How to Find Fish in a New Lake? (Best Ways to Find Fish & Tips)

If you think the move from bank fishing small waters like streams and ponds to boat fishing is hard. It is easier to fish large reservoirs and lakes than you might think. Here is our introduction to the basics it’s sure to help make you a much better boat angler.

How to find fish in a Lake? Your boat can offer a huge advantage to the reservoir fly fisher. The boat will allow the angler to cover more areas of water far quicker than roaming the banks. When using a drogue or sea anchor, with slow drifts over good fishing areas can lead to impressive catches.

To the bank, angler boat fishing can sometimes appear too much like hard work. How does one tackle the boats, the engines, oars, drogues, anchors and all the safety elements? Well, it’s not as complicated as it might first seem.

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Determine where to Fish on a Lake

fish finder sonar at the fishing boat

Fish the Points

These areas can also provide an excellent food source for the fish. Two currents meet concentrating insects and other trout food.

Watch Seagulls

Seagulls and other fish-eating birds will often betray the presence of small fish fry. It’s a pretty safe bet that the trout or other fish won’t be far away.

Watch Other Boats

Watch for other boats that are repeating drifts this can mean that there are fish there. They’re probably catching fish so don’t offend them by getting too close let them have their space.

Watch for Swallows

When these birds are skimming the water’s surface it’s certain that there’s an insect hatch going on. Trout and other species of fish won’t be very far away!

Fish The Shallows

These warm water areas can provide excellent buzzer beds with overwintered fish often patrolling through the weed for pupae.

Sunken Trees

Underwater structures make good habitat for trout food and therefore a large trout is always close by.

Watch for Drop-offs

If you can find some drop off areas then you should be able to catch some fish. All kinds of trout food gather here for cover. Trout will patrol the edge in search of a meal.

Early season trout prefer a depth of 8-12ft. The water’s starting to warm now and insects begin to hatch and the trout move in.

Deepwater Can Be Productive

On bright sunny days, the trout may descend to the deeper, cooler water for comfort. It’s now that fast sinking lines are best to use.


These tiny protein-rich crustaceans, water fleas, gather in huge numbers at certain depths and the trout eat them up.


Small fish fry and insects will gather around the weeds that are attached to the chain. Cast nearby as both attract the trout.


Remember that you should always wear a lifejacket. Most of the waters insist on this and will enforce it vigorously. Remember eye protection, or polarized sunglasses, are a must because when you are sharing a boat.

A strong gust of wind can send flies, some weighted or with double hooks, close to your head. So, obviously, a hat is also advisable.

Another thing, you should always try to remain seated when traveling. When standing up in a boat it can leave you off balance with the inevitable dangers of falling in.

Starting Off

For your first time out take an experienced boater because they will help you operate the boat correctly. This will help you so you will able to get used to being afloat.

But engines aren’t something that should be avoided. By having someone give you a crash course and they show you how then you’ll be on your way with confidence.

Now for one of the most common mistakes made by first-time boat anglers – broken rod tips. Make sure that all of the rod tips are inside the boat and not protruding over the edge.

This is especially true when you are leaving the boat dock. It only takes one bump with the dock or another boat to bust your expensive Sage or Loomis rod.

man fishing on the lake from inflatable boat

Vital Signs

SHALLOW BEDS – These areas are prime buzzer beds with many an overwintered specimen fish casually sipping in fat, juicy chironomids.

Don’t get so close to the shore that you end up grounded on the bottom. You need to stay far enough away to allow easy casting into these areas.

Look at the contours of the bank to assist you with estimating the depth of the water. Remember a steep bank could mean deep water and a flat bank may indicate some shallower water.

Look for ‘turned up’ swans feeding as this indicates a good depth of about four feet, the swan’s reach.

This is a good depth for good-sized fish feeding on larvae. A feeding swan also disperses larvae in the weeds making it a larder for the trout.

Use a large reeled tape measure with a weight on the end to find the exact depths. From a few feet to eight feet is a shallow bay.

You might try fishing some small nymphs like the Buzzer, Cruncher, and Diawl Bach. Then fish them static or with the slowest of retrieves on a floating line.

Try to fish with a short line (don’t cast too far) to avoid spooking any fish in the shallow water.

These shallow bays can be excellent for dry fly fishing to keep the flies off the bottom and free of any weed. Try some small shuttlecock dry flies in a size 12/14 in red, black and hare’s ear.


Occasionally the underwater bank will suddenly slope from shallow to deep. These are natural holding areas for trout

Drop-offs are normally, found on points where the silt has been able to build up causing the ‘ledge’. You can usually find them by just looking for them.

You need to look for the bottom where it will suddenly darken as it drops away. You’ll see them easier on brighter days as you’ll see the shallow bottom protruding out with the darker parts down the side.

This is the ideal hunting ground for trout. They’re usually near dam walls too where the quick depth is also necessary.

Try fishing sinking lines on the drop-offs with Boobies flies being a favorite. Cast over the drop-off and fish the Booby fly slowly over the ledge onto the shallow water and wait for that take! You can also try some nymphs fished over the ledge as trout move into the shallows to feed on them.


The beauty of points is that two currents meet and therefore food items congregate for the waiting trout. Look for a natural point on the land. Try and approach the point from about 80 yards so you don’t disturb fish feeding on the point.

