Have you ever heard the statement, "90 percent of the fish are caught by 10 percent of the fisherman?"
Estimates indicate that about 30 percent (60 million pounds) of the 200 million pounds of sport and game fish present in Oklahoma are found in the major reservoirs. It is reasonable to assume, based on harvest data, that some 3.8 million pounds of those reservoir fish are taken home each year by anglers.
If there is any truth to the opening statement on catch success, most reservoir anglers are taking home less than a pound of fish per year! Fisheries biologists firmly believe that most anglers can increase his or her individual success by becoming better acquainted with fish habits and fishing methods. Fishery managers will continue to develop methods of providing more and bigger fish, however anglers must continually learn more about their quarry if they want to be in the top 10 percent.
Although there are several ways of increasing fishing knowledge, there are no substitutes for on-the-water fishing experience. It is a safe assumption that most people considered to be good anglers have learned their craft by spending many hours honing their skills on the water.
One way anglers can supplement their knowledge of fish and fishing is to assimilate the knowledge and experience of other anglers. Fishing magazine articles, television fishing programs, area fishing reports and word-of-mouth can never replace actual fishing experience, but can have an impact on success. Watching or reading about the fishing techniques of others can often prove successful wherever you fish. Since few in today's society have opportunities to fish every day, most sport fishermen rely to some degree on information generated by other anglers.
When planning a fishing trip to unfamiliar waters obtaining "local" information from an angler familiar with the area can be very helpful. The same holds true whenever fishing for unfamiliar species. In many instances, certain fishing areas, methods and baits have proven to be highly effective over time.
The following digest of fishing facts and suggestions may prove helpful. These statistics have been compiled from many sources, both technical and popular. Bear in mind, however, that aside from a fish's relationship to water, little else is 100 percent certain in this sport.
The advice offered here has been shown to be reliable more than 50 percent of the time. More important, you should note the relationships of all fish to their environment.
The data included here is based on fishing in a reservoir having a maximum depth of approximately 40 feet. The fishing techniques and principles will apply to most any waters, but depth requirements will have to be adjusted proportionally to deeper or shallower bodies of water. Some species such as trout and smallmouth bass make streams their home. Distinctions are made for such species.
To become one of the top 10 percent, apply the chart to your fishing techniques the next time you make a trip to one of Oklahoma's reservoirs. Put a copy of the chart in your tackle box for on-the-spot consultation when the action slows down.
- The rate of digestion in largemouth bass and most other species is very slow below 65 degrees. Lower energy consumption and growth cessation reduces the fishes' need for food.
- Fish that are actively feeding are generally more susceptible to being caught than those not feeding. However, the assumption "the hungrier the fish, the easier to catch" is not always true.
- During the spawning period of certain species, the spawning activity is the dominant biological drive and feeding activity may be reduced. However, some spawning fish may defend their territories by striking a lure placed in their area.
- The catches of fish species which feed primarily by sight can be difficult when water visibility is less than two feet.
- Bait or lure selection, placement and action should approach the natural food organism of the species sought. Learn more about forage species such as crayfish or aquatic insects by turning over rocks in the water.
- Be persistent, vary your lures, colors and baits, keep them moving and do not spend more than 15 minutes in one location unless you are catching fish. Do these things, and you'll increase your chances for success.
- Fish vary in their capability to distinguish color, but most have some ability. Red is the color to which fish are most sensitive but it is visible only at close distances. Blue and purple are most visible in deep water.
- Combining an appeal to the taste, smell, feel and sight will increase the catch of any species. It has been suggested that live bait emits an "injured" odor and distress signal.
- Fish in deep water look for food on their own visual plane or lower, whereas fish feeding near the surface tend to blend vertical and horizontal movement.
- Practice working lures in shallow water to observe their action.
- Subtle changes in speed and retrieval techniques can be important. Experts claim technique makes the difference in 90 percent of bass catches. Generally, work lures faster in warm water and slower in cold water.
- In rising water, most species of fish move toward shore or upstream. A rise can be associated with increased oxygen, more favorable water temperatures and an influx of food organisms.
- During falling water, fish movement is downstream or toward deeper water. During changing, unstable weather and dramatic temperature changes, fish feed sparingly.
- Every species has a temperature preference, the temperature at which they are most comfortable. They will seek this temperature all during the year.
- Turbid water or cloudy days cut down light penetration, encouraging nocturnal feeders to forage during day-light hours. Also, many predatory fish will feed throughout the day in shallow water, even in hot summer weather.
- Barometric pressure seems to provide fish with the same stimulation as water fluctuations. Falling pressure influences fish to become more active along shorelines, whereas rising pressure leads to a decrease in fish activity and poorer fishing.
- Wind action creates alternatives in the fish's environment. On a cool, windy summer day, the windward bank may present temperatures and oxygen levels more favorable to his disposition. Wind may also concentrate forage.
- Wind direction does seem to affect fishing. The phrase "...winds in the east, fish bite least...." seems generally true, although the wind direction itself may not be as important as the accompanying climatic factors.
- Cloud cover, turbidity, rain and cooler air masses will all cause cooling, stimulating fish movement in summer. Weather that has a warming effect on water may also set off increased activity.
- A “thermocline” is a layer of water that usually develops in reservoirs during the summer where the temperature rapidly falls with an increase in depth. Water temperatures above and below the thermocline change more gradually. Because there is often little oxygen below the thermocline, it is generally accepted that fishing is frequently poor below this layer”.
- Large predators are most effective in lower light conditions, when their greater size is easier to conceal while foraging.
- During early spring the northern portion of ponds and
reservoirs tend to warm faster and will stimulate more
activity than other areas. Turbid water will warm faster and
cool slower than clear water. In early spring, look for fish
to move out of clear water into turbid water. In summer,
find fish in clear water during morning and evening.
A common thread that links all good anglers is their ability to establish a fishing pattern. Factors such as water temperature, water depth, weather conditions, habitat type, bait type and presentation can be used to establish a pattern.
Accomplished anglers will keep a mental, or even a
written, diary of these factors each time they catch a fish.
But duplicating a successful angling technique, lure type,
and fishing depth in a similar area with similar climatic
conditions, anglers can often establish a successful pattern
that will produce fish year after year.
Don't leave confidence and optimism out of your tackle box. Since casual anglers cannot select the perfect day, they must align the factors on a given fishing day with a positive attitude. Good luck and good fishing!