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Chasing Boils

Blog by: David Coulson , CO 7/31/2015

This year Iíve been chasing boils on a regular basis.  When you find them, the action is fast and furious, and as I wrote in a recent blog, ďSeeing It Makes It More Exciting,Ē  the visual aspect is phenomenal.

A boil is a situation where a school of predatory fish attacks a school of ďbaitĒ fish, pushing them to the surface.  Often the pursued fish jump out of the water to avoid being dinner.  In some cases, birds, particularly gulls, spot the activity and join in, attacking from above.

Colorado boils are far less extensive than those in saltwater. White bass, a cousin of stripers, and wipers are well known to bust baitfish, creating boils.  Largemouth and smallmouth bass will occasionally form bait busting schools.  Iíve even run into cases where large schools of bluegill boil at the surface in pursuit of a meal.  While lure and fly selection is often important when fishing, with boils you can often throw most any fly or lure thatís close in size to the bait and youíll get bit. 

Sound easy?  Yes and no.  Under some conditions no matter what the angler does theyíll catch fish.  However, thatís rarely the case.  Will a little forethought and preparation you can increase your odds of encountering boils and taking advantage of them.

Be prepared and make an effort to be on the water when conditions are right. Itís good to know what baitfish exist in the reservoir.  They need to be plentiful open water schooling fish and large enough to attack attention, fish from 1 to 4 inches or so, and an .  For shad and shiners that often occurs mid-summer into the fall.  Learning a bit about baitfish and where theyíre likely to be will assist you in catching their predators.  Find the prey and rest assured the predators will be close. Of course the lake needs a healthy population of white bass, black bass, wiper or other predatory fish.

Once youíve determined a lake has the potential to produce boils (bait and predators) fish when thereís a high probability of activity, for many waters thatís early or late in the day, especially when conditions are calm, low wind and/or boat traffic.  Reports of boils and prior history are also help peg when to be on the watch for boils.

Predicting where the boils will occur isnít easy, especially if you donít have a history with the lake youíre fishing.  Locating schools of baitfish is a good start, but not always possible. Actively feeding fish, no matter the species, is a good indicator. Many times Iíll fish for alternate species while looking for boils.  If nothings biting, I move on, if Iím catching, especially the target species, I stick close. Actively feeding birds, such as herons or grebes, is another clue as to where the action may start.  The presence of gulls, especially if theyíre sitting on the water, or flying around looking is a good sign.  However, if theyíre snoozing on the shore, I donít give their presence much weight.

Many folks use feeding gulls as their primary means of locating boils.  I watch for feeding gulls, but find that being in an area where boils are likely and scanning for them is more productive.  Often I spot boils before the gulls, especially smaller ones.  When scanning for boils, donít look directly at the water, rather look to the horizon and trust your eyes to pick up disturbances.  Once you spot a boil, now the fun begins. 

If youíve positioned yourself well, you often can reach the boil using your trolling motor, this is best.  If you have to make a longer run, come off plane early such that youíre several casts from the boil and move in with the trolling motor.  You only want to be close enough to be able to cast the boils edges, hopefully picking off fish without disturbing the action.  How close you get should be determined by the worst caster.  Let them make the first cast when he feels close enough, then kill the trolling motor and all cast.

Running into a boil typically put it down permanently. You scatter the bait, fish, and birds.  Itís rare the boil will start anew when you do that.  However, if you hold off it, make long casts, often you can land several fish from a boil.  Even if it does quit, itíll often start anew close as the fish (bait and predator) havenít been spooked.  Many times the fish will erupt closer to the boat than Iíd stopped.  Point is, take it easy and youíll have better action than the gun-n-run boys.

Please, respect others.  If someone is on a boil, let them have it, do not run into it on plane and drop in on top the water theyíre fishing.  Iíll tolerate a boat that comes in slowly, especially if they talk with me.  Gun-n-run on me and youíll hear about it.  Do that on the east coast saltwater and youíre boat will likely develop a serious leak!

Finally, when youíre successful chasing boils youíll catch a lot of fish, great eating fish.  Keep what you need for a meal, release the rest. As they say, limit your kill rather than killing your limit.  That weíll have boils to fish all season long.

Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
Whiskerhunter, 7/31/2015 10:25:07 PM
Great info. I use to see lots of wiper boils at Pueblo, not so many the past few years. Any thoughts?
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/1/2015 4:53:18 AM
Three quick ones that I have not checked on, water levels are up which spreads the fish out, what are the shad populations, and I would suspect the level of wiper stocking has been down the last few years, much as it has been for the whole state. CPW has had issues obtaining wiper to stock.
opencage, 8/2/2015 5:55:00 PM
I can't wait to get into a proper boil the many ways and times you've described them Dave. One day we'll find them out there. I'm sure I've seen a couple out on Boedecker, but have yet to get on them like I know you have. It could be my 40 lb thrust motor compares to your four stroke Merc, but who knows... :-)
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/3/2015 7:02:41 AM
Doubt it the motor. Given I like to get into an area with a high probability of action and chase with the trolling motor. That's one of the points, if folks would position themselves well, and stay the hell off the big motor, they and everyone else would catch more fish. We'll give it a go again soon. An evening if you can work it into your schedule.
opencage, 8/4/2015 8:27:30 PM
Well, I always hate admitting it but Dave knows his stuff. Find some boils on Lon Hagler yesterday... The fish were small, but just threw a clouser threw them and got a hit just about every time, and even on my little trolling motor too :-) Now I wanna find some some with some bigger fish.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/5/2015 5:58:52 AM
Lon Hagler should become increasingly interesting on this point in upcoming years, not only the white bass, but there are a few wiper in the mix.