There is nothing like the satisfaction of hunting and finding your own fish.
Everyone loves a gift, right? Growing up in a civilized society, we are groomed on birthdays and holidays. Gifting is part of our culture as Americans. In fishing, I suspect we have all received different kinds of “gifts” at one time or another. A captain sharing GPS coordinates to a wreck that holds tautog in the spring and fall while housing fluke in the summer? Oh yeah, that’s the kind that every angler likes to have bestowed upon them. Striped bass anglers being told what jetty is firing and when is a gift. You get the idea.
We all love an occasional freebee that produces a bountiful catch. And it’s important to really show appreciation to those doing the giving and reciprocate as soon as possible. But some folks have become overly reliant and forget about the thrill of the hunt. There is nothing like the satisfaction of hunting and finding your own fish! Whether on foot or by craft—locating and successfully catching without the assistance of others creates an unparalleled ‘warm and fuzzy feeling’. Plus, the educational derivative can help future trips yield the same spoils. For example, if an angler can identify habitat that draws their quarry, then their brain will begin to learn how to find new and similar spots. The thinking pattern is altered from taking the easiest, linear path.
In the salt, ‘desert’ bottom is seldom the best place to fish. Natural hard structure, live bottom, strategically place pieces, maritime wrecks, humps and holes all attract fish. Once a bottom bouncer learns or is shown how to fish a wreck or rocky outcropping for fluke, tog and sea bass, they can use the inaugural event to branch out. That first experience can catapult aggressive anglers into seek-and-find missions in pursuit of similar environments. Charts, books, state-released GPS coordinates and a host of other sources create the genesis for an intense hunt for new structures. It does, in fact, require time away from proven spots to find new ones. However, that is part of the fun and will lead to a catalogue of fishing spots. In the long term, passing up a few fish on the front end in order to find new spots will pay dividends over a lifetime.
One example of how an angler can expand their mindset to hunt: Bottom fisherman Bob can use the information from his limit fluke outing on structure to lead his search for new areas to try. Let me elaborate. If Bob score’s a box of fluke in 60 feet, he’s best to try additional rocks and wrecks in the depths of 55 to 65 feet and similar distance from the beach.
Hunting pelagic fish is the same. Whether trolling or jigging for bluefin or yellowfin tuna, once an angler learns how the humps, lumps and canyon walls work to hold bait, and therefore fish, they can gradually break away from the fleet to find features on their own. Moreover, understanding what to look for on the sounder screen in terms of bait such as squid or sand eels can improve angler odds dramatically. Sure, tuna, mahi, and marlin can be found in the open ocean; however, captains that put together a variety of check-and-see spots that have plans A, B, C, D and so on. So when the intelligence chain comes up empty, and the masses aren’t catching, skippers that have hunted new locations have back-pocket places to try.
Some of the land-based anglers are the biggest hunters and don’t even know it. Whether it’s largemouth or striped bass, many of these guys know how to hunt and those who don’t should take notice so they too can get after it. Remember being a kid and walking around entire ponds to throw crank baits and topwater lures along each bank? These children, and adults for that matter, know how to stay on the move and hunt for fish. Although they might catch along any old edge, the lake contours that have points, concrete, rocks, docks and plant life often catch best. The brain gets trained to continue to look for those features.
Striped bass anglers hoofing it on land are a continuation in a sense. Those that follow the migration based on catch reports can fish the beaches and perches where the bass are passing. The hunters don’t stay put long, they seek sloughs, gullies and pockets to cast plugs or bait. They study the tides, currents, and wind to put together a plan where to fish. No luck? They drive up and down the coastline by beach or by road looking for a new spot to try. It’s effort. It’s also time-consuming. But when doing the work on your own produces that huge cow release, it’s so much more rewarding apply the mindset of some of these ways of hunting to other types of fishing and you will see your catch rate go up tenfold.