Dictionary.com defines a lake as "a body of fresh or salt water of considerable size, surrounded by land." So size matters. The difference between a pond and a lake is size, but the exact size when a body of water is a lake rather than a pond is not defined.
Lakes can vary in size from a private lake of a few acres to huge bodies of water like the Great Lakes. But what fish can you catch in lakes? Do fish act differently in lakes? How do you fish for them?
Black Bass, sunfish, walleye, crappie, muskie, catfish, Northern pike, white bass, yellow perch and some kinds of trout like lake trout are native lake game fish. Others, like saltwater striped bass, have been stocked in lakes and thrive in them. And there are nongame fish in lakes like gar, drum and carp.
How Do Lake Fish Act?
Lake fish don't have current to control their lives, like stream and river fish do. And they have more places to hold and feed than pond fish since lakes are bigger than ponds and usually have more varied structure. Most tend to hold in favorite kinds of cover. For muskie and northern pike, that would be grass beds. For smallmouth bass rocks are often the key. Catfish tend to live near the bottom most of the time. Trout hold deep but often well off the bottom over very deep water. And they feed on different things. So different kinds of lake fish act very differently from each other.
How Do You Fish For Lake Fish?
Since different species of lake fish act and feed differently, you have to key on the species you want to catch.
Largemouth bass will often hold on deeper structure like points and humps with cover like rocks or brush and feed there, but will also move to more shallow water to feed. Baits to use vary from live minnows to artificials, and the depth the bass are holding make a difference in choosing the right bait. Bass taste good and are easy to filet.
Sunfish like bluegill, green sunfish and shellcracker are common in lakes and are usually found in relatively shallow water. They will hit a variety of live and artificial baits and most are good to eat.
Walleye tend to hold in deeper, cooler water and like rocks and weeds. They can be caught on live bait better than artificials, usually. Walleye are considered some of the best tasting freshwater fish.
Crappie are open water fish that suspend over deeper water near cover most of the year, except when they spawn. They hit jigs and live minnows and have sweet, white meat.
Called the fish of 10000 casts, muskie often hold around shallow grassbeds but can be caught in deeper water. They grow big and can be caught on big lures and live bait. Considered a trophy game fish, fishermen are encouraged to let them go so they can grow bigger and be caught again.
Catfish are usually considered a southern US fish but live in most lakes. They are bottom feeders mostly and will stay in deeper water most of the year. They are very good when cooked and catfish resturants are common through-out the south. They will eat just about anything from chicken livers and stink bait to live minnnows.
Northern pike like to live around grass and weeds in shallow water and are aggressive, hitting just about any flashy artificial bait and live minnows. Their teeth will cut line. They have a good taste but are full of little bones.
White bass are true bass and live in open water in schools in lakes, constantly moving. They will hit artificial baits that look like baitfish and many kinds of live minnows. They have a fairly strong fishy taste but are good to eat.
First cousin to the walleye, yellow perch can be caught from shallow weeds to deep rock piles. They eat minnows and bugs and can be caught on live minnows and artificials. They are very good to eat but tend to be small in most lakes.
Lake trout are natural lake fish but many other trout, like brown trout, live in lakes, too. Rainbow trout that leave the stream and live in big lakes or the ocean and return to freshwater to spwan are called steelhead. All trout are good to eat and they will eat a variety of baits, from dry flies to spoons, and live baits will catch them, too.
Stripers are saltwater fish that spawn in rivers and have been widely stocked in lakes. An open water fish related to the white bass, they school up over deep water. They grow big and are very hard fighters and will hit live bait and artificials. They have a strong fish taste but are good to eat.
All these lake fish are fun to catch and most are good to eat.