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How To: The Perfect Freshwater Hot Spot

by Tom Melton 28 Aug 2023

Are you a freshwater fishing enthusiast? Do you do nothing but fish every local watering hole for freshwater fishing action in your area? I absolutely love freshwater fishing and all it brings to the table. For one, for the most part, you do not need a boat… just your legs to get to some of the prime areas in your neck of the woods. There are always so many options. In my area – New York/Long Island, on any given day I could tangle with largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow and white perch, bluegills, catfish, carp, walleye, trout and pickerel. And, most are available in any lake, pond or stream you want to fish. However, if you want to go freshwater fishing, wouldn't it be nice to pick the "best" place to try, rather than just aimlessly going to any body of water? Let's see what it takes to find the perfect freshwater hot spot.

Best freshwater fishing hot spot

A good sign it could be the best freshwater hot spot would be active "beds."

I remember one outing where my buddy Rick Holmberg and I set out to find as many largemouth bass we could find during a one-night excursion. We carefully mapped out each lake we were going to hit systematically, to ensure success. I do not remember the total amount of fish, but we had fish in every body of water we stopped at.

Before you can find the best freshwater fishing hot spot, you really need to know what you want to catch. There are a lot of variables as to when and where you can find certain species. If you want trout for the most part, the streams and rivers are best, but then again, once they stock the local lakes, these areas will out fish the others… at least for a while. For bluegills and other panfish, once they make their nests, they will be in the same area day-after-day.

The Hot Spot

Freshwater fishing hot spots come in all shapes and sizes. To make sure you are at the best hot spot, make sure all the bases are covered as to what will be needed for fish to actually be in that area, and be willing to eat! After so many years of fishing, I can look at any body of water and basically give you a high percentage answer as whether the body will hold fish or not. Look, basically every body of water has fish… but the key is how many fish.

There are key components for lakes, streams and rivers

  • Lakes
    • Healthy weed life
    • Clean water
    • Forage
  • Streams
    • Moving water
    • Areas of water depth over 20 inches
    • Forage
  • Rivers
    • Shoreline access
    • Bends that form pools, trapping baitfish
    • Forage
Best river hot spot for freshwater fishing

A bend in a small stream will always hold fish, making it another great opportunity for the best freshwater hot spot.

Did you notice anything about all three? Forage! Without a food source, and a good one, I do not care how good you think the body of water will be, it will not be the best freshwater fishing hot spot without forage. When I say forage, it could mean active baitfish, insect hatches or bigger fish eating smaller ones.

What to Look For

When I approach a body of water I do so very quietly. The first glimpse may reveal a lot. Are there small baitfish in the shallows? Small baitfish will scatter with noise, so approaching slowly will allow you to see them. Does the lake have an odor to it? Some odors will indicate dying grass or pollutants; either way, if it smells, head somewhere else. Is there a healthy plant life? In lakes look for live lily pads and grasses. In streams and rivers look for grasses that are clinging to rocks and snails on these rocks too. All of these first look items will aid in determining if it is the best freshwater fishing hot spot.

Lakes not suitable for freshwater fishing

A quick look at this lake and you may think this is it! Further investigation by the author reveals dirty water, no significant healthy grass and a severely over-fished lake. 

Another easier and more common way to find the best freshwater fishing hot spot is to read the local fishing magazines or talk to bait and tackle shops. These guys are the pros and can point you to a solid producer. Remember, they count on your business, so they want you to catch fish, and then come back for more bait!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line when choosing the best freshwater fishing hot spot will be determining beforehand that it truly is the best. Some bodies you may have fished before and know they are good, while others will be new. Look for the key elements, and if there is ample forage to sustain a healthy fishery. Another key component will be activity. Are there other anglers fishing this body of water? Do you see anyone catching fish?

I have fished what I feel are the some of the best freshwater fishing hot spots in my region. I know this because I have thoroughly watched for the "right" signs. Whether it is the stocking of the local pond with trout or a known area that holds fish, and anglers participate in a lot of catch and release fishing, making it a sure bet there are fish, to searching out the keys of forage, water cleanliness and bait holding ambush points.

Before casting a line, look at the body of water and determine if you think it will hold fish, or just be a pretty place to take a picture!

Healthy grass in this river make for a good opportunity for action.

Good looking lily pads are always a sign of a healthy lake.

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