Drought proving tricky for local anglers

Dealing with wild weather is nothing new for local anglers. However, there is a nontypical weather pattern going on in northern Illinois right now that is making issues for anglers: drought.

After several springs that featured heavy rain, the greater Chicago area has been devoid of the wet stuff for much of the spring. In early May, the National Weather Service reported that "water levels in northeast Illinois have dropped since early spring with several locations near the Chicago metro area significantly below average."

Not exactly welcome words for the angling lot.

While drought might not be nearly as much of an angling deterrent as severe flooding is, there is some larger considerations for the angler during one. By building a better understanding of depth, current and structure, you can maintain and even accentuate your fishing success during drought periods.

If there is a cardinal rule to drought-time fishing, it is that depth is your best friend. No matter what you are fishing for or where you are fishing, the deeper parts of the body of water that you are fishing on and the transitional areas into shallower water are places where fish will frequent when they are not feeding.

Many bodies of water have depth maps available on the internet nowadays, and it is always beneficial to study those and get a better idea of where the depth changes occur at your favorite fishing spot. If your spot does not have such maps available for it, do some exploring and look for areas in which depth changes. Sometimes, even subtle changes can be very productive spots.

Current is always a key consideration in the fishing equation, and it comes at a premium during a drought. Simply put, when there is less water moving throughout a body of water, current gets minimized. Since current is a major factor in the positioning of fish, finding any current is a great start at getting after more of them.

To find areas with current, focus on dams, spillways, discharges and creek or tributary inflows. In most of these areas, you should still be able to find enough current and bait to keep fish present. Once you do this, focus on finding slack water adjacent to current. These are the areas where fish go to get out of the current to save energy and find food.

Finally, when targeting fish during a drought, structure becomes even more valuable than it is during normal conditions. While external structure like downed trees, rocky shorelines and the like are negatively impacted by low water levels, submerged structure like log jams, deep weeds and boulders can really shine.

Attacking structure is a tactic that takes some time to get used to and can be tricky and agitating for new anglers. When starting out, I recommend using cheaper baits as you are more prone to break offs. This will help ease you in to feeling more comfortable presenting baits near structure. Doing so will help you during a drought and when conditions inevitably return to normal.

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