Engbretson Underwater Photography

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News From Behind the Scenes at Engbretson Underwater Photo and Stories about the Freshwater Environments We Visit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Underwater in Hayward Wisconsin

Underwater Photography in Round Lake-Hayward, Wisconsin:

I just got back from a few days in the Hayward Lakes area shooting underwater images in Lake Owen, Round Lake and Whitefish Lakes near Hayward, WI.  Of all three lakes, the clarity in Round Lake seemed to be the best this time of year, although Lake Owen wasn't bad.  In Round Lake, I encountered twelve different species of fish at one dive site.  This is remarkable as it's pretty rare to encounter that kind of diverse fish community holding on a single piece of structure.  

While I've been to Round Lake in the past, I've never seen such a large and diverse group of fish in one place at one time as I did this week.  One element that I believe contributed to this was the increase in the invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil.  The site I was at had beautiful, dense, tall, beds of EWM.  I know the presence of this weed has been met with a good deal of concern from property owners on the lake, but it's absolutely a "fish magnet".  In a lake that otherwise doesn't have a lot of underwater elements to attract fish, these isolated beds of milfoil, if you can find them, will concentrate fish all season.  They also make strikingly attractive backdrops for underwater photography.  Although it's an invasive, this milfoil might actually improve a lake like Round Lake.  The water is deep enough that it will never impede boat or recreational traffic like many lakes in southern Wisconsin that are shallower, and native species of plants generally aren't thriving in this lake anyway.  If there was ever a lake that wouldn't be harmed by the presence of this invasive species, it would be Round Lake.  One of the key ways it would improve the lake would be by providing much needed cover for juvenile fish and minnows.  If left undisturbed, I think fishing in Round Lake for species like largemouth bass, crappie and bluegills will improve dramatically in the future.

For information on local diving in the Hayward Area, contact my friend Al Winsor at Winsor's Pro Diving, 15409 W County B Road.  (715) 634-5122
Al is a great guy who knows all the area lakes well.  He helped me out quite a bit and was very generous with his time and expertise.  He is a valuable resource of diving knowledge.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Walleyes Underwater

Underwater Walleye Pictures:
It's been my experience that photographing walleyes underwater in their natural habitat can be either ridiculously easy or extremely difficult.  I'm convinced that there's a lot of luck involved.  As most fisherman can attest to, even finding walleyes in a lake can be a tough assignment.  Some fish are especially sensitive to air bubbles from divers, and walleyes are one of these species that seem troubled by the unusual sound.  They will usually move away quickly when they hear the sounds of a diver's air bubbles streaming to the surface.   Other times, I've found walleye to be completely at ease with my approach, my bubbles and my general presence.  At these times I'm able to easily take close up pictures with my cameras just inches from the fish.  I've spent a great deal of time analyzing the various factors and conditions that sometimes make photographing walleye easy and sometimes make it impossible. 

After 17 years of encountering walleye underwater, I still don't have a definitive answer.   One theory I have is that if the fish feels secure, a close approach is possible.  If there are predators nearby, a lot of recreational watercraft traffic, or any other kind of perceived threat or disturbance, they will be anxious, nervous and "edgy".  When the lake is quiet and they feel secure near a piece of cover, they seem to be more relaxed and at ease.  I think it all has to do with a sense of safety.  Fisherman believe walleyes always prefer deep water and avoid light because of their sensitive eyes.  I don't think that's necessarily true, or the real reason why walleye seem to seek out deeper, darker water.  On some of the quieter lakes I visit, they can be found in very shallow, brightly sunlit water close to shore.  On busier lakes, they almost always seem to be in the deeper stretches.  It could be that the perceived threat to their safety has more to do with locations walleyes are found than depth or brightness of the sun.

I work with many fishing magazines and exceptional  walleye images are seemingly always in demand.  Consequently, I've spent a great deal of time learning about walleyes and their behavior to gain a better understanding of how to best find and approach them to take their pictures.  (Click here to view a gallery of some of my best walleye images.)  Certainly, being in the water with the fish gives you a glimpse of their "real" behavior-a snapshot few people ever see.  Correctly interpreting what you observe is another matter and is the beginning of understanding and wisdom.
Like all animals, walleyes have many secrets and as we begin to learn more about their endlessly fascinating lives, we'll be able to appreciate them more and more for their inherent beauty and magnificence.  I know I do.     

For more on walleye behavior, click here.