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Water Clarity

This is part 5 of a series of articles on the theories of the different factors which produce good and bad fishing conditions. The theories aren't necessarily mine, although I've attempted to provide a thoughtful summary of information I have researched, with some modification based on personal experience.

The importance of water clarity on fishing success boils down to two things - the ability of fish to find your lure, and the size of the fish you are likely to catch.

Most of the predator fish that are popular game species, are sight feeders. By that, I mean that they rely on seeing their prey, be it minnows, crawfish, or leeches in order to catch it. There are a few species, such as catfish and sturgeon, which rely principally on the smell of their prey in order to feed. The sight feeders include bass, pike, muskie, trout, walleye, and salmon.

When water clarity is low, such as after a rainstorm which has caused suspended sediment to move into a river, pond or river, other effects of rattles or spashing are necessary to assist the fish in locating its prey.

The other main consideration of water clarity, is its effect on the fish carrying capacity of the body of water. If the water is crystal clear, it is usually an indication that it is not carrying enough microscopic life within it to feed a large population of fish. It may be possible that there are still large fish in the body of water though. Of course if you are fishing a body of water in which fish migrate for spawning, or where prey fish follow baitfish which are spawning, the fish carrying capacity of the body of water is termporarily skewed.

In general, a slightly green tinge to a body of water is ideal. The greenish water means that it is carrying a lot of microscopic organisms, in particularly Phytoplancton.The Phytoplancton is eaten by other small organisms like Zooplancton, which are eaten by bugs and larvae, which are eaten by fish fry and crawfish, and so on up the food chain. So there needs to be a continuous chain of feed right up to the fish you catch.

As well, another consideration for healthy water and a good place to fish, is that perhaps 20% of the water contains healthy weeds in season. Over 20%, and prey can hide extra easy making it hard for large fish to find feed. In addition, a very heavy bloom of growth may be a sign than an area is overfertilized, perhaps caused by leeching off waterfront properties, or agriculture.

So typically, you are looking for a body of water that doesn't have too much suspended solids, is slightly greenish, and has an overall clarity that allows fish to see perhaps 4 feet. In this ideal situation, there should be a good quantity of fish in the body of water, and they should be able to see your lures with no particular difficulty.

As fishermen and landowners, we have the capability and responsibility to ensure the water we fish has optimal carrying capacity and water clarity. In particular, we have the capability to affect suspended solids and ensure that water in not over-saturated with fertilizers leeching into the waterways. When we are running our boats in areas with exposed banks, we should slow down to ensure that as little washout as possible occurs. As landowers, we shouldn't clear brush and expose soil all the way to the water. And we have the ability to ensure we don't fertilize ground near the water where the fertilizer might leech into the water.

By David Girdwood
Manager, Thefishingnut

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