WOODS AND WATERS: Dams provide some of the best fishing around

By Ed Gilbert • Last Updated 10:33 pm on Friday, July 27, 2012

Woods and Waters | Ed Gilbert

Last week I mentioned the large northern pike I landed at the Rockford dam on the Rogue River.

Well, that column got me thinking about some of the other places I and others have had success, and in many instances that is at or near a dam.

No question about it, a dam on a stream tends to draw fish. Of course, in one instance that’s obviously because on many streams there is no way for a fish to actually get over that dam. So they congregate there, and that’s true of many species so it’s like that proverbial box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

But fish not only congregate below a dam, they’re also found just above one.

Now, I’m not simply referring to some concrete structure, such as is the case at Rockford, a “dam” can consist of any structure that tends to hold back water and form a backwater or a pool.

There is a small stream up in Lake County where several logs have jammed up, forming about a two-foot waterfall below it and a rather deep pool above. Now, the normal tendency is to fish in the swirling water below the dam, so I’ve done that with some success. However, one early morning I tossed a lure just above the logs and spent the next half hour fighting one of the largest brown trout I’ve ever had on line.

The trout stayed in the hole above the logs for most of the time, then it decided to flip over and into the pool below. Yeah, I thought I had the brownie then, but no. That fish took off downstream like a torpedo, with me running after it through the water and brush and looking rather foolish.

And yes, it was a losing cause, as the huge fish finally swam between two smaller logs, snapping my line as though it were kite string.

I’ve fished that very spot several times since, hoping to latch onto that fish again, but with no success.
However, at another dam site, a concrete structure this time, I hit a bonanza of northern pike. The water was clear, and the fish had got that far upstream to remain in a holding pattern. That dam happened to be at a camping site in the Upper Peninsula, and after I caught and released several huge northerns, I was suddenly surrounded by other fishers who had seen the activity and wanted to join the action.

Now, from past columns you may recall that I don’t enjoy fishing in a crowd, so I pulled up my line and left the fishing to the others. I’ve always wanted to return to that dam site, but haven’t made it back there again.

There is another dam located on the Pere Marquette River where I enjoy fishing. It is located on the northern branch of the river near some private trout ponds, and when the steelhead run upstream it is a great place for action. That dam has several holding areas, or steps, below it, and fish tend to congregate there. However, once again, one morning I found that fishing just above that dam would draw activity.

I wasn’t using my fly rod that day, but a spinning rod with a wiggler for bait. And, having no action below the dam I decided to toss the bait just above it. Yes, a large steelhead took the bait and took me on a merry chase upstream, finally turning to go down and over the dam. And as luck would have it, another fisherman was standing below the dam and netted the fish for me.

So, never rule out a dam site when it comes to fishing. You never know what species of fish may be waiting there, but you can be sure of some action and excitement.

Ed Gilbert is the outdoors writer 
for The Daily News. His e-mail address 
is gilbertoutdoors@netpenny.net.

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