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Made it back to the glades – finally – this past Tuesday, but a thick blanket of fog made navigating the tricky route through the inside bays pretty dicey. I ran a few sections using my GPS as eyes, which was spooky, and even when it began to clear off entire sections of shoreline would disappear for a time. The wet conditions and muddy water weren’t conducive to photo snapping, but I fired off a few. Sun finally came up…just in time to reveal muddy water and a tepid tide. Home I went. But I won’t complain. I was “down south” after a long layoff, a few fish came to the boat, and I drank in the solitude like an elixir.
When you get a chance to fish, the temptation exists to visit a spot popular among other anglers, or where you’ve experienced success in the past. Understandable. But if you really want to up your game, change things up and try an all new stretch of water. This approach will not only make the outing more challenging, it’s also a wonderful way to discover new hot spots. When fishing “virgin” water, you’ll find yourself more alert, and braving the odds created by an unfamiliar setting adds an exciting wrinkle to the experience. Exploration and discovery is at the heart of fishing, and you won’t be a truly capable angler until you can find and catch fish in areas you’ve never visited before.
My buddy Joe and I will be fishing the RedSnook Tournament again this year in October. I’m not a big tournament fan since they so often become about the cash or the volume of fish you can sling on a deck, but when asked to participate last year I did, and I had a ball. The tournament proceeds benefit the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and its Estuary Programs, and if Joe and I place we’ll be sending our winnings the the Snook Foundation, who is sponsoring us. We’ll once again be fishing in the Unguided Spin/Plug category, and this year my plan is to actually catch a fish or two, just to change things up a little. I know that sounds zany, but it’s how I roll.
Each month I field a question from a reader and answer it as best I can, focusing on those inquiries and responses that I believe will be of general benefit or interest. I recently received this email from Frederick, who asks: “Any tips for getting a child interested in fishing?”
Good question. I have fantastic memories of my childhood, sitting for hours on my grandparents’ lake, catching one panfish after another on wiggling earthworms uncovered in their garden. Some kids have that natural passion for angling, and if anything, watering down their zeal is the challenge. But I’ve found that while most little ones are at least somewhat interested in fishing (and bright, lively fish, in particular), their attention spans are very limited. This is especially true of very small children. So, if getting a kid to love fishing is the goal, job one is to set aside any notions about hardcore adult fishing trips. Pack cold drinks and snacks, opt for bait over lures, protect them from too much sun, and set up in a cool spot where action trumps quality – that is, where they’re very likely to fish, even if it’s what you’d normally consider “trash” species. Focus on their experience, and limit the trip to an hour or two. As they get older, they’ll hang in for longer periods, fueled by their own interest. If a child sees you enjoying yourself, they’ll identify angling with fun, and you’ll be well on your way to developing a lifelong fishing buddy.
Always keep in mind the fact that fish tend to face into current. Water flow carries along the stuff they eat, be it larvae and flies for trout in freshwater streams, or crabs, shrimp and baitfish for flats’ denizens like redfish, snook and bonefish. Fish will, of course, swim with a current when moving from one feeding station to another, but once they set up shop, they’ll generally face the direction the groceries are coming from. This is why freshwater trout anglers prefer to cast upstream, so that their flies drift naturally back along the current toward waiting fish, logic which works by extension in the salt where water flow is strong, such as in a pass or inlet. And even where water flow is weaker—such as a long, weak run on a river or on a saltwater flat or mud bar—knowing which way it is moving can help you place casts with greater effect.