A lake’s great depths harbor little food or oxygen for fish to exist. A common mistake is to fish a lake’s depth instead of its shallows.
A lake’s littoral zone is found in water usually less than ten feet deep. This zone provides good growths of submerged aquatic plants. It is here in a lake shallow that adequate amounts of sunlight can penetrate, promoting plant growth and photosynthesis. Also, this littoral zone has the highest concentrations of aquatic insects. In some exceptionally clear lakes, sunlight can penetrate deeper and this littoral zone may be extended to about the thirty foot depth.
The shape of a lake’s shoreline influences the characteristics of its shallows. Gentle slopes allow for the accumulation of organic matter while steep slopes do not. Lakes rich in nutrients are classified as atrophic waters while those poor in nutrients are oliotrophic. Nutrients are derived from decomposing bottom materials. This fertilizes both the new plant and insect growths. Irregular shorelines result in more protected bays and areas where decomposing organic matter may collect. A lake’s bottom structures may vary widely from mud, gravel, rocky, to weedy areas. It is the weedy areas that are most important for fish life to sustain itself.
The most dominant fish lay claim to the choicest feeding areas. In the shallows fish are vulnerable to birds of prey because they are trapped close to the surface and more visible for these birds. From overhead an osprey may swoop down on a fish and this makes them wary. An angler’s stealthy approach is essential for success. The dominant fish seek out areas in the shallows close to nearby channels or drop-offs where they can quickly escape harm.
At times of darkness the shallows are frequented by the most fish. Low lighting shields them from a bird’s vision. Hence, fish choose to safely feed in these shallows during dawn/dusk and throughout overcast days. The largest fish rarely expose themselves to direct sunlight in shallow waters.