seemed to help. I also sometimes bend the barb of the hook to reduce the frequency of hooking zebra mussels. 

In summary, I’m pulling the smallest and lightest rig possible through zebra mussel-infested areas.

These mussels are as deep as 25 feet, and I hit pockets of mussels along deep weed growth. Zebes are not everywhere, but I find some areas that are almost impossible to get a live-bait rig through.  

I have found zebra mussels inside the stomachs of bluegills, and I don’t really understand the forage side of things, because it appears there isn’t much there. But for some reason, bluegills do eat them from time to time.

Usually I’m a bottom-bouncer guy (long wire with lead weight), but these bouncers just get hung up too often. Even though I love the vertical control of the bottom bouncer, they just don’t work well in areas with zebes.  

A good tip is to experiment with different bullet weights and go with the lightest one possible. I can get down to 20 feet with a 1⁄8-ounce weight by letting out a lot of line. A 1⁄4-ounce weight can get hung up. A light sinker doesn’t allow you to vertically work the rig, so long-lining with a smaller weight is the way to go.

It’s unfortunate we have to deal with this invasive species, but the walleyes seem to really like to hang out near the areas where I find zebes. I’ll just have to learn to deal with it.

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