Big fish are a lot more fun to catch than little fish. At least they are for me. I’d much rather catch a 10# walleye than a limit of 1 1/2 to 2 pound walleyes.
Catching big fish isn’t the easiest thing in the world but you can maximize your chances of catching bigger fish just by going to a lake that is noted for big fish.
Asking at your local bait shop is one of the easiest ways to find lakes with big fish but there is another method that works even better. More on that in a minute. Pay attention to the big fish pictures at any bait shop you go into. If they have the lake where they were caught it makes it a lot simpler.
Start keeping track of the lakes where the big fish come from. If you’re like me you get to quite a few baitshops in a year and you should be able to put quite a few lakes into your notebook. The more baitshops with pics of big fish from the same lake the better off you will be. Fish those lakes for those species.
Not every freshwater lake has big fish. A few do but most are average or smaller. Lots of the lakes with big fish that you find in the bait shops get a lot of fishing pressure and aren’t always the best lakes to fish. However they are better than fishing lakes with a smaller than average size.
One of the lakes I used to fish frequently was Lake Shetek in Southwestern Minnesota. I’ve caught over 40 walleyes 6 pounds and up from Lake Shetek quite a few 8 pounders and even a couple of 10 pound walleyes. Much to my disappointment I never caught one of the 13 plus pound walleyes the MN DNR says are in the lake.
Shetek is aerated in the winter time so it doesn’t winter kill and it has an abundance of forage for walleyes and northerns. Biggest northern I caught in Shetek was 17 pounds. Not a huge northern but much bigger than average.
The technique I used to catch the big walleyesand northerns was bottom fishing from shore with huge baits. Live bait seems to catch more big fish than lures for some reason. Anyway I’d use creek chubs or suckers from 8 to 10 or 12 inches long. Never smaller than 8 inches. Yep, the bait is bigger than some of the perch people keep.
When fishing with large suckers I used a quick strike rig so I didn’t have to wait for the fish to run with the bait and finally stop and swallow it. What’s a quick strike rig?
It’s simple and deadly plus it takes all of the guesswork out of when to set the hook on a huge fish. Add a couple of small treble hooks to a 3/8ths to 1/2 ounce jig head. Lots of jigs are now setup to do this so it’s easier than making your own.
Hook the sucker thru the lips with the jig and then take the trebles and hook one, lightly, just ahead of the dorsal fin and if using two hook the other halfway between the dorsal fin and the tail. I discovered you don’t need huge trebles either. If you want to use only one treble hook then hook it right towards the center of the dorsal fin.
With that rig you can set the hook the moment you know you have bite and be pretty sure you are going to hook the fish. No waiting forever for the fish to run and then stop and swallow the bait. I use this same technique when ice fishing for northerns except I use huge smelt with Dr. Juice on them.
So what’s the other method to find lakes with big fish in them? Most states have a website for their Dept of Natural Resources, Game, Fish and Parks or whatever your states lake management or management of outdoor resources is called.
Most states have their test net results on the state websites. Simply go to the website and start looking at the test net results for the lakes close to you. It may take some looking but if you are thorough you should be able to find at least a couple of lakes where the average size is larger than other lakes. Those are the lakes you want to fish to catch big fish.