Effect Of River Level On Smallmouth Fishing
Water levels in rivers can vary dramatically from week to week or can change in a day with a significant rain storm so it is important to understand what the effects of river levels can have on smallmouth fishing.
Effect of river level on smallmouth fishing
Carl Kolchak writes some great articles about fly fishing the Quinebaug River in Connecticut. Recently he wrote about the dramatic change in fishing from week to week.
Three weeks ago, I combined with a fishing buddy to catch 64 bass in a stretch of the Quinebaug River between the eastern Connecticut towns of Plainfield and Canterbury. Two weeks later, that same section of the Quinebaug yielded just 27 bass, despite our fishing the same spots and employing the same plastic creature baits. The only thing that had changed to explain this disparity is the water level; it has rained heavily in the interim between fishing trips.
The water level, especially late in the summer in the Northeast, plays a huge part in the feeding habits of both the largemouth and the smallmouth bass. When the water gets low and remains low, food is much scarcer for bass, making them quite amenable to attacking just about anything they can access that is smaller than they are. But when the rain swells the river back to higher levels, washing a variety of edible creatures into the current, bass will pick and choose as they fill up. This means that the same offerings plopped in front of a bass when the water was down will not be as appealing. Source
A few more tips with regards to water levels:
When the water is rising, smallmouth bass will often move to the banks but when the water is falling or has crested, they will often scatter, making it harder to find them.
When water levels are low and the water is clear, subtle presentations are often indicated and effective as fish are more easily spooked and can see the baits better.
I hope these insights help you catch more smallies on the river. Its just a matter of getting out there and testing, testing, testing by hitting all parts of the water column and finding a pattern.
Once you get that pattern, find similar water and similar conditions and catch more bass!