Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Where to Fish: Lakes and Ponds

Lakes and ponds are a great place to start fishing. You can fish lakes and ponds from a shore or from a boat. You can fish in shallow or deep water, in open water, or near structure/cover. Depending on the lake or pond you are fishing, you can catch fish species like largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, pickerel, walleye, perch, sunfish, rock bass, and trout.

Structure = Fish!

When you first get to a pond, look for "fishy" looking spots, such as a downed tree, lily pads, weed edges, or a dock. What do all these places have in common? They are all structure, and structure equals fish!

Structure provides shelter, shade, and cover (protection) for fish. Structure can also attract baitfish, and baitfish attract gamefish: the fish you want to catch. The formula is simple: find structure and you can find fish! Other types of structure are submerged objects, such as stumps, rocks and branches, overhanging trees and brush, points, coves and inlets.

Fish near Structure!

Most people begin fishing from the shoreline or from a small boat. In either case, you will likely be fishing near the shoreline. Therefore we will concentrate on structure on or near the shoreline.

Floating Weeds and Algae

graphic of lily pads with fish

Insects and other aquatic critters that live on and around lily pads, other floating plants and floating mats of algae always attract bait fish; and bait fish always attract bigger fish. Huge patches of lily pads can also create shade, which also attracts fish. Cast into the edges and openings. Otherwise you may tangle up your gear.

Weed Beds

Graphic of fish near a weedbed

Beds of weeds provide food and shelter for bait fish, which attract game fish. Look for weed beds that lead to deeper water, or look for sunken weed beds in deep, open water. Fish the edges of the weed bed. Fish like to cruise along the edge looking for food.

Downed Trees and Other Submerged Objects

Graphic of downed tree at waters edge

When most anglers see a sunken tree, they get an urge to fish near it? Why? Because it's a great place to fish! The branches and trunk provide cover, and many insects live on the wood. Insects attract baitfish and baitfish attract game fish. Enough said!

Other submerged objects to fish around are rocks, branches and stumps.


Grapic of a dock with fish hiding under it.

Have you ever walked on a dock and watched fish from it? The fish are there because a dock is great structure! Fish hide under docks to take shelter from the sun, so they are good to fish anytime of the day. Sometimes the biggest fish can be way under the dock, so don't just fish the edges.

Overhanging Trees

Graphic of overhanging tree at waters edge.

Overhanging trees provide cover from birds and shade. Insects often drop into the water from overhanging trees, providing food for fish. By providing both shelter and food, overhanging trees are a great spot for a fish to live. Huge fish can live under an overhanging tree just feet from the shoreline.

Brushy Shorelines

Graphic of fish near a brushy shoreline.

Brushy shorelines act the same as overhanging trees. They just don't stick out as far from the shoreline. Many fish will make their home under a brush within a foot or two from shore. The best brushy shorelines have at least a foot of water under them.


Graphic of a point with fish hanging on it.

A point extends out from the shoreline and slopes gradually down and into deeper water. It is a good place to fish. But a point with a quick drop-off or one that doesn't extend into deeper water isn't a good fishing place.

  • The sloping-out formation of a point creates a natural "highway" for fish to move from deep water to shallow water.
  • Fish travel from deeper water to shallow water in search of food.
  • Fish the tip of the point and the corners of the point (the part that curves back into the shore).


Graphic of an inlet into a lake or pond.

Most lakes and ponds are fed by a river or stream. These rivers and streams are called inlets. They are great places to fish because they carry food into the lake. Wherever there is food, there are fish!

Fish can also gather together near inlets before moving upstream to spawn. They can be excellent places to fish seasonally.

Places to Fish

Now that you know where to fish in a lake or pond, you might need a lake or pond to fish. Go to our Places to Fish pages to find places to fish.


Information where to fish on this page has been adapted from information found on