Have You Ever Wondered Just How Some People Manage To Catch Fish?

OK, I know there are so many methods of fishing and about all of them will work if the conditions are right.  But when you see some people who put themselves across as fishermen do things that are repeatedly nonproductive, or at least marginal, it kind of makes you wonder are they doing these because that is what they have always done and have never stood back in someone else’s shoes observing, or is there something missing in the gene pool.

Sometimes just observing someone else is educational.  If you are reading this and you may fit one of the categories, please do not take it personal as I am not trying to downgrade anyone here, but trying to point out that OK, maybe you do catch fish, but there may be ways or things you could do to increase your catch, or cut your time on the water or just burning fuel.   If you get invited on someone’s boat and become observant, you might learn some new good things along with the not so good.  You may be able to add a page to your book that may help you catch fish closer to the port along with save on fuel.

Yes, I am one of those who at times have thought that I knew how to fish.  Then after being exposed to, or talking to other fishermen, later have had that light bulb come on, and another piece of the puzzle fell in place.   For years I have tried to catch river Coho with little success, it seemed that I was never in the right location or my timing was off, or I had the wrong boat(at least that is what I convinced myself was wrong).  Finally after MANY years, I added two and two together and just like someone hit me on the head with a baseball bat, HEY DUMMY, it’s your method that needs to be changed.  The fish may have been there, but your method was not conducive of catching.  Remember, fishing is not necessarily catching.  I had been there and seen it, but had never really associated what was happening in front of me, actually pertained to me or my method.  Next time you are out, do some yoga or anything to allow your mind to be receptive, (like a sponge).  Ask those you are with, WHY DID YOU JUST DO THAT?  Ask yourself the same.  Try to think like a fish.  Remember, so you can wake up a 2 AM and solve the puzzle.  Then go out and prove it.

Years ago I decided that maybe I should take in as many training seminars as possible simply because I surely can not live long enough to learn/make recognizable mistakes to become even somewhat of a proficient fisherman on the many different styles and fishing locations out there.  I plan my attendance at the sportsman shows around these seminars.  Included in these learning seminars has been hiring a guide at times, even though I have my own boats, and consider myself as a pretty good fisherman, there are many different styles of fishing depending on the situation.  Keep your eyes open and your brain like a sponge.

All of the examples here are real, again I am not trying to put anyone down here, as I am sure that I have been in the same situation at times of being stuck in a rut, (on one it only took me 15 years to see the light on one fishery).   The sad part is that there are a few of these examples below were the same person.   At times we may need to have someone throw some ice cold water in our faces to wake us up to where we then get motivated to putting our fishing brain in gear.  AND it is a lot easier for an outsider to observe than for you trying to evaluate your own situation.   And unbelievably, there are people who go fishing having never read the rules before venturing out.  There are also people who have poor reading comprehension, or are just dumb.  Or even worse, will ask another nearby boat (or a call on VHF radio) about the rules after they have a fish flopping on the deck.


(1)  I knew one person who was rather frugal in that he uses his hooks over from one year to the next.  Even salmon mooching tied hooks that are so rusty that he has a problem penetrating the herring.  He even bragged about only buying his tied leaders in the winter from mass merchandisers where he can get a super good buy on the imported cheap closeout ones.

He is not totally alone, as I have seen others buy the cheapest hooks out there, then never even check them for sharpness.  OK hooks all perform the same purpose of hooking fish.  But consider the dollars you have invested in your fishing machine, towing vehicle, then the small amount of time you have to be on the water WHEN the fish may be present.   Then look at the small price of the ONE thing that may make the difference in whether you bring home a meal for the wife and kids or not, THE HOOK.

Someday I would like to do a poll of fishermen to see if they even have a hook sharpener aboard.

I have found when using nickel plated salmon hooks in salt water that the points rust after being in the water for even a few hours, especially overnight and out of the water.  Sharpening will only work for about one day as the point gets worn back enough that a prudent fisherman should consider replacing them even though being stored overnight in a bucket of fresh soapy water.  Maybe spraying them with WD-40 may help.

(2)   Or the guy above keeps running his sonar even though he can not figure out how to get it off the demo mode.  I guess he wanted to impress the fishing partners he invited along.  Kind of makes it hard on a foggy day to stay in a narrow channel with the bottom showing at 40′ while mud is being churned up by the prop.

