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Fishing Dunes

  • FishBlood&RiverMud
    Participant
    Prescott
    Posts: 6255
    #1790359

    This is an article for the river fisherman. Cat fisherman must read. Though written for cats, this can be a multispecies tactic. Just pick the right dunes and tackle.
    Feel free to ask questions. Prefer you don’t comment If you have only skimmed the article.
    One of my favorite river structures to fish is sand dunes. I just love them. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Rolling drifts of sand are constantly attracting fish. These structures occur in faster sections of river where the current form drifts similar to how wind makes a snow drift. Pay attention to what creates snow drifts, where, how big, etc…as water hydraulics are very much the same. Look at the sand/grit on your curb after a good rain event, you’ll find similar structure is found in a river. Each dune provides a current break immediately downstream of the peak. 2018 Mississippi river flows this year have been high for a significant amount of time. The increased flow created bigger dunes. Long periods of low flows will start to erode the dunes. Dunes can be found with 2D sonar, DI, and SI. SI of course provides the greatest details for these broad structures, but each sonar type the dunes should stick out like a sore thumb.
    I’m going to share the tactics I use to put my bait in front of the most fish possible in these dunes. Largely I believe fish will travel along these dunes. i.e. walk along the drift. As mentioned there is a current break on the back of each dune. When bottom fishing, it would be natural for your bait/weight to settle on the back side of the dune, right where a fish is travelling or resting; similar to how a bait may settle in a current seam. There can and will be fish in between dunes, on top of dunes, off the edge of dunes, etc. During certain times of the year, how fish stack up in dunes can be a clear indicator of the fish species! I will not go into that today though. Dunes come in a wide variety of shape and size. I prefer to target the largest dunes but will use side imaging to determine the best fish holding zones. Dunes are somewhat similar to waves…The bigger the wave the greater the distance between waves; the smaller the wave the less distance between waves. Think rollers vs ripples. All have their time and place to hold fish and certain species prefer certain dune conditions.
    I’ve attached a picture consisting of 3 diagrams. Left to right this should be considered step 1, 2, and 3. I run multiple rod holders, and not just for running a lot of rods; I use the rod holders to move my baits. Allowing my bait to be presented in multiple locations on each cast.
    I’m only showing two fishing lines in the diagram because showing you what I do when there are 6 lines out would be a scribbled drawing to say the least. On the rear of the boat I have 6 rod holders. Two are straight out the back, two are at a 45, two are straight to the side. Along each side of my boat are two more that are pointed straight out. All my rod holders get used, but primarily for rod shuffling.
    Diagram 1, step 1:
    Cast lines at a 45, one further than the other. Set in outside rod holder. Red rod on left, blue rod on right. If using a light enough weight (Blow Back weight) the weight will simply drift behind the rod tip on a tight line. If using a heavy weight, I encourage you to reel 1-3 cranks each minute and the weight will progress towards the rod tip with each crank. You can see the dotted arrows indicating the baits path whether you use a blow back weight or a heavy weight. Once my baits are directly behind the rod tip they aren’t going to move anymore. Thus, initiates the rod shuffle.
    Diagram 2, step 2:
    First rod shuffle. Take red rod and move to right side of boat. Take blue rod and more to left side of boat. You’ve just crossed lines, but because they are staggered lengths this should not cause problems if you do the right shuffling when a fish bites. By shuffling the rods, I’ve allowed the baits to drift again. When the baits are behind the rod tips, I move them again.
    Diagram 3, step 3:
    Move the rods further outside the boat allowing the baits to drift again. At this point I typically reel them in and re-cast duplicating the process. Often times I’ll repeat these steps and zig zag it back to the boat.
    I’ve only attached a simple diagram with 2 rods and only showed 3 steps, however I will actually make this into 6 steps; touching each rod holder as the bait passes from left to right, or right to left. All various length casts. Of course, you catch fish and the program changes; I love Hi-Vis line for this tactic as you’re asking for tangles if you don’t know where your line is and how far back. Blow back weights will move easily and I may touch every rod holder from one side of the boat to the other as I drift the weight. Heaver weights I may go from one extreme to the other to accomplish the drift.
    Hopefully that helps you understand the tactic.
    I didn’t describe or draw all the possible ways I cast and allow baits to drift using rod holder placement, but I hope that you can understand how sand dunes allow you to drift baits and that drifting baits increases catch rates due to covering ground.
    Sand dunes don’t hold many snags. Some do and expect it be a prime spot. Sand dunes allow you to drag weights and hooks without snags. As the weights drift they’ll fall into the current seams behind dunes and sit. In a single cast, it is possible for your bait to hit several dunes and in several locations. When fishing this tactic, it is common for me to LAUNCH my baits WAY out there for the outside lines and less far for each rod inside the outside ones. This prevents tangles, but also opens up lanes for crossing traffic so to speak. The more rods the bigger the spread. If I’m only running two rods I’ll start with long casts and each cast after that will be shorter to cover new ground unless there is a more active dune than another. Starting with long casts and moving to shorter casts keeps fish advancing upstream to your bait.
    I have learned that if you can put a bait in front of a fish, it doesn’t take long to get a bite. In fact, when I do this tactic in the winter when the fish are not so willing to move; I’ll get bit within 30-60 seconds of moving the bait. It does you absolutely no good to keep it stationary in the winter. In the summer warm water months, fish are much more willing to move. The classic cast and wait works because fish are willing to move to find it… Flatheads, sturgeon, channel cats will all pounce on a bait within a minute, if you drop it in front of them. So, the name of the game in the dunes is covering ground! Keep them moving, canvas the area, and move on.
    This is not a lazy cast and wait technique. When the fish are concentrated, like in the winter; this is a tactic that can land over 30 catfish in 3 hours, multiple doubles and triples. Fish are spread out in the summer so catch rates like that are not possible. Insert SAD face. I hoped to rival my winter catch rates this summer but have come to the conclusion that the best channel cat fishing DOES NOT OCCUR ABOVE 40 DEGREES.
    I’ve also attached a diagram that shows what you can do with each line out depending on if you are using blow back weights or heavy weights. Both zig zag back to the boat. But different. Blow back weights selection is critical in the drift speed. Lighter the weight faster it will drift and further you must cast to allow for several zig zags before the weight won’t hold bottom.
    Hope you learned something.
    This is written for cats. Though it can be applied to tactics used to catch other species in the dunes. I used this tactic last week to entertain my two nephews 3&5 yrs old. Hammering sheepshead, catfish, perch, walleyeys, etc. I just downsized my presentation to a small weight, hook and worm; as well as picked dunes with kid sized fish.

