Lately, the crystal ball the one that helps determine arrival schedules and activity levels of the various species found in this region, is on the blink. There are many variables influencing general migration patterns such as the time of year, time of day, availability of prey, along with many other factors that determine, when and where fish “may be” and what they will be feeding on, all of which are essentially dependent on or actually determine the ambient water temperature.
Finding the species of your choice ultimately comes down to an educated guess based on experience and knowledge. Catching those fish comes down to using that experience and knowledge along with some persistence. A dash of luck in this recipe never hurts either.
Weather is only one of the many factors that must be taken into consideration. The way things are going we could be any where from a late summer drought, to flooding rains or a hurricane, the latter of which no one wants to deal with —— ever, between the writing and printing of monthly articles. A close eye on a reliable weather report always helps with both catching fish and having as safe and comfortable outing as possible. During stable periods in weather patterns, fishing for literally everything becomes more predictable. During the changing of seasons from summer to fall, fall into winter and and winter into spring is more of a crap shoot.
As a kid I read an article on freshwater fishing in one of the by a well known writer, possibly H.G. Tappley or one of his counter parts. The focus was how weather affects fishing and in it some space was spent on how fish always seemed to bite better during the approach of bad weather (rain storms) than as they left when clouds and rain were replaced by clear skies, increasing winds, decreasing temperatures and often a much slower bite. This essentially equates to barometric pressure.
I took that message to heart and proved it out many times over the years more so when fishing in freshwater than salt because in the ocean after the temperature, tides are the major influence, much more so than pressure, which to a large degree is negated by the density of water to begin with and in the ocean I believe that the fact it is moving constantly reduces its influence.
After grad school where I studied natural resources management, focusing on fisheries and wildlife, reading many books, articles and talking with many experienced anglers I tended to take a scientific approach along with experience and the other factors to help me figure out how to catch a given species, in a specific location on a given day. Often things are very similar but the subtle differences between one point or an other, ten feet difference in depth three to five degrees Fahrenheit, what is the primary food source at the time all contribute to coming up with the correct formula for success.
One bit of technology that has helped me nearly as much as a depth finder has been and still is knowing the barometric pressure, a fairly precise predictor of upcoming weather conditions and nearly as good at , if there is anything that does so, predicting not so much but whether the bite will be better or worse than average for the time of year and an anglers dedication. That gadget was a small , solar powered, hand held barometer, thermometer and altimeter that even with decent precision would predict the weather with icons for sun, rain, clouds like the symbols on the nightly weather forecasts.
I bought two, one drown when I “went swimming” with it around my neck when I fell while wading during one of its early fishing trips. The other still works perfectly. They were costly so they didn’t do well on the market at the time. These days most people can get the same functions on their phones, which I suspect can’t swim very well either.
To this day that little barometer sits in the sun to the right of this computer key board so its possible to determine the upcoming weather with a glance. That little contraption has helped me be a much more successful fisherman. In the ocean the knowledge of approaching storms is more of a safety factor than when casting for largemouth’s in some lake or trout in a river.
Years after reading that pivotal article a friend I met in junior high school who also liked to fish didn’t believe me when I told him about a couple of my best bass fishing trips the previous summer including one that produced the biggest largemouth of my life a slender, big headed twenty three inch, seven and a quarter pounder, until a decade ago when I lucked into an eight and a half pounder four or five seasons ago.
The point is as a result of a small bet over a half century ago I began keeping a fishing log that has been continually maintained to this day. It is a great personal reference to refresh fading memories for writing but also about places and species being revisited many years after a given trip.
It has some original symbols I made up for species, lures, stuff like that as well as the date, time of day, weather, temp, pressure number of fish by species with estimate or actual measurements when possible. Almost everything I catch, except when looking for some frying material, are released. I keep and kill only what I need for a meal or two and put any fish in good shape without serious hook damage back in the water to, grow breed and hopefully catch again when its a giant.
No need to kill anything needlessly due to the fact I always have a digital camera and a ruler on hand to document the big guys quickly and get them back into the water in great condition. The couple mounts of my trophy sized fish that I am particularly proud of because they were personal bests are all replicas. Which is a good thing to do because the oldest, largest members of any species often besides some level of luck to last that long under tremendous pressure is a genetic component that they hopefully are still able to pass on to future generations of their kind.
In freshwater I know for sure I’ve caught fish I’d released years earlier due to distinctive scars or markings, one in particular about four times in six years. It was in a small lake I fished a great deal and it didn’t have much pressure due to the fact it was walk and wade only so not having a boat launch automatically reduces a great deal of potential fishing pressure and mortality on popular species. There was one striped bass that came onto our boat more than once that also had some distinctive markings that was caught twice in three winters of fishing when the upper Themes River filled with tens of thousands of stripers every winter. Lots of fish squashed into a fairly small area, that isn’t like catching the striper off Madison and then again off Fishers Island, though tagged fish are re caught which is proof it happens but seldom by the same person in the same spot.
Eventually one of my friends who had done some off shore fishing (years before I had the excitement and sometimes displeasure of large ocean waves) said the fish weren’t striped bass or blues but probably small tuna. He was right, they were either false albacore or bonito he didn’t know what they were either because he never talked about catching anything at all other than a rare small blue fin.
Many summers later we were in the same situation but we were using totally different gear, smaller lures and improved tactics. I cast a small 4.5 inch Slug-Go, that over time had proven it self as a good saltwater lure for stripers and those “tunnies” that had foiled us twenty years earlier. After a few missed strikes a decent sized bonito took the lure and gave me a terrific fight on my relatively light saltwater gear, pike and muskellunge rods that are perfect for light marine fishing of any kind. Now anglers in this area wait for these speedsters with fly rods or casting tackle and do very well.
Hopefully for the fans these fish have earned over time have shown up and are chasing the schools of bait that are available along the coast in abundance this time of year.
September is my favorite month of the year to fish both fresh and saltwater because pretty nearly every species of fish is feeding heavily in preparation for their winter stupor or what may be very long distance migrations.