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Fish Foolery, or Maybe Not

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On: Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 10:02AM | By: Captain Ron Kowalyk

You may think you’re fooling our old finny friends but a quick review of your tactics will reveal some absolute truths about fish and fishing. Different species hunt on different stimuli. Sense of smell, visual acuity, and auditory cues will attract different fishes in the right time, place, and season (weather).

In our region there are species that are triggered to feed on all of the aforementioned senses; that's true of about anyplace where the fish have eyes, some fish are essentially blind. Those fish have other heightened sensory receptors and that ability is innate is most species as they adapt to water conditions. An essentially blinded catfish will find prey without actually seeing it. Redfish, flounder, black drum and many other regional fishes have similar abilities.

All this should lead you to refine your presentations to best simulate stimuli that trigger strikes or bites for your targeted gamers. If you fish like someone gathering “Intel” for missions you’ll have greater success. A shotgunning presentation is the general practice and is useful at first to get a handle on conditions. A friend of mine, Pete “Buzz Kill” Sullivan, pointed out to me that you can’t test a lure, fly or presentation if there aren’t any fish around, i.e. a “Yogi Berra-ism”. “When you reach a fork in the road, take it”? That said, what factors do you consider when choosing a presentation?

There are common factors that all anglers are, or should be, apprised of when they fish new waters or carefully observe weather and seasonal conditions. Here in southwest Florida, water temperatures vacillate across a wide seasonal range, as warm as 90 degrees in the mid-summer and as low as 60 degrees in our version of winter. Across the board “ham and eggers”—live bait fisherman—have the upper hand almost always. My favorite live bait is shrimp; it’s expedient, available, and doesn’t require much management. Shrimp has all the natural assets natural bait needs to attract the usual suspects. Whitebait—live, chunked, and in different sizes—is the high-end “Sports” flashy favorite especially for snookers. I concur not much beats a shiner!

If you’re an “artie” addict and have the determination to impose your will on the local “finnsters” you’re gonna need to carefully considered several more factors than the bait fisherman. It’s pretty much a whole different ballgame. I like, as many anglers do, to simplify the problems of fishing artificials by choosing lures with built-in “attracting triggers”. Artificial presentations that incorporate visual stimuli like bright colors, flashy surfaces, and natural finishes that imitate prey are useful. Rattling lures and those that vibrate excitedly are also on the menu. Perhaps the best stimulus a lure ought to have is a scent tail.

A scent trail is versatile and will send out a sensory signal that locates potential prey for gamefish under about all conditions, like a nice smoky barbeque meat fire. Ever get hungry while cutting your lawn when your neighbor roasts up some burgers or a chicken; think like a fish! There are scads of new softplastics that are impregnated with scents—chemical messages = pheromones. These offerings can be presented at varying speeds of retrieve or simply allowed to soak in the current. Spray- or dab-on fish attractors are very useful as well. These items are as close to a livie as you can get. High-end old timey, stinky shrimp, I like it. The smell of Victory!

Here’s a tip I got from old timey redfish anglers and a few tournament anglers: Soak your Gulp, DOA or other scented plastic; keep your retrieve tuned into water temperature; consider turbidity and current. One of my favorite adages is, the best way to fish redfish is to cast out and “Do Nothing”!

Whether you using a gold spoon, floater diver plug, weighted shrimp fly or, better yet, a scented plastic, pitch it out and let it settle down under the mangroves, oyster bars or sand patch. Twitches, pops, and puffs will draw strikes from those resident reds, snook or gator trout if you make it an easy capture. In a nutshell, drink less coffee, forget the energy drinks, and use the “thorazine retrieve”.

Capt. Ron Kowalyk: 239-267-9312


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