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Entries in Why We Fish (216)


For Fish And Fishermen: A Real Shocker . . . 

(The following is from Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.)

When I became conservation writer for B.A.S.S., the first thing that I learned is that fisheries biologists are an angler’s best friends. In 30 years, I haven’t changed my mind. 

They are the source for information about bass behavior and biology, as well as fisheries management. And it is their field work that enables the states to maintain quality fisheries. Without them, chances are that many of us wouldn’t be fishing.

Electrofishing is one of the most important --- and least understood--- aspects of that field work. Want to learn what electrofishing is all about and how it and help you catch more fish? Ride along.

Rules vary from state to state, but an angler can volunteer to go along on an electrofishing survey in many of them. It’s one of several ways to get to know our best friends. You also can volunteer to help with cleanups, putting out fish attractors, and planting aquatic vegetation. Also, you can assist with kids’ events sponsored by your state wildlife agency and help out in the booth during a weekend outdoor show.

“We encourage people to become involved,” Florida biologist Bill Pouder told me.

You’d rather just fish? No problem. You still can learn what the biologists are discovering during their electrofishing surveys. Oklahoma biologist Gene Gilliland suggests “following along behind at a safe distance.

“Watch what the biologists turn up and make note of the habitat each fish comes from,” he continues. “When they stop to work up the catch, ask them to show you what they are collecting and fill you in on the latest survey results.

“It might surprise you to see what you’ve been missing.”

Gilliland says that electrofishing is fast, efficient, and non-lethal.”

“It allows us to catch large numbers of fish for length, weight, growth, and diet information,” adds Georgia’s Jim Hakala. “It allows us to see how well the fish are growing, weak and strong year classes, average fish size, how robust the population is, and, often, at what size anglers begin to pick up the harvest on a certain bass species.”

What might you learn by riding along on a survey or talking to a fisheries biologist about his work? Sometimes, you uncover something that will help you during a specific season:

Hakala once found frogs in the bellies of largemouth bass in February.

“I figured that the frogs they were eating were starting to emerge from the mud on the lake bottom,” he theorizes. “As they stirred, they became easy prey for the largemouths. So the potential for an angler to throw a sinking frog imitation and be successful in February, when frog patterns aren’t on an angler’s mind, was potentially identified by the diet study.”

Other valuable information is timeless:

“There are many times more bass out there than you could ever imagine,” says Gilliland

He explains that an electrofishing boat can make a pass down a shoreline and then a make second pass, collecting fish that were missed the first time.

“I guarantee that if I can’t shock them all in one pass, you can’t catch them all in one pass either,” he says. “If you catch a bass, fish that area again. That fish was there for a reason.

“Something attracted it to that area and chances are there are more bass in the same vicinity that were attracted for the same reasons.”

The same strategy, he adds, should apply to a single piece of cover. Many likely looking stumps, bushes, and laydowns will yield no fish to the shocker, but one, for no apparent reason, might give up four or five bass.

“If you catch a bass, fish that cover thoroughly, and make it a point to visit that spot again later in the day.”

Fish in thick cover, he adds, often have food in their stomachs. He believes that’s because they’ve been out foraging and have returned to a safe place to digest their meals. Bass in open areas, however, often have empty bellies “because they are actively searching for that next meal.”

To profit from this electrifying insight, throw a fast-moving bait between clumps of weeds and brush, especially during peak feeding periods of dawn and dusk, Gilliland advises.

“On the other hand, trying to entice a bass that has a full belly out of his hiding spot may take a great deal more patience,” the Oklahoma biologist said. “Choose your lures and presentation accordingly.”

And just what are the contents of those full bellies? When Georgia guide Mike Bucca rode along with Hakala, he was startled to see the forked tails of large gizzard shad sticking out of the throats of 4- and 5-pound spotted bass.

“That is likely why swimbaits perform well on big fish. A big fish has the means to routinely eat something large, but doesn’t until that large prey is in distress. Then it pounces,” the biologist says.

Hakala adds that he more often is surprised by how small the forage is. “I think that a lot of times they (bass) select for a certain size prey that is usually much smaller than what they can handle,” he says.

But whether you’re riding in a shock boat, cleaning up a shoreline, planting vegetation, or dropping attractors, the most valuable thing that happens when you volunteer is that you get to know your best friends.

(From Why We Fish.)



Why We Fish: Time Travel

I fish almost exclusively with artificial baits for bass and other game fish.

But once a year, I dig some worms, clean the dust off my catfish gear, pack some hotdogs and marshmallows, and spend the night tightlining for catfish on a lake or river. In recent years, mostly I go down to the little lake behind my house.  No chance of catching flatheads there, but, in my mature years, watching moonlight dance on the still water more than makes up for that. It doesn’t hurt either that the channel catfish usually are cooperative.

I never thought much about why I was doing this until this latest trip. I was alone for a change and watching the yellow flames of my campfire burn into blue when, suddenly, I was transported.

(Excerpt from "Time Travel" in Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Reel Fishermen.)


Great Gifts For Anglers And Nature Lovers

Click the photo or here to learn more about these books. They make great gifts. If Better Bass Fishing is sold out at Amazon, you can buy it at Barnes & Noble.


Happy Thanksgiving From Activist Angler

For the following I am thankful:

  • The fondness of bass for topwater lures.
  • The rainbows that I’ve seen because I got up early to go fishing
  • Bluegill too big for me to hold with one hand.
  • The big bonefish that found my offering, even though my cast was way off target.
  • Thousands of dolphins swimming alongside the boat.
  • The good people that I’ve met and the friendships that I’ve made because of fishing.
  • River fishing on summer nights for catfish, while listening to the baseball game.
  • Bats chasing insects all around the boat under a full moon.
  • Seeing the joy that a child derives from his first fish.
  • The power of fishing to bring us together, no matter how polarized we are politically. 

From Why We Fish.


I knew that I couldn’t stop the fish, no matter how skillfully I played it. I waded out into the water as far as I dared, knowing as I did so that it was a pointless gesture.

But then the miraculous occurred, just as I looked down at my reel to see all of the line gone except for the knot.

Excerpt from Why We Fish.