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Fish bite on any lure – if presented properly

Take a stroll around the marina at Mosquito Lake State Park most any day, weather permitting, and you will notice anglers employing a variety of fishing techniques.

Some will be dunking minnows. Some will be pitching plastics. Some will be dancing jigs.

The interesting thing about the different tactical approaches is that they all can produce great results, which helps underscore a notion I’ve believed for years: The answer to the question “what are they biting?” is “everything.”

Many folks seek shortcuts on their way to catching fish. In their minds, the quickest route for them is to copycat what others are doing. But the best roadmap is drawn by learning, not mimicking.

The most successful anglers are those who do their own thing. Think back to your school days. Some in your class may have asked friends for the answers to the homework assignment. They looked good for a day. Others read the assignment and figured out the answers on their own. They looked good every day.

The anglers who score in the upper percentile of their class fish based on what they have deduced from experiencing and understanding what is happening under the water, and how the fish are reacting to their offering.

Mosquito’s state park marina is a good place to check out the versatility of local anglers. In the fall, when the water starts to cool and the boaters have trailered their boats to winter storage, the park manager opens the rafts of docks for fishing.

The timing is perfect. Around the same time, crappies and other panfish begin feeding aggressively. They occupy the water under the floating platforms and hang next to the steel poles throughout the warmer months, but receive very little fishing pressure then.

Once the docks are vacated and anglers on foot are permitted to access the marina, the fishing pressure increases. Wary crappies, bluegills and yellow perch start seeing dozens of baits and lures, but anglers continue to catch them throughout the autumn and early winter.

What are they biting? Everything.

It’s not so much what baits and lures are working. Rather, it’s all about who is making the presentation and how skillfully they are executing.

Some anglers believe once the season advances toward freeze-up, the fish are going to prefer live bait such as minnows or wax worms. Others never bother to stop at the bait shop, relying instead on tiny jigs tipped with plastic teasers. A number of panfish anglers like to vertically jig vibrating blade baits and tiny spoons.

All will work. The choice is yours. The real work is getting the bait or lure in front of the fish in a manner that tempts them to eat.

Many years ago, I watched an angler at Mosquito reel in a dozen slab crappies in 20 minutes from one of the marina breakwalls. Nearby anglers, meanwhile, were drowning minnows with little success even though the book would have recommended fishing live bait in the cold water.

The successful angler was fishing a 1/16-ounce jig with a one-inch chartreuse twister. He’d learned well that the right bait in the right situation was the ticket to a limit that day.

That’s a lesson we all need to remember.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who has seen time and again that there are more ways to catch fish than most people realize. He also likes emails from readers. Send a note to him at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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