It always happens when you least expect it. You make your way down to a spot only to find another fisherman there catching fish at will. Try as you might you just can’t seem to figure out the puzzle meanwhile the other guy hooks up on every cast. Thoughts start flooding into your brain as frustration sets in. What do you do? Is it his lure? Maybe it’s the spot. Should you move closer? Can you move closer? Maybe he won’t mind the company, maybe he will…
I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us have experienced this scenario at least once in the time that we’ve been fishing. I know for sure that it’s happened to me on more than one occasion. I also remember feeling helpless in those instances, but I’m here to tell you that all is not lost, it just takes a little patience. By taking the time to look at things in other ways we can give ourselves a better understanding to what we pursue in fishing. Some would think of this situation as a rite of passage in the ways of proper “etiquette,” but I see it as more of a learning curve.
Let’s start with the scenario mentioned above. Time and time again I have witnessed someone on a hot bite only to be swarmed within minutes by other fishermen who get a little too anxious when they realize what is happening. While yes I understand why fishermen (myself included) have the urge to do this, I often find that it’s unnecessary. Whether it’s on the beach or by boat, for some reason fishermen feel the need to suddenly gather next to the person with the hot hand.
What gets overlooked in the process however is why the one fisherman working a certain stretch of water is doing all of the catching. There’s usually a simple answer that can be applied to other areas, but it’s a hard concept to understand when anglers see fish after fish being caught. In this scenario more often than not I find myself pulling away from the pack and observing. Instead of running right up to a guy on a bite I’ll watch for other variables to come into play. Is he fishing structure? Is he casting on an angle? Why are the fish in this spot at this time? Is there bait present, etc. Taking a moment to ask yourself these questions will help you to not only learn how to find your own success, but also not impede on others in the process. I’m also not an expert by any means but when the fish are stacked in one given area, chances are they’ll be somewhere else where there are less crowds. Learning how to be respectful towards others working a stretch of water is always a good practice and it usually bodes well after everything is said and done.
After you’ve taken a minute to observe make a game plan and stick to it.I remember a particular bite I had one day all alone with school-sized stripers smashing poppers at sunrise. As it got later into the morning however, word got out as more and more anglers moved into the area I was fishing. It got hectic quickly as fishermen rushed to the scene, lines often being crossed in anticipation of the steady action. Instead of letting frustration get to me, I formed a plan to hit a spot I’d been meaning to try that morning but hadn’t gotten around to. With a quick decision I left the developing crowd of people and fish to give it a go. Arriving at my new destination I discovered that not only was I alone again, but there were bass setup here as well. These bass however were much larger than the schoolies of the previous spot, and my first four hookups were from fish in the low to mid-teens.
Since that day I always make it a point to be constantly on the move until the fish tell me to stop. I feel as if sometimes the worst thing an angler can do is become complacent, and ever since I learned that fact, it’s made a world of difference. The point being is I was able to turn a seemingly frustrating situation into a rather productive one. The developing crowd in my first spot forced me to think differently and try something new. As a result, I was on a new body of fish I never would have found without thinking first, thus putting the learning curve into play. You never know what lies around the next corner if you don’t look, and in my case it was a lesson I’ll never forget.
Speaking of gathering crowds it’s also worth noting the effects that social media may have in regards to the areas we fish. In today’s society we as anglers have limitless access to knowledge in the form of technology, which has spilled over into the fishing world via social media. I personally don’t mind social media, but I also have used my learning curve logic to develop a mutual respect for it. In short I feel as if it can be a very useful tool, but we must also be careful with how much we let social media control our fishing experiences. I can fully understand the want of posting a fish picture (especially of a nice fish) on a website or Facebook page. Let’s face it half the joy of catching a big fish is to know we caught it, and we want to preserve that memory the best we can. I do feel however that we should promote good practices in regards to how much information we give with ease over the internet.
Obviously the fisherman posting has the power to choose what he deems acceptable regarding the whereabouts and details of his catch. With that being said, I personally try my best to consider other anglers that may frequent a spot on a regular basis before I think to show or add extensive information. To me, putting in some hard earned hours on the water does the soul a whole lot better than being told specifics. Also no matter how glued to a computer screen one may be, the information being told is still old news; a bite can change at the drop of a dime. Overall though you decide which side of the fence you fall on. If you do choose to share information however, try to do so in a respectful manner. Much like anything said in public there is a right time to say and do things, and if we hold true to those ideals we can never go wrong. We live on a pretty crowded island with a lot of people fishing, so learning how to productively edit ourselves I feel benefits us all in the long run.
Lastly it always amazes me when fishing with others how many anglers simply aren’t thinking outside of the box. What I mean by this is I’m sure everyone has fished next to someone who only throws one lure the entire time he or she is out on the water. To me this is the worst possible thing anyone can do to maximize their catch rates, and I’d know because I used to be one of those guys. If you find yourself falling into the trap of “it worked yesterday,” learn to recognize this mistake and try something new. No matter where or when we fish, conditions are always changing. Bait is constantly on the move, sandbars form or diminish with any given strong storm, and current flow is never the same with each tide. With that apply the learning curve to your conditions and adapt. Learn how to use different lures or bait and recognize under which scenarios they will work their best. By doing this you might even find a lure or bait that takes an edge over others in certain areas. Yes I do believe that some tackle manufacturers make their products for the fisherman and not necessarily for the fish, but if you find yourself saying “that looks like it’ll work,” pick it up and test your theory.
While everything mentioned here may take some personal trial and error, I think it’s always best to be on the learning curve as much as possible. Always try new things and when the going gets tough or you feel yourself getting frustrated, step back, take a minute, and re-assess. No time on the water is ever wasted time and there’s always something new to see if you look. The biggest reward that fishing has given me is the fact that I don’t and never will know it all. I always try to challenge myself and I urge you to do the same. As we get into the bulk of this fishing season, take a day and go against the grain of your normal routine and see what it holds in store for you. Better yet the next time your honey hole gets crowded or internet reports start giving up the goods, I encourage you to take the path less traveled when it happens. Who knows what you’ll come to learn in the process but there’s one thing I can guarantee, the lesson will be worth remembering.