(3)   Another who owns an older 20′ fiberglass inboard/outboard who salmon fishes the mouth of a large Pacific Northwest river.   He never runs the boat fast enough to get on a plane.  The reason is that if he gets the RPM up, then there is a whining noise coming from the motor.  If he keeps it below a certain RPM where it does not make the noise, so he feels there is no problem, kind of like sticking his head in the sand.   The real problem that he has not figured out that the alternator belt on his I/O is loose and he hesitates to take it to a marine mechanic because of a possible cost.  So no noise-no problem ???

(4)  Or the guy who buys a kicker motor, mounts it on his transom, but never has bothered to even try to start it.  Boy he is either very naive or must believe he has an angel who is also a marine mechanic setting on each shoulder if the time comes when he ever needs to put it into use in an emergency.  The sad thing that these first four examples are the same person.

(5)   I am amazed at at how many fishermen who when running to or from a fishing spot, turn their sonar OFF and use only a GPS plotter to get there.  Most of these units have the ability to split the screen so they can have BOTH the plotter AND the sonar on the screen at the same time.  OK if the unit is small, (say a 5″ screen) maybe they feel they need a larger plotter screen, but most of these units, the viewing window for the plotter can be widened more than the existing preset 50%.  The sonar screen can be made narrower as what is important is right under your boat NOW, not what you have already passed over minutes ago.  If they forgo the sonar under these conditions, they may well run over fish while trying to follow a radio fish report.   No sense of running 5 miles when there are fish arches a lot closer (like under your boat).

(6)   Then there are those who spend lots of money on a nice 20’+ boat but still use an old small landing net for salmon.   Sure, maybe they have fond memories in using this net, or it came off his older smaller boat when he bought the new one, or a replacement net for the one that got lost, but even when you consider spending the time on the water trying to catch a fish, then potentially handicapping the most crucial few seconds by only having a 2nd rate net does not make a lot of sense to me.  This size net or the handle length may be OK under ideal situations, but what if the water gets lumpy and you snag a salmon in the pectoral fin.  Kind of makes the job of the netter rather interesting.

(7)   Some people do learn, as the guy who fishes the west coast ocean for salmon out of his 20′ boat, when asked why he had only a 3.5hp kicker motor, the response was “that is all I need to troll my boat with”.  Then a few years later when his main motor died a long way from port, and running this little kicker motor only took 7 hours for him to get back to his dock.  He did learn as now he as a 9.9hp.

(8)  Then there are those who try to reuse their bait for days.  Even though it is kept in rock salt and in a cooler, these herring may be the reason they are not getting as many hits as their buddy 100 yards away.  Sure I have saved old bait, but usually only as a back up.   If it is kept iced and in a salt water brine, for me, I have caught fish on the 2nd day if refrigerated, but beyond that it is questionable.

(9)  Some just don’t listen when asking advise for a type of fishing new to them.  Different rod types do have a place in your rod room.  (a) A 7′ heavy action Ling Cod rod may just cut down on your ability to tell if a 3# rockfish is hitting your curly tail jig.  (b) Then there are those who like to use light tackle, but are rather newcomers to downrigger fishing.  They do not understand that the rod needs to have enough backbone to match it’s intended purpose which is being set pointing high with the rod tip deeply arched and with minimal belly in the line from the wire clip to the rod tip so that when a fish hits, then trips the clip off the downrigger wire that the rod will automatically set the hook. (c) Or the fisherman who gives his 10 year old son or daughter a 9′ rod for salmon, but uses a diver 36″ in front of a flasher and from the flasher then a 6′ leader to the bait.   Here you have about 10′ of gear in the water beyond the mainline snap.  The kid has possibly 9′ of rod including their height above the deck.  Even if they hold the rod straight up with the tip being arched with a fish on, they will either run a good chance of breaking the rod on the fish’s last runs under the boat, or can not get it high enough for the netter to do a good job, possibly loosing the fish as seen in the caption photo on the main start page of these “Ramblings”.   Change gear and/or shorten the distance to the hooks could be a solution.