    This is honestly a subject that I could talk about for over 8 hours in the boat. You’ve got the shortened version.

    Attachments:
    1. Dunes-1.png

    2. Dunes-2.png

    watisituya
    Participant
    North Metro
    Posts: 238
    #1790363

    Good read…. Thanks for the Post

    Ryan Speers
    Participant
    Waconia, MN
    Posts: 389
    #1790369

    Phenomenal! I’m going to digest this a little more and then I’ll be in touch.

    philtickelson
    Inactive
    Mahtomedi, MN
    Posts: 1678
    #1790395

    This is awesome, would love to see it in action some day :). Seems like a pretty innovative way to fish if you ask me, and it almost makes you sound like you’ve spent a day or two on the river.

    Ryan Speers
    Participant
    Waconia, MN
    Posts: 389
    #1790429

    Andy,

    Thanks for the complete breakdown on this technique, I’m definitely going to give this a try as you’ve presented it.

    Depending on the strength of the current I’m also thinking that I might be able to do a version of this where I use the jog feature to move the boat every minute or so, in 5′ – 10′ increments or more if needed and using weights that allow the baits to “blow back” behind the rod tips. I’d be giving up the initial width of your cast, but I could make up for it by working from bank to bank. I’d probably only try this with 4 rods, one out each side and one on each corner straight back.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    FishBlood&RiverMud
    Participant
    Prescott
    Posts: 6255
    #1790433

    Andy,

    Thanks for the complete breakdown on this technique, I’m definitely going to give this a try as you’ve presented it.

    Depending on the strength of the current I’m also thinking that I might be able to do a version of this where I use the jog feature to move the boat every minute or so, in 5′ – 10′ increments or more if needed and using weights that allow the baits to “blow back” behind the rod tips. I’d be giving up the initial width of your cast, but I could make up for it by working from bank to bank. I’d probably only try this with 4 rods, one out each side and one on each corner straight back.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    Thanks Ryan. BTW those rods that you gave me have moved onto two other fishermen. Never did use them lol.

    You got that right.
    The jog, wish I had it.

    Match the weight to what you want it to do and it’ll work fine and dandy! I also Anchor lock and use kicker assist fishing dunes.

    No reason you cannot set lines and move the boat to move the baits to accomplish the same thing! Good addition.

    The SCRATCHER
    Participant
    spring valley mn
    Posts: 630
    #1790439

    thanks for sharing that sure gives me a new outlook on a new tactic to try

    nhamm
    Inactive
    Robbinsdale
    Posts: 7348
    #1790455

    Phenomenal, thanks for sharing. toast
    What type of sinker you find plays best with this tactic?

    Any change to leader length bc of bait movement? Any issues with circles being effective on angled lines?

    Ryan Speers
    Participant
    Waconia, MN
    Posts: 389
    #1790461

    I’m thinking this technique and my humminbird 360 are going to be quite the pairing!

