By Brian G. Schommer
I have had a few folks ask recently, “where have the fish been biting?” I guess that when you write a weekly outdoor column, some think you are an automatic expert on topics such as this. As sorry as I am to disappoint, I have very few specific answers to this question other than, “usually through the lip.” The response generated by this reply in most cases would not be suitable for print, ends with the word “hole” and I would say is a fair assessment, at least in respect to this instance. For the most part, I try not to be one of those. If I had been out fishing lately, I may have a different response but alas, I have not been wetting a line or bobber watching much this summer. In chatting with a few anglers from the area, it seems to be quite “hit and miss,” which is normal for just about any year. As the water temps rise, the “bite” often decreases, and the action becomes anything but fast and furious. If all we did was catch fish when we grabbed the old Zebco rod and reel from its dusty confines in the garage, ventured to a nearby fishing hole and cast our chosen bait into the water, it would not be called fishing, it would be called catching.
For me, the hit and miss analogy has multiple meanings when it comes to the sport of fishing. Often, the fish hit my bait and then, I miss setting the hook. Way. Too. Often. Again, if all we did was catch the fish, it would not be called fishing. The number of reasons (interchangeable with excuses) that I have learned over the years for my inability to set the hook are as many or more than the number of fish I have missed over the years. “That was a soft bite, I should have waited a bit,” is a frequent “go to” of mine, even when the bobber has completely disappeared. “Oh, he did not have it in his mouth very strong and I pulled too hard,” is another one which has prompted me to think, “How do I know the gender of that fish?” Of all the excus… I mean, reasons available, the last one I ever use is, “I was not paying attention.” The irony of this is, I would have to admit that in most cases, if a fish hits and I miss, it is because I was distracted and not paying attention. Like so many things, it is easier to place the blame of a missed opportunity on anyone other than ourselves. Even when it comes to something as simple and relaxing as trying to catch a couple panfish.
You might have figured out that this column is not exactly about fishing, which if you are an avid reader of “Outdoor Adventures,” should also not come as much of a surprise. The word fishing, like so many others, has several uses in the English language. The trusty MerriamWebster Dictionary defines fishing as the sport or business of catching fish. When someone asks, have the fish been biting, they want to know if you have been fishing, catching any and of course, where? In most cases, my secret fishing hole is so secret, even the fish do not know where it is, and the results, or lack thereof on the stringer is proof. To reiterate, if it was just about catching, it would not be called fishing. When we ask others a question, we are fishing for an answer. Asking a question is like casting our bait into the water. Asking a basic question like “how have you been lately” is like casting for those panfish. It is fun to catch a bunch of Crappies, even if they are under the eightinch variety and land in the “catch and release” end of things. Most anglers are not happy catching a nice basket full to have enough for a decent fish fry with friends. If they were, phrases like “we have bigger fish to fry” and “time to land the lunkers” would not exist. Getting those bigger fish to bite usually takes more strategy, time, effort, and a little luck. This type of fishing can often take a lot more attention while too much attention may result in having your fishing partner to tell you to “mind your own bobber.” Are those bigger fish even worth the effort? I guess that needs to be the decision of the angler.
The more I fish, the more a basket full of Crappies and a few Sunfish that I can fillet, fry, and share with friends is almost more fulfilling that catching that 30” Walleye. I should also say, I intentionally left out the word ‘elusive’ as while it has been so far, I am confident that he is out there (or she, I really do not know how to tell the difference). A fish is a fish… does it matter beyond that? By minding my own bobber and paying a little more attention, logistically, it makes sense that if the opportunity to land a lunker presents itself, I should be able to set the hook and hopefully get that fish into the boat. If not, I can at least say that I had the experience which, I was reminded is the best form of education. So, grab your Zebco rod and reel from the dusty confines of your garage, head on out to a lake, pond or river and enjoy some fishing. It is amazing the things you can thing about while “Getting Out and Enjoying the Great Outdoors.”