flats fishing year nears the end...
Too late to change anything now.
But there are several things I would change if I could. I did not
fish nearly enough. When a precious opportunity to fish came I did
not always make the most of it. That
is something I can change in the future. There may be a difference
in the motivation for anglers who get out on the water. There are
those that rely on the fish they catch to supplement their food supply.
It is uncertain how many would fit into this category. Likely those
anglers could care less if fishing on the flats, the beach or a bridge.
After all, many of the game fish that are targeted on the flats are
regulated and the effort to catch a meal that meats the requirements
could be a drain on limited resources. The point is, the fishing most
recreational anglers do is just for fun. Nothing is riding on whether
fish are caught or not.
Still, an angler judges the trip by catching fish, or a species of
fish and/or a quantity of fish. All anglers can repeat the cliche
that 'a bad day on the water is better than <fill in the blank>'
which is probably true. Getting skunked still makes a difference though.
Getting that first fish early in the day can take off some pressure.
But this is fishing for fun, should there be any pressure? An angler
can not escape the fact that fishing has performance requirements.
Unless you are just content to be outside and maybe just wetting a
line while you are there.
When I am fishing I enjoy the outdoors but I am have a purpose when
I make a trip. More than some when you figure I am driving a few hours
to get to my destination. To have better results I need to make those
changes I mentioned.
Here is a 'Top Ten' list of things that also may help others have
better results on the flats.
1) Get on the water early. The tides are important of course but getting
on the water at sun up or just before and getting to your planned
starting point will improve your chances. Too many trips I caught
up with my fishing partners and heard about the bite rather than getting
in on it.
2)Have everything ready to go when you get to your launch or put in.
I always plan on doing this but never quite get it done. There is
just 'one more thing' I need to load. This causes confusion and is
a good bet to make you forget something you need. I do quite a bit
of fishing from a kayak. There are many benefits compared to a power
boat but one limitation is that you can't just throw all the rods
and tackle in an sort it out on the water. This is where the pre-planning
can pay off.
3) Don't take everything. This is a hard one for me. I like redundancy.
I want to be prepared for almost anything that may come up. The problem
is, too much 'stuff' and you can not find what you need when you need
it. The debate about minimizing and what is a must have on the water
will never be resolved. Use your best judgment and if you think you
can do without it leave it. One option is to compartmentalize your
gear. Make it fast and easy to select the gear you need for the fishing
you will be doing that day.
4) Don't forget the necessities. Personal Floatation Device. Polarized
sunglasses; got to have them. Flats Hat. Water. First Aid Kit. Emergency
communications (cell phone, GMRS/FRS Radio, Marine Radio). Knife/scissors.
I also suggest sun screen. By the way, a recent article in the 'Shallow
Water Angler' magazine mentioned using hand cleaners to remove the
sent of sunscreens, insect repellents and even snacks. Some research
indicates that fish can be turned off even by minute residues that
get into the water.
5) If you have not been on the water in a while, do some research
so you know what is biting and maybe an idea of where to focus. Even
better is to keep a log. I still have not started this but from personal
accounts and articles I have read it may be the most valuable information
you can have. You should note temperatures, water conditions, tides,
weather patterns, among others.
6) Be certain that all your equipment is in working order. Rods guides
should be checked (never can tell when you may knock out a guide insert).
Reels should be fully spooled and lubricated (even better, have the
reels serviced annually). Check your knots and shock leaders. Check
7) Get some rest before the alarm goes off. There is never enough
time. I usually find myself scrambling to get things ready just before
heading out for a trip. I get excited. Just like a kid and Christmas.
There is some new idea that I want to try or something I remember
I needed to change from my last trip.
8) Stick to the basics. Or at least rely on the basics mostly. It
can be hard to pass up the hot new lure. There are still tried and
true lures and methods that just seem to work. I guess even those
came from someone trying something different though. You can not miss
by far if you have a jig (jig head and grub), a spoon, a topwater
and maybe a suspending or diving plug. If you are fly fishing a basic
streamer fly or clouser will typically catch something for you. There
are many other great lures. I know, I think I have bought one or two
of each. Limit the experimenting with new lures. If you do find something
new though pass it along.
9) Don't get stuck in a rut. Another cliche but something to keep
in mind when fishing. It is easy to limit your range to the spots
you are comfortable with. You get to know an area, have some luck
there and it is easy to pick that spot when you are making your plans.
This is where the fishing log can be helpful. There can be benefits
to fishing different areas. It keeps you sharp as you make adjustments
for the different environments, currents, structure wind and such.
10) Last, I have it on good authority that starting out the day with
a blueberry muffin may make all the difference.
Wrapping up another year I want to remind all anglers to conserve
our natural resources. If you don't need to eat the fish you catch
make sure they are released in good condition. As more interest grows
in the outdoors so does the pressure that is placed on a finite resource.
Anglers are faced with restrictions in the form of marine protection
zones in the future. Hunters can make 'preserves' workable but the
same thing is not easily implemented for anglers. So, help protect
our fishing options by returning fish, preventing pollution and reminding
others to do the same.
Get out and fish. Wherever you go,
whatever you use make it a point to enjoy yourself.
Let me know what you think.