I'd venture a guess that at least half of the fish I've caught in my lifetime have come from shore, standing on a dock, or wading. Mechanically impaired as I am, it is a given that motors break down, trailer tires go flat, and I'm left without a boat at times. Other times, fishing from shore is just the best or most enjoyable option for a particular outing. Whatever puts your feet on solid ground for a fishing trip, don't feel that your chances of catching fish are any less when stuck on terra firma.
Unless I'm trolling or working specific openwater structure, most of my boat fishing targets areas that are accessible from shore, as these are the places where important edges convene and hold fish. It could be a creek, a shoreline rock pile leading into the water, a dock and boat lift or a fallen tree.
The first key when shore fishing is to isolate these productive spots filled with edges and structure. Fish relate to them, more so than with the open water of river's center or a lake.
Whether from a pier or dock, on shore or wading, knowing how fish relate to a body of water can help increase your odds of success. Key in on high-percentage areas to make shore or wade fishing as successful as — or many times, better than — from a boat!
Another thing that many anglers overlook when fishing from shore is that a majority of bottom structure is influenced by the direction of flowing water. Play that current to your advantage. Fan-cast the area in front of you, casting not just to the open water ahead, but focusing on the upstream and downstream areas to the right and left. In my experience, a majority of fish don't hold out in the center of the river, unless there is some odd structural element that isn't obvious from shore. Instead, they relate to the area between the lip of the channel and the shallows. Use the current to drift your offering downstream to waiting fish, and keep tabs on transition areas of rock, gravel and wood that you can feel with your lure.
Dams provide excellent shore fishing opportunities as the churning water is re-oxygenated. These usually rocky, man-made structures also provide hiding places for crayfish and minnows, keeping bigger predators nearby. As a barrier to fish movement, dams are a place where fish will stack up, not just during spawning in the spring months, but also throughout the summer.
Even reengineered fish passage dams pose a temporary barrier and help draw in fish with oxygenated water and structure. Wing dams, rip rap and other dam-related structures help break up flow, provide ambush points and create holding areas that draw fish like walleyes, smallmouth and catfish in search of reprieve from the current and an easy meal.
Through the efforts of state wildlife agencies, local sportsman groups, civic organizations and private businesses and individuals who share in the spirit of opening the outdoors to everyone, angling piers, fishing areas in parks, and stream easements throughout many states in the upper Midwest have been established, expanding shoreline opportunities for anglers. This not only happens where you might expect it, like trout streams and local ponds, but also in metropolitan areas where catfish, walleye and pike are stocked in lakes, to provide quality fishing and easy access to it. Being shore bound no longer means struggling to catch fish.
So this summer, if you find yourself without a boat, or just looking to lounge on the grass of your local waters and dunk a few minnows, there are many ways and many places to take advantage of shoreline opportunities, and be just as successful as any other anglerin our outdoors.