It seems as if some people are always going out and catching more fish than others … and that’s because they may well be doing so!
This can be extremely frustrating when you’re putting in the same time without the rewards. However, getting the results consistently is no fluke occurrence, it’s achieved by plenty of time on the water spent experimenting, learning and forever trying to up-skill aspects of fishing in some shape or form.
This has certainly been the case for me. Over the years I have refined my knowledge and tested it repeatedly while out fishing. Consequently, the following tips are likely to provide a base that enables you to bring home a feed more regularly.
Gathering ‘intel’ is the very first thing I do before going fishing. The process normally starts at least two days out and often continues as I fish. Time spent prior to getting on the water will save you time when actually on the water, so more time can be spent productively fishing.
So what is Intel? Well, for fishing purposes it includes (but is not limited to): weather reports; bite times; local knowledge; fishing reports ; when the best fishing conditions will be; and when the fish will be biting. So let’s break it down.
Fish are part of nature and thus affected by it. Knowing how our target species interacts with nature will give you a great head start – but the problem is there’s so much information out there, it can be a little overwhelming. Whether it’s lunar cycles, water temperatures, tidal movement, seasons, wind direction – the list goes on. You can easily find yourself in the paralysis of analysis!
Luckily, more fastidious fishermen than me have diligently chronicled, studied and documented the effects these variables have had on their fishing – and we get to reap the benefits of their hard work. Below are two of my favourite ones to get you started – favourite because they work and are easy to find on the internet!
One of these benefits is the documented ‘bite times’. The bite times take some of the hard work out of guessing when the fish will be in feeding mode. They consist of major and minor bite times throughout a 24-hour day, depending on solunar periods. You can find them freely available on the internet and printed in various forms.
Wind direction is another important variable. The old saying, ‘When the wind blows from the south, fish shut their mouths, but when the wind blows from the west, the fishing is best,’ certainly holds true. It is also important to note the strength and direction of the wind when drifting
(I like a drift of between 0.5 and 0.8 knots when soft-baiting). This aspect also plays a big part when setting up a berley trail for stray-lining with bait: try to get the wind and tide heading in the same direction.
Tidal movement plays a big too, as fish feed better when current is present. So look for areas affected by stronger tidal movement, especially around structure and channels. Plan to be on your spot and setting up during slack tide so you can make the most of the running tide.
Sunrise and sunset remain my favourite times to fish. The low light levels seem to give larger fish a sense of security. When bite times align with early morning or evening, you can be in for an epic session.
Fish often remain in the same areas for extended periods of time. Gathering first-hand human Intel and getting to the same area soon afterwards can definitely increase your chances of a good catch.
It used to be hard to find human Intel unless you knew a good bugger who wanted to help, or a cocky bastard who wanted to boast. These days, however, you can find both types willing to share their fishing stories with you through the internet’s forum websites.
Websites such as fishing.net are invaluable for providing some idea where the schooling snapper are holding. Don’t expect a ‘Spot X’, but combined with the hints to follow, you won’t need it. I always look on the forums to see where to start my fish hunt, especially if it has been a while since I was last out. Remember that it is better to give than to receive, though: once you’re catching a few – or even if you’re not – be sure to get involved in the internet’s fishing community and put up a report of your own. You may even enjoy it.
If you’ve got mates who go out a bit and do well, contacting them for some help won’t hurt. If they are good friends, they’ll more than likely provide a few tips, and even if they won’t, you might get lucky and find they want to rub your face in it. Either way you get the good oil.
Still a fairly new phenomena, social media has provided an indispensable, up-to-the-minute Intel resource at our fingertips. We’re pretty much all on it, and those companies and individuals looking to sell fishing products have cottoned onto this. The benefit for them is advertising exposure, while the benefit for us are free – and often very recent – reports on where the fish are biting or the work-ups are happening.
There are now multitudes of these fishing-related facebook pages; simply like a few, and once again you can tap into another source of valuable Intel. I’ve certainly been helped out on occasion when striking a blank out wide by checking Facebook on my phone, to find the work-up I’ve been hunting all day is only minutes away. Gold!
Have a look at different charter-boat facebook pages and fishing company pages: Shimano, Ocean Angler, Diversity Charters and, of course, NZ Fishing News magazine. Theses are just a few of the pages that give regular insights as to where the fish are and how to catch them.
