My First Fishing Trip: Where do Fish Live?
Each species of fish prefers a certain habitat.
Habitat is where a fish lives and must contain: adequate oxygen, tolerable
temperature, adequate food and hiding places (cover). Suitable spawning habitat
must be available for fish to reproduce.
Freshwater Lakes And Ponds
Many lakes were formed thousands of years ago by glaciers, massive
"rivers" of ice, which carved valleys and holes into the earth. These valleys
and holes were filled with melting water from the glaciers and became lakes.
Dams built to block the flow of rivers have also formed lakes, often called
reservoirs or impoundments.
Ponds are tiny lakes and many are shaped like a
bowl. Many farm ponds are used to store rainwater for crops or livestock. They
are often great places to fish!
The Water's Surface
Many tiny creatures live right on the water's surface in lakes and
ponds. If you look very closely, you may be able to see these dust-size
For some fish, the surface is a good place to
feed. Bass, bluegill, and trout often eat insects that fall on the water.
Anything that makes a disturbance on the water's surface attracts the attention
of fish. Small fish swimming near the surface can be an easy meal for larger
"Plankton" are tiny plants (phytoplankton) and animals (zooplankton)
in the water. Most are smaller than the head of a pin! Small fish like to roam
open areas of a lake and feed on zooplankton. Larger fish often follow these
small fish and feed on them. Then anglers try to catch the larger fish. This is
called a "food chain."
Larger fish usually lurk below the small fish,
forcing them toward the surface. Whenever you see small fish on the surface in
open water, it usually means that larger fish are feeding. While feeding on
these fish, they may make splashes you can see.
Other signs that larger fish are nearby are the
frantic movements of the small fish. The small fish may even jump out of the
water while trying to escape!
An estuary is the wide lower course of a river where the river's
current meets the tides. In most estuaries this is where salty water mixes with
the fresh water of rivers or streams. An ocean tide brings in saltwater and
carries out some freshwater. As the waters mix, the water with the most salt is
near the bottom. The water with less salt, called "brackish" water, is near the
surface because it is lighter.
The Shoreline Shallows
The shallow water along the shore (littoral zone) is important. This
is where many rooted plants, such as cattails, rushes, lilies, pondweed, and
marsh grasses, grow.
Some lakes also have areas covered by rootless
floating plants that make it difficult to fish. All of these plants are
important because they produce the oxygen that fish need to live. They also
provide a place for fish to find food and shelter from other hungry fish.
Shallow water attracts both small and large
fish. Small fish, like bluegill, spawn, feed and hide in the plants,
brush-piles, and logs in the shoreline shallows. Larger fish come to the
shallows to feed on the smaller fish and also to spawn. Northern pike and bass
often hide in the weeds and ambush smaller fish as they swim by. Larger fish
often come to the shallows when there isn't much light. That's why early morning
and evening are some of the best times to fish shallow areas.
Deep water is a home for many types of aquatic life. There is little
light, no current, and the water temperature changes less than at the surface.
Deep water is a good place for aquatic animals to hide, but there may be too
little oxygen to sustain life, especially in late summer.
Freshwater Rivers And Streams
Flowing rivers and streams are always changing. Water currents
constantly carry sediment (sand, rock and soil) downstream. The shape of a
riverbed controls the amount of water and sediment the river can carry.
During or after a heavy rainfall, the water
level and the speed of a water current increases. This enables the river to
carry suspended sediments and results in the "murky" or muddy water you often
The water level in a river can drop quickly in
very dry weather. During a drought a river can be reduced to a series of pools.
This forces fish and other creatures to adjust to the new conditions if they are
The River Banks
In a straight stretch of river, the main force of the current is in
the middle. The deepest water is also in the middle and the area near the shore
is the shallowest. When there's a sharp bend in the river, however, the
strongest current and deepest water is at the outside edge of the bend.
In flowing water, there is less current near the bottom. Because of
this, most fish stay with their bellies almost touching the bottom. They like to
take advantage of low spots and other structure that have even less current than
the surrounding water. They do this to save their energy and to avoid being
Most fish in a river face the flow of water and wait for food to come to them.
Trout and salmon like cold, moving water. Usually, they'll stay near the edge of
the current and eat whatever food comes along. At night or when light levels are
low, the fish often move to shallow water to feed.
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