Fishing season is almost upon us. Among other more pleasant things, the season’s arrival will bring with it endless questions about how many fish we caught on our last outing. That’s a pretty personal question, if you ask me, and not just when the questioner is a Conservation Agent. Nevertheless, not only will such questions come, but they will also carry with them the implication that no real angler would come home short of a limit.
I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, it does go without saying that you and I will catch our limits every time out. However, some of our brother and sister anglers do not. These less fortunate–I would never say less gifted–anglers need to have answers ready for their detractors. As always, I stand ready to offer my assistance.
Very few people–including many experienced anglers–are aware of this fact, but fishing rods wear out. I’m not referring to broken tips, line-scarred guides and chipped reel seats. Any of those conditions do require immediate attention to be sure, but all are fixable.
No, a rod isn’t truly worn out until it loses its ability to attract fish. This condition, unfortunately, is not repairable. Moreover, a rod can wear out at any time. There are 40 year-old rods in my rack that catch fish as well as they did when they were new. I’ve also owned rods that had to be discarded, because they’d lost their zip in a season or less. Sometimes a rod slowly fails over a period of time, but, far more often, they go from powerhouses to duds in an instant. When that happens in the middle of a fishing trip, the condition can temporarily afflict every rod in the boat and is a valid reason for coming home smelling more like Crappie Nibbles than crappie.
The only answer to this problem is to buy a new rod. Fortunately, the purchase of a new rod almost always requires the purchase of a new reel and at least a small handful of tackle.
The Solunar Tables provide an excellent foil for scientifically minded questioners. For the benefit of those who don’t already know, Solunar is a compound word formed by joining Sol (sun) and lunar (nincompoop.) Believers in the Solunar Tables can explain poor results by noting that circumstances beyond their control forced them to go fishing when the table said to stay home.
So-called “fishing boats” aren’t just a hole in the water into which you pour money, they’re also an excellent source of all-too valid reasons why your last fishing trip didn’t include as much fishing as you had intended. For example, some outboard motors have the decency not to start while the boat’s still at least partially on its trailer, but most start easily and run great as long as the boat is pointed away from the launch ramp. Turn the bow toward home, however, and outboard motors can undergo a change of personality. Believe me, the nervous feeling generated by not knowing if you’re going to have to walk back to the ramp can ruin the most determined angler’s concentration.
Although far less frequently than boats, tow vehicles can interfere with fishing trips. One never-to-be-forgotten day, the start of a catfishing trip was delayed by more than eight hours, because somebody tried to launch the boat into a slough that, in retrospect, might better have been avoided. But in my–I mean his–defense, the boat was relaunched off a firmer bank less than 100 yards from the original fiasco and returned in less than three hours with a two-man legal limit of channel cats on board. Besides, is a true outdoorsman really stuck if it only takes three full-sized tow trucks to get him out?
As a last resort, play the “too” card. Almost every time a busy man or woman can get away to go fishing, the water really will be too high, too low, too clear, too murky, too warm or too cold for good fishing. Likewise, weather conditions will be too hot, too cold, too windy or too calm. Last but not least, it’s a rare angler indeed who doesn’t get to his favorite fishing hole either too early or too late.
So what’s the answer? Always tell anyone who asks that you caught your limit and that they were all “nice” fish. It won’t do any harm, because nobody believes anything a fisherman says anyway.
Personally, I use a sliding scale which defines the term “daily limit” as the number of fish I caught on that particular day. There are days when my limit and the state’s limit are equal, but there are also days when my limit is one fish or even no fish at all. It doesn’t matter, because I still caught my limit.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]