How many times have you spent a day on the water, just to come back home emptied handed? Seemed the only thing that was biting were those pesky mosquitoes. I’ve seen some become so distraught after a bad day on the water. But is there such as thing as a bad day fishing? Some would ask if you tried this or that, and offer a little hope for the next outing. But I simply ask, what did you learn?
I have come to find the not catching is just as important as catching. This especially holds true if you were on fish the day before or even that day, and then lose them. Was the boats around you still catching fish? When you got back to the ramp empty handed was there someone else there with stringers full? So what changed? Conditions, locations, boat traffic, sunlight or a rising moon?
Yes a rising moon, even during the day time changes the way fish react in my opinion. Sometimes boat traffic will send crappies deep, and the bass out to different cover. But walleye, can get quite excited in some boat traffic. As prop wash and turbulence from a boats propeller can reach depths of 20 feet or more. This churns up shad and bait fish. Disoriented bait fish means dinner time for walleye and white bass. Noise levels obviously can bother most species along with light penetration. So where’s the fish?
One scenario I hear frequently is that boat traffic picked up, so you went to fish the quiet waters of a cove. Another is the weather wasn’t promising, so you quit early, or delayed going to the lake. My favorite has always been that you’ve tried everything and couldn’t catch any type of fish. So how many types were you trying to catch? I hear this a lot when people try to fish for walleye, then after not catching, switch to crappie, then to bass, then to the next species.
When I put on for a day of fishing, I have a target species, and I will not vary from that species. As far as the weather is concerned, you would be surprised to know that the fish are going to eat, somewhere, some time that day. And as far as boat traffic is concerned, my best days for crappie, bass and walleye are on the roughest days and places you can find. These fish already hearing noise and disturbances in the water, where as a fish in quiet calm waters will spook at the slightest commotion. Also, these fish are not targeted as much as back water coves and areas of less traffic. Sure, the conditions are rougher, but the reward is usually greater.
One tactic anglers usually miss is using the wind. On windy days a lot will either stay home or run for wind breaks and calm waters. I find bass will be off points or edge of the wind current breaks awaiting a helpless meal as it blows past. They use the wind current on the lake as they would use water currents in the river. Imagine that break line as an eddy. Crappie will go deeper in the water column or will use breaks same as bass. Walleye, which seem to roam around lakes from side to side, will normally be found right in the roughest wind blown banks. After a couple days of a wind direction, walleye seem to migrate down wind, and will be in the thick of it. Usually this water will be slightly colored or stained. They use these conditions as cover as they feed on helpless forage as it washes to then in the current.
So as you ponder on your day of catching nothing, what was the conditions? What did you try? Perhaps when you have matching conditions, you can try a new tactic. Keep a mental or even written notes. A fishing journal is great. Write down date, times, and as much detail as you can remember. Did you post on a fishing forum or blog? You can go back through your posts from year to year and dial in a working pattern.
Forum sites can provide you with a lot of great information. Of course the post might not have al the fine details, but if you look, there is enough. Someone caught fish on a certain date, at a given time frame. How hard is it to play detective and look up the weather and lunar phase for that specific time frame. Most times, if they were fishing “community holes” they will post to the effect. But if it a secret hole, they may not, but sometimes they will post things like water conditions and temperatures and depth the fish were in.
To catch more and better fish, you have to weigh all the information. Good days and bad. Keep that information for the next trip. Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. And when you do, don’t give in and give up with no success. You may want to try the same thing another time in other conditions. Take what you learned, even if its not catching fish, and remember its still good data to keep at hand.
Think about keeping a journal. For someone like myself, that fishes over twenty bodies of water throughout the year in multiple states, in sometimes horrific conditions. A fisherman journal with as much info to include way point notes, weather and times, is a must have. Sometimes the most important information in my journals is what not to do. I only hope this helps you in the future.