Try to avoid drifting straight onto the point but drift across it. This means you will fish both ledges as you approach and as you drift across to the other side, so doubling your chances.

Boobies are a good choice but fish are here to feed along with the shallow points on nymph larvae so try nymphs. Try to use a team of Crunchers, Buzzers, and some Diawl Bachs and fish them extremely slow.

inflatable boat on the lake at dawn and fisherman fishing

Wind Lanes

These lanes can also form across the whole length of the water on blustery days. And they are a hotbed for surface feeding fish. Insects are clogged at the edges of the lane and the trout cruise along eating them up.

Don’t float down the middle of the lane because you’ll spook the fish. Instead, try to drift parallel to the lane and cast to the edges to intercept fish.

Fish are usually feeding on the food that’s trapped in the tight surface of the wind lane. Dries are always excellent fished here.

Match the color to those on the surface and place your dries across the lane with one on the edge and the others across it. Using a Booby stroked across the lane can be devastating but try a wet fly like a Claret Bumble behind it to turn follows into takes.

Try to continually cast across the lane and stroking the flies back for best results. If you cast straight down the lane will only spook the fish that are cruising up it.

Deep Water

On bright summer days, the fish will go deep to escape the sun’s glare. This is because they have no eyelids, and to also reach cooler water. It’s now that the sinking line comes into its own.

Fast sinking lines like the Di-7 are essential now. The Booby will allow you to cast and let it sink for long periods without snagging bottom.

Best Boobies are orange, Cat’s Whisker or Sparkler for this time of year. Cast and allow it to sink for up to 40 seconds or so, on the hottest of days and slowly figure-of-eight back.

This will help keep your fly in the cool zone for as long as possible. Many trout will take it on the curve when the fly is at its deepest.

This is just before the line becomes vertical and lifts off the bottom. You should stop retrieving it for a few seconds and then slowly lift it.

Early Season

Fish will normally lay in about 8-12ft of water – usually April to the middle of May. Try fishing on the windward banks about 50 yards out.

You need to try fishing slow now so a sinking line with Booby is ideal Orange, Black or Coral Boobies are best. Because you are fishing in 8-12 feet of water the Booby won’t snag the bottom, like most conventional lures will.

With the wind blowing, warmer water is likely to be found here so nymphs may emerge off the bottom. As the day warms up use a floating or midge tip line with a small heavy Black Buzzer on the point with a Cruncher and Diawl Bach on droppers. Fish them extremely slow or try fishing them under an indicator.

fisherman fishing from boat

Mid to Late Season

The fish will start to move to deeper water as they search for food. So the long drifts across the middle of a lake can be very rewarding.

The fish move out with the food, especially the daphnia. On a cloudy day try using Orange Blobs pulled fast on medium sink lines and if it’s sunny use a faster sinker.

You may also try a Booby on the point with a Blob on the dropper. Then pull the Booby quickly across the top of the water this causes a disturbance that attracts the fish.

They will also follow the adult fly across the middle as it drifts with the wind. So dry flies may well be worth a go, but try to fish in wind lanes where possible.

Doing this will really increase your chances of coming across a lot more fish.

Watch The Wind Direction

The daphnia also known as water fleas form a high-protein diet for trout and these tiny crustaceans are blown downwind.

The wind direction is probably one of the most important factors when it comes to fly fishing. It dictates so many things, like where the food is being blown to.

The wind also determines where the warm water is going to be blowing to in the cooler months. The cooler water will be (off the bank with the wind coming off); which direction surface feeding fish are heading.

This is where the insects are most likely to be blown off the banks and trees etc.

Daphnia will usually rise to the surface in cloudy weather and is blown downwind in the rolling waves. So, predominantly, when fishing for daphnia feeding fish is often the best to fish downwind.

If you watch the wind direction for a few days before you go fishing. Then you will see where the water fleas are likely to be gathered.

Best flies are Orange Blobs and Boobies for daphnia feeders or the Cat’s Whisker fished fast on sinking lines. The rate of the sinking line is dictated by the cloud or sun predominance.

If the lake does have a tree line you may want to fish near this bank. Because the insects and terrestrials will be blown on the water and the fish won’t be very far away.

Most rising fish will usually travel against the wind if you’re covering a rising fish, cast several yards upwind of the initial rise.

Don’t cast where the fish first rose, because it’ll be long gone. If fish have been feeding on the surface then the bank with the wind coming off of it is likely to hold more trout As the fish are traveling up there in search of food.

Fish the Features

Things like buoys, towers, moored yachts, and submerged trees all offer a good food source. This is where all of the insects gather on the ropes and around the trees for safety.

All sorts or morsels hang around these features with fry and Corixa some of the favorites. Cast close to the feature and retrieve past it.

If the fish are on fry then try a Minkie on a sinking line and then slowly fish it past the features. Crunchers or Diawl Bachs are great Corixa patterns so fish these slowly on a floating line beside the features.

Many lakes and reservoir anglers catch lots of fish consistently fishing around all the buoys, structures and the like.

Keep moving around and fish them all and eventually, you’ll find some fish. Most underwater features and structures will usually hold some fish.

During later season, look for moored yachts, jetties, and submerged trees for fry feeders. Remember to use a strong leader line as the fish know the snags just as well as you do!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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