Boy, have these creatures made fishing EASY. In my opinion, birds and marine mammals are the best indicators of baitfish presence and, therefore, predatory fish such as snapper and kingfish, which will likely be feeding on the small fish.
You don’t need a fish-finder, you don’t need the very best fishing gear – all you need is a your preferred method of fishing and a good pair of eyes!
For this reason I always carry binoculars, and am ALWAYS on the lookout for any signs of bird or marine life in feeding mode. No matter what plan of attack I have come up with through my Intel gathering and pre-planning, I always stay alert for these creatures’ presence.
Again, a bit of research and experience is needed to understand which species should be looked for and what they should be doing.
If birds such as gannets, shearwaters or terns appear to be chasing something in the water, there’s a good chance it’s the same baitfish the predatory fish we’re hunting are after, too.
Gannets tightly circling high or dive-bombing the water are the best indicators, although terns feeding and skipping across the water are also worth investigation. As for shearwaters sitting and feeding on the surface in large numbers, this is normally a sign of baitfish beneath. So work the edges with your soft-baits, and prospect any marks showing on your sounder, especially those closer to the bottom.
Add dolphins and whales to the mix with any of the above and you could be in for the day of your life.
Remember that these feeding frenzies of nature are the food chain in action in all its glory. Baitfish balled up tight by marine mammals or other predators are then attacked via the air by birds. If you race into the middle of this wonderful event you are likely to disrupt it and disperse the baitfish. Chances are the food fest will stop before it’s even got started. So, as well as not catching any fish, you’re likely to catch some verbal abuse if anyone else is around. Instead, approach slowly and work the edges of the work-up. If you have a sounder, try and identify snapper as small eyebrow shapes beneath what will likely be mid-water baitfish sign. Once marks are located, drift through them, returning slowly up the drift line when you stop catching.
Put simply, purchasing and knowing how to use a decent fish-finder/chart-plotter will quite likely be the biggest factors when it comes to achieving consistently successful fishing. I know this, because when I finally shelled out for a good quality unit, it made an immediate impact on my ability to find the fish, and, just as importantly, my ability to relocate them once I drifted off them.
Remember, when we choose to soft-bait or slow-jig, we are actively hunting the fish, rather than anchoring and berleying to attract the fish to us. Consequently, our only option is to go and find them; that’s why a fish-finder\chart-plotter combo will pay for itself in no time.
My fish-finder goes on as soon as the boat’s in the water, and I constantly monitor it along the way to my pre-planned fishing destinations. Just as important as the fish-finder is the transducer attached to it: a great fish-finder with a budget transducer won’t gather a clear picture of the bottom or pick up sign while underway at a reasonable speed.
If I see sign close to the bottom or large schools of bait on the screen at any time while driving, I quickly circle back and have a closer look. This is done by doubling back along my ‘route’ line (a black or coloured line left behind the boat symbol on most chart-plotters), locating the sign, and then positioning the boat so a soft-bait/slow-jig can be dropped down. If I have no luck, I simply continue on.
As you learn to read your fish-finder better, you will gain a greater understanding of what different ‘sign’ looks like. When starting out, everything near the bottom of the sounder that’s not the bottom may look like schools of snapper. To get a better picture of what the target species look like on your particular sounder, try the following: when hooking onto your target species, whether it’s snapper or kingfish, take the time to pry yourself away from the side of the boat and look at your sounder. Taking a screen shot or a simple mental note of the activity’s appearance will give you the confidence to identify target species in the future.
I always split-screen my chart-plotter with the fish-finder – or, if they’re separate units, run both at the same time. Although a chart-plotter is brilliant for providing map detail for navigation and fishing purposes, this is not the number one reason for using it. Rather, it gives an immediate indication of my drift direction and, more importantly, the ability to accurately and effectively re-drift an area. I mark fish as I come across them on the sounder, so after drifting off, I can simply drive up-current back to my mark, position the boat according to the drift line, and start catching again.
So there you have it. By utilising the many sources of Intel at our disposal, it’s possible to not only catch more fish, but also do it more quickly and cheaply – and that’s got to be a win-win-win situation.nz
The huge amount of information available both on and off the water, means anglers can spend more time hooked up.
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