    I can hardly wait until Saturday to get on the water and give this a try. I’m sure I’ll donate some lead to the river, but this will help over come the 1 rod rule on the Minnesota River.

    I can also see myself using this on certain sections of the red river too.

    john23
    Participant
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts: 2484
    #1790465

    Very cool. It almost sounded like too much work until the jog feature comment! I really look forward to hearing what you’ve learned about IDing fish species holding on the dunes. Thanks!

    FishBlood&RiverMud
    Participant
    Prescott
    Posts: 6255
    #1790492

    Phenomenal, thanks for sharing. toast
    What type of sinker you find plays best with this tactic?

    Any change to leader length bc of bait movement? Any issues with circles being effective on angled lines?

    Good questions.
    I specifically left that out.

    Too many scenarios in dunes for as single answer.
    Bait spinning usually not a good thing.
    Weights, do you want them to move or not.

    I suggest you start experimenting as that’ll help you determine for yourself what works in what situations.

    Mike W
    Participant
    MN/Anoka/Ham lake
    Posts: 12481
    #1790498

    Never targeted cats on the dunes but plenty of other fish. Fished them on three different rivers with good luck. Shallowest has been the croix with the deep part of the dunes maybe a couple feet deep. As you can see just about everything here I would get the sinker to drop on the high part so bait laid just into the deeper part where all the crud sits. Need to be quiet this shallow as fish will spook. I think those fish will move up out of deeper water, follow the troughs looking for what ever has settled in.

    buckybadger
    Participant
    Upper Midwest
    Posts: 4181
    #1790523

    Great post.

    The dunes you mentioned are probably the most overlooked piece of structure on the river in areas I regularly fish. I’ve never quite worked the dunes or washboard bottom in the same manner, but it looks like you have a great pattern dialed in.

    On P4 there are some community spots along the can lines and such that almost always hold fish. However, a quick slide in slightly shallower reveals fish holding in these dunes with current all the time. Last week with ~80 degree temps and bluebird skies we quickly pulled a handful of nice eyes from 7-10′ of water fishing dunes while other nearby anglers kept going deeper to 20+ feet. There was a moderate current, which created that blowout effect if you picked up the tip of your rod. For lack of a better term, we “walked” our rigs across the dunes with the help of the current. It was a great tactic for this sandy bottom area.

    Rod Bent
    Participant
    Posts: 360
    #1790534

    Andy, this should be published. In-fisherman or elsewhere. Great read!

    mwal
    Participant
    Rosemount,MN
    Posts: 998
    #1790546

    Thank You for posting this intriguing technique.

    Mwal

    Alagnak Pete
    Participant
    Lakeville
    Posts: 336
    #1790610

    Or just vertical drift your baits as you go down. Short leaders (still seems to work much better than cut bait on jigs), keep bumping bottom and adjusting. Mark spots with lots of fish as you go down, then drive back above active schools and drift over again or spot lock them for a few minutes if you need a break from holding the rod- just like vertical jigging eyes. It really doesn’t have to be as complicated as this makes it sound. There are many days they want a dead drifted bait the speed of the river in thier face (just like a well drifted fly to a trout/salmon) more than something sitting or ‘attached’ to a line.

    sharptailer
    Participant
    IGH, MN
    Posts: 161
    #1790678

    Nick flat spoon sinkers work well for the way Andy is fishing. Snap your tip up and let out a bit of line and the sinker flutters downstream. There are some long deep cuts on p2 that Andy’s technique works really good. Dunes aren’t the only situation. I also almost always have a float at the hook

    nhamm
    Inactive
    Robbinsdale
    Posts: 7348
    #1790681

    Interesting, thanks for info toast

    My sinker collection is pretty plain, mostly pancakes.

    Snap
    Participant
    Posts: 262
    #1790724

    Excellent article!

    catmando
    Participant
    wis
    Posts: 1809
    #1791007

    Great read ! I wonder if you could walk a dune with a planer board ?

    Ryan Speers
    Participant
    Waconia, MN
    Posts: 389
    #1791013

    Thanks again Andy, we didn’t focus on dunes today but we did fish aggressively and it paid off with more fish per hour than normal.

    42lb flathead!

    Attachments:
    1. IMG_1574.jpg

    2. IMG_1564.jpg

    3. IMG_1569.jpg

    FishBlood&RiverMud
    Participant
    Prescott
    Posts: 6255
    #1791064

    It’s nothing new. Nothing revolutionary. Just something simple that isn’t talked about much.

    Nice fish Ryan!

    He’s a Saturday, noon, flat from dunes

    Attachments:
    1. CameraZOOM-20180811121500931.jpg

    yahbuddy
    Participant
    Holmen, WI
    Posts: 170
    #1791125

    Great read! I will have to explore this more.

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