You’ve just been plunked down with a rod and reel on a lake you’ve never seen in your life. So where are the fish? Why, around the structure, of course.

In the lexicon of fishing terms, structure can mean everything from boat docks to underwater boulders. Fish are drawn to structure for shade, forage and protection. Along the shores of any lake you’ll see downed trees, stumps, lily pads, cattails, and floating docks. This is structure in its most obvious form.

Basically, the same principles apply on a river. Here you’re looking for anything that creates a pocket, seam or break in the current where fish can get out of the main flow and watch for morsels floating by. A rock midstream creates a pool or pocket of slack water behind it. A beaver-chewed aspen tree fallen with its brushy top in the water — called a sweeper — works likewise. And don’t forget the deep, slow-moving water typically found at river bends.

Bob Butz writes from Lake Ann. His recent book, Beast of Never, Cat of God, about a possible remnant cougar population in Michigan, is available in bookstores and on the Web.