By Josh Boyd
The fall of the year brings about changing times on most bodies of water. This is a fact that is especially true in regards to the nation’s numerous flood control lakes, where a period of annual drawdown is as predictable as the changing of the leaves. During this time period, a significant amount of water is discharged through the dams of flood control lakes, effectively lowering each lake to “winter pool.”
While this can spell trying times for many anglers, the annual drawdown can also present a wealth of opportunity for those who remain observant. As a lake’s water level drops considerably, a number of key features become evident, which were previously concealed below the water’s surface. Keying in on these features, and understanding their value, can be paramount to success during the spring to come.
The following are several prime features to be on the lookout for, when on the water this fall and winter.
Underlying Natural Structure
Have you ever found repeated success when fishing in a particular spot, yet have never understood why? Now is the time to put together additional pieces of the puzzle. In the bulk of instances, examining these spots during the drawdown period will reveal submerged stump beds, downed trees, or even previously sunken fish attractors.
The same principle applies when canvassing any area of a given lake. Now is the time to uncover submerged structure, which had previously gone undiscovered. By looking at such objects of interest in relation to the summer pool water line along the bank, you can get an idea of how deep this structure typically lies.
Drop-Offs, Points, and Flats
Virtually every species of fish relates heavily to drop-offs, points, and flats during various times of the year. Crappie often suspend along drop-offs during the post-spawn summer months, while bass congregate around flats during the pre-spawn period. By identifying these areas now, you can return during the corresponding time of the year, when each particular topography feature is suspected of holding fish.
In many cases, it can be difficult to keep track of each point of interest that is discovered. After all, the topography of any given lake can vary significantly from one area to the next. However, one can mark such points on their GPS, or through the use of a GPS based app on their smartphone.
Springs and Drainages
Additional features to be on the lookout for during the fall drawdown include springs and drainages. Many lakes are fed by springs, while others receive a significant amount of water influx through runoff, especially in areas of rugged or hilly terrain. Fish often relate heavily to these various flowages of water, seeking out warm water influx during the early spring, and cool oxygen-rich discharge during the hot summer months.
While springs and drainages are often difficult to identify during periods of high water, many such points are exposed during the annual drawdown. Keying in on the location of such features is often as simple as boating around while looking for points of intersection between flowing water and the main lake channel.
Old Road Beds and Pre-Lake Structure
Anyone who has spent time fishing in, or around, flood control lakes has likely heard tales regarding dwellings, roadways, and old bridges that were submerged when a specific river was dammed to create a lake. The truth is, this folklore is often rooted in fact. Early settlements and townships were often built along the banks of rivers, and many were evacuated and flooded with the building of nearby dams.
Locations such as old roadbeds, deconstructed bridges, and walls or barriers often become at least partially visible during periods of drawdown. These same locations also serve as bonus fish attractors during periods of high water. Locating and marking such points now can present a wealth of opportunity during the spring to come.
An Eye for Detail
At times, an angler’s most potent tool is a keen attention to detail. This is perhaps never more true than during the fall drawdown. When a lake recedes during the fall of the year, the whereabouts of numerous honey holes are often divulged. By locating such points of interest, and earmarking their location for later return, one quite often places themself in contention for successful fishing well into the future.