Never argue with the fish

Have you ever wondered why some fishermen are so successful?

Almost certainly one of the primary reasons a few anglers are so successful is that they spend a lot of time on the water. Just as certainly, they pay attention. Some of the most successful anglers keep notes about their fishing experiences.

But that is just basic stuff, some of the same basic stuff you should have learned in public schools.

The real lessons of major importance are learned through experience and by listening to other anglers. If you are near home you know plenty of anglers who will talk about fishing. If you are visiting a lake, ask the waitress wherever you stop for a meal, ask the clerk at a convenience store, most importantly ask as a local bait and tackle shop.

Note that you are more likely to get the right information, on average, from a shop that sells bait and tackle versus just tackle.

Ignore just about anything said by anyone who claims to catch fish every time they are on the water. Place your trust in anglers who admit to a reasonable number of defeats. Most of the anglers who you know catch plenty of fish do not have any deep, dark secrets. Well, maybe a few. But the majority of their success can be attributed to a good understanding of when fishing might be good, where fishing might be good, and what might be the best fish to target.

This is what I usually term ‘fishing the peaks’.

Once past the basic level of fishing, anglers soon learn that there is a best time to fish for all sport fish. Just knowing this is not the same as understanding it. Anglers often try to relate the best fishing to season, or water temperature, or phase of the moon. There can be little doubt that all of these factors can affect fishing. Probably more important as part of the best fishing peaks, though, is length of sunlight in the days. This is often the trigger for fish activities.

Usually considering all factors is the best way to predict fishing peaks. Also a most convenient way to explain failures.

Fishing the right places is just as important as when. Where to fish is talked about more often that when to fish because most serious anglers fish whenever they get the opportunity. Some of these anglers even learn how to catch fish when fishing is generally poor. This is fun.

What fish to target may have been the first thing an angler considered, or the first thing a pair of anglers discussed. There is no truly logical order in discussing these things.

Very often a couple of fishing buddies will recall that steelhead fishing on the Niagara River is usually great if the water is not muddy nor clogged with ice, or August is a good time to fly fish with terrestrials on a particular stretch of a creek, or maybe the best time to catch bigger walleye at the tailwaters is during the cold water months. Patterns such as these already supply the time, place and fish.

Then there is the next thing to consider, how to fish. Beginning anglers often try to start with how. A great deal of what you read, hear or watch on television about fishing stresses how to catch fish. Beginning anglers may get so enmeshed in this that they are forever looking for some secret how.

Decide how you plan to fish after you have already determined when and where you will fish, and what fish you will target.

Having a favorite fishing method can be an obstacle to catching fish. One classic example is the dry fly purist. This puts challenge ahead of success. Of course that is fine as long as you really comprehend what you are doing and accept that challenge and the limitations.

Unfortunately some anglers feel pressured into becoming purists of one form or another. If you are a beginning angler be forewarned, becoming stuck on any narrowly defined type of fishing means one of two things. Either you will not fish often, and/or you probably will often get skunked, which is an apt synonym for the stench of defeat.

Here is something that I hope you will accept on faith, those of you who do not already know this.

We live in one of the best places in North America for fishing peaks. Allowing for ambient conditions that can make fishing impossible, fishing for something is peaking at almost any time of the year. This includes a great variety of fish, more than anglers anywhere else could hope for. Close enough for a one-day fishing outing, you may find good fishing for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, white crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, muskellunge, northern pike, rock bass, yellow perch, walleye, striped bass, white bass, white perch, channel catfish, flathead catfish, bullhead, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, lake trout, steelhead, chinook salmon, coho salmon, smelt, carp, various suckers, burbot and bowfin. I must have overlooked others.

Get out there and enjoy it, even this disturbing year.