It was a ten-mile run down Rainy Lake to get to the small, mid-lake reef we often fish. As we began to get within sight distance of the reef, I could see what looked like a boat on our destination location. As I got even closer, I was shocked to find not one, but five boats on this tiny reef.

This mid-lake structure was not big. Two boats could possibly play bumper tag and fish it, but five? It was quite unbelievable.

With the border closed to Canada last summer, the traffic on Rainy Lake was higher than normal. We all wanted to go fishing but even on big water like Rainy Lake the reefs that were well known and consistent producers were getting hit hard and heavy.

This “busy lake” scenario was not just found on Rainy Lake. I encountered heavy traffic on a number of my favorite bodies of water last summer. This pressure on the lakes forced us to make a change of plans on several different outings. We found ourselves looking for some of the more subtle fishing holding pieces of structure as well as changing the species we were targeting.

Rainy Lake is a mammoth body of water and an excellent fishery, especially for walleyes. Even after a dozen years of fishing this water, we knew there were many fish-holding spots that we had not yet discovered.

With the high degree of fishing pressure, we started seriously looking for these smaller pieces of structure. We did find them and have them marked for future outings.

We had to accept the fact that these tiny structural elements weren’t going to hold huge numbers of fish. Instead of catching a dozen walleyes in a spot, we would hit half of that, or maybe less.

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However, since we ended up locating so many of these new, more subtle locations, we simply hopped from one to the next and ended up with impressive numbers by the end of the day. The best part was not having to play bumper boats with other anglers.

Closer to home, we found our walleye fishing took a hit. Several times, our favorite spots were just too crowded for more boat activity. Because of that, we switched species.

Instead of walleyes, we targeted bass or sometimes crappies. Bass are much more numerous on many of our Minnesota lakes and still offer a good fight and a chance for a successful outing. If it was meal we were after, crappies often saved the day.

I am expecting this summer to be similar to last in terms of fishing pressure. With record boat sales and an increase in the popularity of fishing, I am sure we will have more of the same.

I think it is great that people have rediscovered the pleasures of fishing, as it is a wonderful sport. However, because of this, I do believe it is important to be flexible in planning our excursions to the lake.

Spending some time looking for new, less popular fishing spots is highly recommended. Small, subtle structural elements can still produce impressive results. I firmly believe that changing the species you are targeting can make a difference in your level of success.

We also found ourselves testing the water on less popular lakes. This proved to be a very worthwhile strategy and one we will utilize again this summer.

Not surprisingly, there is a silver lining in all of this. Increased pressure has forced me to expand my horizons and learn more about my favorite fishing haunts. It has also opened up some new possibilities on lakes I typically don’t fish.

When you think about it, that isn’t all bad.

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