The Differences Of Fishing in a Lake and a River

A river and a lake can both be simplistically described as large bodies of water. Although, when you begin to dig further into the characteristics of a river and a lake there are major differences that distinguish the two.

A river is a large moving mass of water that empties into the ocean or a sea. This body of water has a current and depending on the size of the river, can be quite fast, and forceful. Rivers are naturally created, and can never be man made. Erosion is a common effect of the currents in a river, and over time the path that the river flows can change the terrain.

A lake can be man-made, and most often is created by use of dams and allowing rainfall to drain into lower valleys. At one time these valleys may have been occupied by small towns who frequently dealt with floods. These large bodies of water are surrounded by land on all sides and do not have a current.

Both lakes and rivers are the ideal places to go when wanting to fish, and in fact can even be the best places to fish. They house an abundance of fish, in a variety of species. Both bodies of water come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Once you have mastered the art of fishing on both sources only then can you choose which one is best for you.

Despite living so close to the Mississippi river through the vast majority of my life, I have never fished there. Growing up my family preferred the small lake behind my grandfather’s house or the larger one less than a mile away. I’m not sure if it was convenience or preference. Even as an adult, my husband and I chose to drive over an hour away to fish and play in the larger lake. We still never chose to fish in the river.


Years later we moved away from the Mississippi River and are now exactly one mile from the Tennessee River. Since our move, we have yet to return to fishing in a lake. Some actually call this portion of the river, a lake. Despite the confusion, it is still a river. Having the experience under our belts, we are now able to say that we have been fishing in both a river and a lake we can honestly say that we enjoy both experiences. While there are some differences, they are both similar.

The one noticeable difference between the two is that the water in a river moves much faster than that of a lake. The water generally moves in one direction, whereas water in a lake moves toward the shorelines. How you will handle your fishing line will be different for each type. Keeping the line tight is troublesome when casting from the shore out into the water of a lake. The water is constantly pushing against the line, causing it to slowly move back closer to the shore. When casting from the shore on a river the line will cross the current, and will move downstream as the current flows. Depending on how far out you cast, it usually assists in keeping the line tight, however, if using multiple poles crossing the lines can be an issue.

The waves created in either a lake or river can vary greatly depending on how large each of the two bodies of water is. If the lake is large enough, and with enough traffic the waves can mimic that of the waves in the ocean. The same can also be said for a river. Generally, if the river is large enough with a strong enough current the waves will be consistent throughout all seasons. This is probably the reason we never chose to fish in the Mississippi River. The current was much too strong for our liking. The Tennessee River has a strong enough current but the portion where we live the width of the river is narrow and the current is weakened, which provides a great environment for comfortable fishing.

Because of the current in a river erosion is an issue that usually keeps the banks clean and clear of debris that could cause the fishing line to snag. Lakes allow the roots of the trees to travel into the water, and cluster together. This creates wonderful habitats for the fish, but not such a great place for a fisherman. While these locations are ideal for catching an abundance of fish, they can become a nuisance. The hook catches on the smallest of twig and nearly makes it impossible to remove. My husband has yet to keep one hook after snagging. However, I have a much better success rate at this. Maneuvering the line in various directions and playing with it allows the hook to remove itself from the tangled mess, and break free. Pulling on the line, and hoping that your string is stronger than the mess of branches beneath the water is not a great idea. Chances are that you will break the line and loose you hook, sinkers and any other gadgets that you have attached to the line.

It is controversial, to say the least when it comes to the size of the fish located in the waters of a river, or lake. It has been said a million times over that someone’s uncle worked on the damn that was built years ago. While he was diving in the water he witnessed fish as big as a semi-trailer lurking in the depths beneath the surface. While these over told stories may be exaggerated, there is no real proof to them. Nevertheless, the fish that we catch from the river, are much larger than that of the fish that we used to catch in the lake. So personally I am a believer that the fish in a river are bigger than that of what resides in the depths of a lake.

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