Fishing for Survival: Know Your Fish Before Going on the Water

Becoming a skilled fisherman will not only offer you hours of recreational fun; it can also fill your freezer.

Learning to fish correctly will allow you to bring home more than just tales of the “one that got away.” A lifetime can be spent learning about the habits and preferences of a particular species of fish, or the topography of a particular body of water. There are fishermen who will even study the phases of the moon in hopes of increasing their catch.

But there is one subject that can impact your success that applies to all species and conditions, and that is a fish’s senses. Having an understanding of how a fish interacts with its surroundings will make your fishing more enjoyable and productive before you even reach a lake or river. And once you do, you’ll know how to use your gear to its full capacity.

Fish have a lateral line that runs along each side of their bodies from head to tail. These canals contain sensory organs that can detect a change in water temperature and vibrations. So even in waters where they cannot see, they are able to determine the location, size, and speed of objects.

Keeping this in mind, you will want to make as little disturbance as possible when you approach the water. No matter if you are in a boat or on shore, you want to avoid actions that the fish will sense with these lines.

Fish have good vision, and the shape of their eyes allows them to see underwater. Freshwater fish do not have eyelids, so in order to control the amount of light that enters their eyes, they must adjust their location or depth. This information can help you locate fish in bright and dim conditions. Many species of fish are able to see in color and this can help you with your lure selection.

Due to the location of a fish’s eyes, they are able to see to either side at the same time. This positioning also creates a blind spot both directly in front of them as well as directly behind them. Understanding a fish’s field of view can help you place your bait where they can see it easily.

Remember that a fish can see above water, so if you can see a fish, it can most likely see you as well. Also, keep your shadow from casting onto the water if at all possible in order to avoid spooking the fish.

Fish have nostrils (referred to as “nares”) that are located on their snout. Odors within the water help fish locate predators and prey alike. Although they are capable of sensing smells, most fish do not rely on this sensory input because the water’s strength and direction can affect it so much. The one major exception to this rule is catfish (see the next paragraph on taste).

A fish is able to taste with taste buds in their mouth (as well as along the head and body of some species). This sensory input is not utilized as often by most fish, with the exception of catfish. Catfish have highly developed senses of smell and taste that they use to locate their food. They are able to taste through their skin as well as through their barbels. This is why fishermen looking to catch catfish will use “stink bait” to attract and hook them.

By understanding a fish’s sensory inputs you will have a better understanding of how you can catch them, as well as possible reasons that you have been unable to in the past. Stimulating one of these sensory inputs is key to getting a fish to strike.

If more than one of a fish’s senses can be stimulated with each cast, the chances of hooking a fish will increase dramatically. At the end of the day you want more than just a good time, you want a stringer full of fish!

Adam Brown is a guest author, and the creator of Cast for Fish. 






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