How to Fish Dam Outlets

by Zach Lazzari
Dam outlets release cold, oxygen-rich water.

Dam outlets release cold, oxygen-rich water.

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Dam outlets are an obstacle for migratory fish, but the tailwater immediately below the dam contains adequate habitat for resident fish. The water released is filtered by the reservoir, cold and nutrient rich. The dam also releases chopped fish and insects to the fish waiting below the release. Fishing the outlets requires an approach that locates the fish and imitates the food sources found in the river and the reservoir. Fish below the outlet grow to trophy portions in some rivers, and many dam areas are well-known and crowded with fisherman.

Items you will need

  • Lures
  • Split shot weight
Step 1

Approach the outlet from the shore, and examine the currents. Dam outlets often contain multiple currents that create deep channels. From the shore, locate the deep channels and determine which of the channels you can access with your gear.

Step 2

Cast a jig, fly or weighted lure into the current and draw the line back until the lure is sinking along the seam on one side of the current. Allow the lure to sink to the bottom until it reaches the point where the current broadens into a pool. Spoons, spinners and baited hooks are also effective.

Step 3

Add split shot 1 foot above the hook until the lure is bouncing along the bottom. Fish sit in the deep channel carved by the current. The fish sit immediately to the side of the current and eat food being carried by the current.

Step 4

Swing the lure through the pool at the end of the concentrated current. Repeat the cast, and fish through each of the accessible outlet currents.

Step 5

Work the seam on each side of the initial current before moving to the next accessible current.

Tips & Warnings

  • The waters downstream from the outlet are also productive. The downstream water does not hold the largest fish but the cold water and nutrients do trickle past the outlet.
  • Be aware of releases from the dam. Most dams provide a warning system and large releases of water are dangerous for anglers.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images