When Fishing Turns To Catching……..

As long as I can remember, I have religiously listed fishing and hunting as my hobbies. Along the way, I have added motorcycling, RV’ing and a flirtation with flying to my list of interests. Avid cycling and flying came along late in life when annoying age related inconveniences tend to erupt, reminding us of who is in charge. I have been away from fishing for several years, the result of arthritis in my hands, and have failed to keep up with the melding of technology and skill, which is a game changer today. In a two part series about the state of fishing and hunting these days, I talk about the changes to our sports, beginning this week with fishing.

One aspect of fishing has not changed over the centuries. Fishing, at the base level, is comprised of first locating fish and then catching them. I learned to fish without electronics of any kind, owning my first flasher, suitable for establishing depth and not much else, in the early ‘70’s. Locating fish in any given body of water was a visual art developed through experience, reading current, depth, structure, water clarity and temperature relying on a hand dipped into the water for the latter. A good fisherman developed a seasonal response to locating the fish, to include barometric pressure, fronts, cloud cover and memory. We “patterned” fish based on years of experience and a basic knowledge of the species we were seeking. This skill set is what a good fisherman relied upon to jerk a limit of fat crappie from the bank or the depths of a lake year around. Locating fish today is easier than it has ever been. A few minutes this past weekend at a large bass tourney on Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma opened my eyes to the nuances of locating fish with todays many types of sonar and displays that adorn a modern bass boat. Incredible sums it up. There is down view, side scan and CHIRP technology, permitting the angler to see where the fish are, their depth and dispersal in living color. These same graphs and monitors will tell you what kind of bottom you are over or near, water temperatures and the thermoclines (temperature variances) of the water. Locating fish is easy. All you need to be competitive is a $100 K bass boat and about $15K in electronics fueled by 4 big batteries. In my day, you relied on your experience, as chronicled above, to toss what seemed like the appropriate bait at structure or off a point. Today’s capabilities make the “Hunt for Red October” seem like child’s play!

A basic outlay…with two more screens on the console!

The second aspect of fishing is still a bit skill dependent. Choosing a bait from a wild array of lifelike selections still requires a nuanced presentation and the ability to feel what is happening where your bait is. In spite of these skills and the modern, expensive and tremendously reliable tackle that is currently on the market…..you can’t make a fish bite. (Although you can haul a crank bait by a suspended fish enough times to provoke him into a bite…….all watched on your monitor.) At a terrific sporting goods store in Oklahoma, the owner gave me great advice. Hire a guide who is computer literate, preferably one raised in the computer age of gaming, etc., as opposed to a grizzled old veteran who keeps his terminal tackle in little brown bags scattered about the deck. The kid who can use the computers will get you on fish, where you can then apply your experience to closing the deal. He is right of course…..except I no longer competitively fish as I thoroughly enjoy leisure while on the water. Put me on the water and I’ll figure out the pattern, but it make take time. Today you push a button. It is not just about catching……it is the total experience. I feel sorry for our kids and grandkids…….

There you have it. Fishing is on the cusp of being renamed catching with little premium attached to being an old veteran who begins scanning the water, relying on years of experience to find and catch fish on a bank that instinct tells you is a good place to start. I began, many years ago, with a cane pole and a cage of crickets at Gaddy’s Mill Pond in rural South Carolina, jerking fat blue gill and red-breast sunfish out of the tannin colored waters under a overhanging tree. Little did I know what the future held….

Next week, I talk about hunting in the age of electronics and technology, “When Hunting Turns To Killing”.

Have a great week!


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