(10)  Or the guy who heads back to the GPS location where they caught salmon the last few days.  He shuts it down on the spot he left the afternoon before, starts his trolling motor and turns on his TR-1 auto pilot heading into the wind/ current.  He then sits in his favorite location with his back to the cabin, and when his buddy calls on the radio that they are into decent fish 2 miles away (into the wind).  This guy is content to “troll their way”, but never seems to make any headway because of the wind/current and then wonders what happened the buddy who picked up and ran in to the dock after limiting.  And the only fish he is catching are small undersize salmon.  Fish do swim, and in order to survive need to eat, so they travel after and follow the food.

(11)  Or the guy who when trolling for trout in a large lake will hook a night-crawler full length, hanging behind the kook.  This might work for bass or walleyes.   Then he wonders why he is getting a lot of bites but not hooking any fish.  Or if he does change to shorter bait, but uses a # 8 hook and still can not hook any fish.  While his fishing partner is using smaller bait along with a #4 hook and catching fish.

(12)  This one applies mostly to jet boat river fishermen.  They have made a drift or back-trolled thru some fishy looking water, maybe even caught a fish (either Steelhead or Salmon) and want to run back up to make another pass.  However they run full bore with their jet boat right thru the fishing slot they just came down thru.  Do they not realize that this WILL spook any fish out of that area, especially if the water is only 6-12′ deep.  There will usually be other water on the side of this slot that they could have motored up thru at a moderate speed, but apparently they do not come anywhere near thinking like a fish.

(13)  Another boat river fisher boat operator situation is when you meet or pass another boat that is fishing, SLOW SOWN.  Don’t ruin his fishing spot by throwing a big wake.  Or worse, rocking their boat enough with your wake so someone may fall overboard.  

Rod Holder Placement : Downrigger fishing   Some of you who troll for salmon, may upgrade your hit to hookup ratio by changing how you mount your rod holders.  Most of the fishermen know that when using downriggers that the rod needs to be set fairly high in the air or to the side and arced rearward under the tension of the release clip to the downrigger wire.  This arcing allows these special built downrigger rods, being under strain, to snap up when the fish hits pulling the line off the clip, setting the hook.   If you are fishing a downrigger and miss hooking a number of fish, you may want to think about what I just said.

Downrigger rod set in proper position

Normal trolling   Now, if you only use your rod holders that are mounted on the downrigger as a rod holder even when you are not using the downrigger for NORMAL salmon trolling like Buoy 10 or Grays Harbor/Willapa Bay salmon fishing, you are handicapping yourself.   Think about it, if that rod is pointed high in the air, the line is entering the water considerably farther back.  Unless you are using a pool que or sturgeon rod that is strong enough to set the hook in conditions like this when the fish hits the bait, but the limber rod (in this upright condition) has not got enough strength (unlike downrigger fishing) to set the hook when the fish takes your herring, where the fish does not get hooked 90% of the time.  Here, when a fish hits, say the 9′ rod moves in a arc and you can have a 5′ spongy movement of the lure before the rod stacks to where it has any resistance to possibly set the hook.  And the fish is gone by the time YOU get ahold of the rod.

If you are using monofilament mainline, the stretch needs to also be added.   However if the rod is mounted lower and rearward even with monofilament line, your fairly sold lure movement may only be 1′, and the fish is hooked before it can spit the bait.

For salmon trolling in conditions in estuaries like Buoy 10 or Willapa Bay, the rod needs to be mounted low (almost parallel with the water) and slightly pointing sternward as seen in the photo below.     The same can apply to moochers, as they have learned to not have their rods pointing up in the air, but most moochers do not use a rod holder.
You may go on for years thinking many things on how to increase your hookup ratio, like changing different style of hooks, going to braid mainline or a multitude of other trials.  And all the time it was simply how you mounted your rods.


Normal trolling with low mounted rod holder



It may appear to some of you that I have written about you here, well that could be so, but I will be willing to bet that you AND I may not be alone.  If one of these may appear to be you, I thank you as I have learned some valuable information by watching others, as I am way too old now and will not live long enough to learn much more and I do like to catch fish.  The important thing is that at times we need to back off, look at ourselves in possibly a different setting/methods.  Insanity/stupidity is when you repeatedly keep doing the same thing with negative results and place the blame of these negative results on something else.

Now the real reason that this article is here is hopefully for me and you to improve our fishing skills.


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