The staff at Kentucky Afield Outdoors sometimes receive questions from newspaper editors and readers about common fishing terms used in a column or in a photo caption.
We’ve been asked, “What is a point?” in regard to a column about fall reservoir fishing. We’ve also been asked, “What is a flat?” stemming from a piece about spring fishing.
It is easy for experienced anglers to forget that common fishing terms such as “point,” “flat” and “channel drop” have as much meaning for a novice angler as Latin does for the average person. Hunters and anglers take a certain pride in using terminology only they know, but this practice can be a barrier to those just starting out.
With fishing season upon us, it is a good time to review terms that seem simple to an experienced angler but confusing to a beginner.
In a reservoir, a “point” is a location where the bottom is shallower than the surrounding area. These are usually triangular spots on the bottom formed by sediment carried by creeks or the current. They may extend a short distance or hundreds of yards into a lake. Points are usually good places to find fish. Points form at the intersection of a cove or tributary creek with the main lake, or along a major creek arm of the lake.
Large creek valleys that become the main part of the lake once the area is flooded are referred to as “creek arms.”
Points that form at the confluence of a creek arm with the major part of the reservoir are known as “main lake points.” The points in major creek arms made from the convergence with smaller tributaries are known as “secondary points.” Those with nearby creek or river channels submerged when the lake was created are called “channel points.” Channel points are also good places to fish because fish can feed in the shallow area but still have a quick escape route to deeper water to hide.
On a river, the sharp angle of land formed by a tributary meeting the main stem of the stream is also point. Predators, such as bass, walleye, stripers trout, catfish and muskies, use points to hunt for baitfish.
“Points are travel corridors for predator fish,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They make a sharp transition from shallow to deeper water and predator fish can just move up or down in the water column to feed. The top of a point gets deeper like an underwater bar that sinks as it goes out. You can always find a depth on the top of the point where fish are holding.”
The term “flat” also confuses beginning anglers. “A flat,” Ross explained, “is an extended shallow water section of the bank – or an area beside a creek or river channel — with a much gentler slope on the bottom than the rest of the lake.”
A flat beside a submerged creek or old river channel in a reservoir is the inundated floodplain of the stream. Flats are especially important in spring.
“The deeper parts of a flat serve as staging areas for predator fish when they first move up out of deep water in early spring,” Ross said. “In springtime, bass and other predator fish spawn on flats, especially if there is pea-sized gravel on the bottom.”
Flats with some fishhiding cover on them such as stumps, sunken logs, weed beds, rock piles or brush — those changes in the bottom that anglers also call “structure” — make productive springtime fishing areas.
“Anytime you have habitat on a flat, that is good because it stands out,” Ross said. “Fish instinctively go there. Stumps, weeds and pea gravel beds are a good draw for fish.”
The fishing term “drop” is another confusing phrase for beginners. A drop is an area of the lake where the depth dramatically changes from shallow to deep. It is a shortening of the term “drop-off .” The lip of a submerged creek or river channel is called a “channel drop.”
Drops make excellent fishing spots from early summer through late fall. “Fish instinctively associate with structure and sharp changes in contour area structure,” Ross said. “The fish move along those drops. It is built into them to associate with these areas.”
A “hump” is another productive fishing area from late spring through late fall. A hump is simply a submerged hilltop surrounded by deeper water. Humps attract fish because of their isolation from other structures.
The nature of a hump makes them hard for anglers to effectively fish, so they don’t receive the fishing pressure of a main lake point or a stump-laden flat. Anglers struggle to locate humps in main lake areas as well.
Don’t let arcane terms interfere with understanding the pursuit of fish. Mastering the lingo brings you into the realm of anglers and starts you on the road to being hooked. It is hard to give up fishing once you’ve caught a few trophies.