Skunks suck.?? No, not the black and white and smelly all over four-legged variety. I’m talking about getting shut out by the fish – you know, going out on a fishing trip and posting a big, fat doughnut at the end of the day.?? Skunkings happen to even the best of us from time-to-time, but there are ways you can reduce their frequency. So here we go, here’s the cure for the common skunk…
Don’t Think Like a Fish
You hear the phrase “think like a fish” a lot in angling circles but I have a tough time with that one. Fish aren’t contemplative critters, but rather simple animals with simple needs. Don’t over think them – just figure out what they need to survive and you’ll find ’em.
Some of the obvious ones are structure, food, proper water temperature and amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. Once you understand what the basic needs are of the fish you’re pursuing, you’re half way home. Read books, talk to biologists at the Department of Fish and Game, quiz local anglers, surf the Web – do anything you can to learn more about the biology of fish and their habits. The more information you can get on your target species, the more likely you will be able to find them and put the right bait or lure in front of them.
For example, when I’m steelhead fishing and the water is high, murky and very cold, I know that the fish will be migrating up the soft water along the margins of the river. That eliminates 95 percent of the river channel and enables me to fish exactly where the fish are. I know where the fish are because I’ve studied their habits and requirements. It’s not brain surgery, but it does take some time to piece it all together.
With fishing, like so many other pursuits in life, confidence is everything and you’ve gotta have it to be successful. You need to be confident in your game plan – if not you’ll start second-guessing yourself and that has a tendency to snowball and get ugly in a hurry.
Should I use the red lure…no, wait, the blue one. Maybe pink? I think I’ll run the downrigger down to 45 feet. Well, wait a second…perhaps that’s too deep. Yea, that’s too deep. I’m gonna set it at 20 feet. But isn’t that a little too shallow?
When you’re feeling good about what you’re doing, you tend to fish more effectively and efficiently, and that’s going to lead to more fish in the box.
While it’s a good idea to stick to stuff you have confidence in, you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new when your favorite offering or technique isn’t cutting it. That’s how trends are started and bad days sometimes turn into epic ones. If people stuck to the standard methods, you’d never see anglers using plastic worms for steelhead, trout-sized spoons for stripers, crappie jigs for shad, bass plugs for salmon and a whole host of other techniques that are now common practice.
Observe Your Surroundings
Sometimes, you can know every aspect of the fish you are after and the water they inhabit – yet, still you can’t catch anything to save your life. That’s usually when I start looking around for clues.?? Pay attention to the little details in and around the water you’re fishing and look for something different. Maybe the water level dropped overnight or the temperature changed. Maybe the crawfish began molting and the fish switched over to eating them instead of shad. Maybe that evening hatch you always count on is late this season and the trout are only taking nymphs.?? In short, keep your eyes open – the keys to success are often out there. It’s your job to spot them.
Invest the Time
Trying to figure out the patterns at your local lake, the bay, seven different rivers and the ol’ farm pond all at once can be an extremely overwhelming task. Instead, pick a water you’re really interested in and fish it every chance you get.?? Don’t only go when you’ve heard there’s a hot bite – go when the fishing isn’t so hot, too. Go when the sun’s out and when it’s raining. Get intimate with a particular area and the patterns will slowly materialize.
Keep a log or journal of where you were fishing, when, what you caught, time of day, water temperature, lures or baits that worked, weather and any other factors you can think of. Do this over time, and you will have a good idea of what to expect from your lake or stream year in and year out.
If you keep all these concepts in mind and incorporate them into your fishing game plan, you’ll get less frequent visits from the dreaded skunk in the future.