Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor sports in the world. There are many reasons and benefits to go fishing, such as for fun, for social bonding with family and friends, to relief stress, to get fit (especially if you are paddling and fishing), as well as to contribute to wildlife conservation. Below are some quoted data showing the economic impacts of recreational fishing on Canadian and U.S. economies.
$8.3 billion were spent by anglers in Canada in 2010.
$5.8 billion on durable goods related to recreational fishing activities.
$2.5 billion on fishing expenditures during fishing trips.
— Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada 2010.
$24.6 billion were contributed by anglers to the U.S. economy in 2012.
$20 billion on durable fishing-related equipment.
$4.6 billion on fishing trips.
— Fisheries Economics of The U.S. 2012: National Overview.
Once I read somewhere online saying that “A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good Day at Work.” So, great, many of us enjoy fishing. But, there are always days when fish are finicky. And you have to deal with snags, line twists, and bad weather, etc. Yes, those are part of fishing. That being said, we all want to be successful every time we go fishing, right? Definitely. Now, the question is: how can we catch any fish species successfully and consistently?
The Art of War by Sun Tze says “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles”. It is also true when it comes to fishing. You need to know the the fish you are targeting, the area you go fishing, and talk to local people who fish there regularly, if possible. Here are 6 factors I believe every fishermen or fisherwomen need to know to catch any specific fish species successfully and consistently.
Fish need shelters to hide from predators, hide and wait for their meals to swim by, or simply shade themselves from sunlight. These shelters include rocks, stumps or sunken tress, lily pads, reeds or other aquatic plants. In rivers or creeks where there could be strong currents, fish also need to rest and/or feed in back eddies, deep pools, and river bends etc.; or behind islands, bridge or dam structures, etc.
Fish feed on a variety of forage. But they do have their preferences depending on fish species and locations. Common fish forage include minnows (e.g., smelts and shiners, etc.), shrimp, crawfish, aquatic insects and their nymphs (e.g., bloodworms, mayflies, dragon flies, and stoneflies, etc.), terrestrial insects, fish eggs, mollusks (e.g., clams and snails, etc.), earthworms, algae, and plant matters.
Fish feel comfortable in their preferred ranges of temperature for many reasons. Higher temperature usually means less dissolved (available to fish) oxygen, increased metabolism (fish get hungry faster), respiration and oxygen demand. Change of temperature is one of the key components for seasonal and diurnal movement patterns of fish.
According to Kikolsky (1963), “The behavior of fish, particularly their diurnal activity and many other aspects of their life, are significantly related to the degree of illumination”. Fish are influenced by light in terms of their metabolism, coloration, breeding, and also predation. Sight-orientated fish (e.g., rainbow trout) feed actively mostly during the day, usually with feeding peaks in early mornings and evenings. Other fish like burbot/ling may become active at night. On sunny days, fish may hide themselves in covers. On cloudy days, fish may be more scattered.
A sonar fish finder may tell you a lot about structures beneath your boat, the surface water temperature, and the thermocline.
Read my post: how to use fish finders to help you catch more fish
Fish get their oxygen via their gills. Some fish can tolerate lower oxygen level than others. The amount of dissolved oxygen changes with water temperature, water movements, water depth, and the amount of algae and others in the water.
Fishermen have long discovered the positive correlation between upcoming low barometric pressure and increased feeding activities of fish. The barometric pressure tends to be lower when the weather is stormy. Right before (could be hours before) the storm comes, fish tend to feed heavily. No one knows exactly why and many factors including the factors discussed above affect the behavior of fish each day.
Below are some Rule-of-Thumbs (not exact science) that you may want to know about barometric pressure, typical weather, and feeding activities of fish
About to drop and dropping barometric pressure: The weather is going to become stormy. Fish feed actively. Great time for fishing.
Low barometric pressure: The weather is stormy. Fish dive deep, hide in covers, tend not to feed. Bad time for fishing.
About to rise and rising barometric pressure: The weather is becoming better. Fish may still need some time (maybe up to one day) to adjust themselves after the bad weather and start feeding normally.
Normal and high barometric pressure: The weather is good with some clouds or clear skies. Fish feed normally. Good time for fishing.
What’s the best time to go fishing?
Recall that I quoted earlier in this article “A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good Day at Work.”. So that leads to the answer: the best time to go fishing is when you have time and you are OK with the weather. Once I fished Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta in a stormy day, even though I was caught in the heavy rain and got wet all over, I was happy as I had a wonderful time catching fish one after another. About 20 minutes before the storm, fish were biting like crazy. Meanwhile, I could see thick and dark clouds coming toward my kayak along with the wind (~20 km/hr). Anyways, that was a fantastic experience.
Where to go fishing and how to find good fishing spots?
Lakes and streams are not all created equal in terms of fishery. Some waters may offer great walleye fishery while others may be fabulous in bass fishing, or maybe trout fishing. So, you want to do you research online or talk to experienced people if you can. All in all, you need to find out there the fish are holding in the first place. And then you can focus on how to catch them. Enough said, here are some good spots you should look for:
Drop-offs, mid-lake humps, dips, and rock outcroppings offer sharp depth gradient. Fish like to hold at these structures because it’s easy for them to access different depths of water for various reasons including to adjust themselves to changes of food availability, temperature, light, oxygen availability, etc.
Ledges, tree stumps, sunken trees, lily pads, and reeds offer great shelters for fish to hide from predator or wait for ambushing a swimming-by bait fish. In addition, these structures offer places for aquatic plants, aquatic insects, and mollusks and so forth to live in, which attracts both bait fish and predator fish.
Outflow/inflow river/creek mouths provide ample forage, oxygen, and often eddies, deep pools for fish to feed and rest.
Sandy or rocky bottoms may be good places for some fish to spawn in.
Rocky points together with waves create oxygen.
To sum up, these areas/structures provide fish with shelter, forage, oxygen, and easy access to different water depths to adjust to changes of temperature, air pressure, and light conditions. Fish always move around, but they don’t move just randomly. They need to stay comfortable. That’s why every fishermen should keep the 6 factors we just discussed in mind to catch fish successfully AND consistently. The next step is to present your carefully chosen baits or lures to them and get many bites.
An interesting side note:
90/10 Rule-of-Thumb: 90% of the fishing time is spent on finding fish while only 10% on catching them. 90% of the fish is located in 10% of the water.