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Find Fish Using Preferred Water Temperature

Each species of fish has a preferred water temperature range. Preferred water temperature ranges include an optimum temperature, an upper limit, and lower limit. While there are certain conditions that will force fish out of their ideal water temperature, fish try to spend most of their time in the preferred water temperature range, and travel along temperature breaks. Think of water temperature as structure. Finding these areas is a key to finding fish in several bodies of water. Using preferred water temperature as your guide, it is possible to eliminate a lot of non-productive water. Fish want to be where they are comfortable, so it pays to fish in their preferred water temperature range!

Every body of water has temperature changes from the surface to the bottom. There are layers, or "pockets" of water where the temperature will be significantly different from the surrounding water. Sometimes these differences are called "temperature breaks" or the thermocline. Larger, deeper lakes tend to have more of these temperature breaks.

When fish suspend in the water column it is usually by water temperature. Using a temperature probe will allow you to find the depth of the correct water temperature for the species you are targeting. Using the Fish Hawk X4 on your downrigger, start by lowering the probe close to the bottom, observing the water temperature on the display as you raise the probe to the surface. Using the Fish Hawk TD, simply attach the probe to a fishing line or the downrigger cable and lower it to the bottom. When you retrieve the TD, press the "VIEW" button and it will show you the water temperature every five-feet.


The chart below shows the preferred water temperature range for some the most popular freshwater gamefish and baitfish species in Fahrenheit.

Preferred Water Temp Chart (Print PDF Version)
Species Lower Limit Optimum Upper Limit
Brown Trout 44 52 75
Chinook Salmon 40 44 60
Coho Salmon 44 54 60
Kokanee 52
Lake Trout 40 42 55
Landlocked Atlantic Salmon 45 50 60
Largemouth Bass 50 70 80
Rainbow Trout 44 54 63
Smallmouth Bass 50 65 73
Steelhead 42 45 62
Walleye 50 67 76
Alewife 48 54 72
Cisco 52-55
Emerald Shiner 61
Gizzard Shad 69
Rainbow Smelt 43 50 57
Spot Tail Shiner 54