We got to talking a bit and the result of the conversation frankly surprised me a bit. Take a typical weekend for me. I fish roughly 6 hours on one of the weekend days. My girlfriend quickly replies… “NO! You go fishing roughly 20 to 30 hours per week!” I reply “NO WAY!” I know better than to absolutely deny her point.
“Let’s take a look at your fishing schedule” she says. “Let’s start with Friday.”
Friday: 2 hours of prep time to get gear ready and load the car.
Saturday: 8 hours of driving. 6 hours of fishing. 2 Hours of dealing with the fish once you get home.
Sunday: 3 hours to edit video and post up reports.
Monday through Thursday: Minimum 1 hour a day reading and posting on forums and researching the next trip.
“WHOA WHOA WHOA….” I stop her right there because I am offended. Only ONE hour of forums and research? I do a LOT more than that!!! She frowns and I know I just made my situation worse….
So the total does appear to be 30 hours or more per week I spend on fishing. DANG! Well I am hopelessly addicted to it and if my addiction feeds the family?
But my point after this long introduction is that research is really the key to my success when combined with a healthy dose of perseverance.
I enjoy researching my quarry almost as much as I enjoy catching and eating them! Most of us know to glance through the fishing forums, call a few friends, and talk to folks at the local sporting good stores. That's research 101. But there is an entirely different level of information that I believe is often overlooked by the casual fisherman: Scientific research papers. This is research 201!
Next time you are looking for more information on your target species, try researching the subject from a biologist’s perspective. Here’s an example.
Until recently I had never fished for the feeder kings in Homer, Alaska. I checked the forums and got in touch with a few guides to pick their brains. Seemed simple enough. Troll herring behind a flasher and wait for the strike. Taking the advice I managed to catch a few fish that only served to stoke the quest for more information.
So the first thing I did was examine the fish I caught. They were filled with sandlances. Then why was everyone using herring for bait? Well because it works and is commercially available where sandlances are not. I googled “Ammodytes hexapterus AND Kachemak Bay.” Well what do you know! Sandlances are the predominant forage species in the bay! A summer trawl survey showed something on the order of two-thirds of the biomass in the bay was sandlances. I bet 9 out of 10 people would have answered herring as the primary forage in the area. So of course I start using lures that better imitate a sandlance versus a herring and my catch rate improved.
Another report outlined the spawning habits of the sandlances in Kachemak Bay and it clearly showed why I was catching the fish at a certain season versus others. This led me to focus more on water temperature to induce spawning in sandlances versus the typical searches on correlation of water temperature to sportfishing for king salmon.
What’s a good time to fish for Kings, I also pondered. Do I really need to get up early and hit first light? The normal searches didn’t turn up much. But once again, thinking like a biologist, I scoured the internet using terminology such as : Diurnal and Diel cycles. Well what do you know! Someone has actually done research on stomach fullness of juvenile kings in California. The early bird DOES get the worm!
While my example is Alaska specific, it would not surprise me to learn that all the other regions have great information that is being missed. Give it a try and see if you don’t learn more about your favorite species. The more you know, the more you will catch!
So in a quick summary:
1) Try searching the Latin name of the species you are after.
2) Use scientific terminology on searches. Don’t google “do bass bite better in the morning.” But rather try “Diel feeding patterns of Micropterus salmoides”
3) Think about what influences the fishing. Currents, salinity, temperature both air and water, sunlight, terrain (kelp beds, mud, clay, gravel, shells, etc), Chlorophyll levels, commercial fishing seasons…all play a role. Trying researching those specific subjects rather than just searching for “How to catch salmon in Alaska.”
4) Contact your local fish and game biologist. Most are super nice people who LOVE what they do. If you ask, I have found its often harder to stop them from feeding you info than giving it in the first place!
5) Most importantly, test the information you have gained. No amount of research is a substitute for time on the water!