You've got your rods and reels, your tackle box and bait. A six-pack is chilling in the cooler and the boat engine is running. The only question is -- where are the fish biting?
You can find the best places to fish ahead of time by consulting one of the many fishing reports available online and in your local newspaper. Fishing reports can give you a heads-up about your prospects of making a catch well before you get out on the river, lake or ocean.
Fishing reports are compiled by charter fishing boat captains, recreational fishermen and experts at state departments of natural resources. Charter boat captains and commercial fishermen create their own eyewitness reports based on their experiences on the water. "It's just what I'm seeing," says Captain Chuck Graham of Angler Sport Fishing Charters. "What happens on the boat from the time we leave the dock to the time we get back." Many charter boat captains like Graham use the fishing reports as a kind of advertising tool to promote their businesses.
Fishing-report writers who work for state departments of natural resources sometimes use their own fishing experiences, but when they can't get out and fish, they have to rely on secondhand accounts. "I'll call marinas where charter boats and private boats come in," explains Keith Lockwood, a fisheries biologist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service. "They have weigh stations and tackle shops, and I'll talk to those people. I'll also talk to owners of commercial fishing piers." Local biologists are also good sources of information, because they regularly collect data on water temperatures, weather conditions and fish species.
A variety of information goes into a fishing report, and the reports can vary based on who writes them. Reports are typically broken down by geographic area (for example, the Chesapeake Bay region) and body of water (bay, lake, pond or river).
Some fishing report writers attach pictures, such as satellite images of the area or photos of fish they've caught. Fishing reports may even include a history of the region, the science behind the water conditions, unique types of fish that have been caught in the area or tips on fishing etiquette.
How Do Fishermen Use a Fishing Report?
Fishing reports include valuable information that fishermen can use to determine where to cast their lines. For example, knowing the water temperatures in a particular area tells fishermen how active the fish are going to be. "If it's too hot, they're not going to be moving around too much. If they're cold, they're going to be conserving energy," says Mark Beauchesne, advertising and promotions coordinator for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. "If they're not active, they may not be as aggressive to chase a lure or fly, or to move from their resting spot."
Water conditions are another important component of fishing reports. Water that is moving quickly or is full of mud or debris may make it difficult for the fish to see the bait and get to it. High waters can create dangerous conditions for the fishermen.
Other types of information that may be included in fishing reports are:
- Weather conditions
- Wind speed
- Whether the fish are biting
- Where the fish are biting
- What types of fish are biting
- Types of bait that are effective
Fishing reports typically come out weekly or monthly.
Even though fishing reports are sometimes written a few days after the actual fishing trip, those who write them say they are accurate because they're based on consistent patterns in season, water temperatures and fish behaviors. "In most cases the fish might have moved a mile [1.6 kilometers], but generally speaking it's pretty on target," says Lockwood. "Things don't change overnight usually. Fish will move, but they don't leave the state." Reports written by scientists or experts at state departments of natural resources may be slightly more accurate than those written by fishermen, because sometimes fishing boat captains use the reports to beef up their business.
So who uses these reports? Just about anyone who is headed out on a fishing expedition -- particularly if they have only the weekend to fish. "They're going to go over your report with a fine-toothed comb because they want to catch some fish," Captain Graham says. Fishing reports can be so popular, in fact, that a report of a particularly fish-heavy area may provoke a virtual stampede of fishermen.
To learn more about fish and fishing, look over the report of links on the next page.
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More Great Links
- Chesapeake Bay & Tributaries Fishing Report.http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/fishingreport/chesapeake.asp
- Interview with Captain Chuck Graham, Angler Sport Fishing Charters. Nov. 6, 2008.http://www.angcharters.com/
- Interview with Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service. Nov. 6, 2008.
- Interview with Mark Beauchesne, advertising and promotions coordinator for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Nov. 6, 2008.
- New York Fishing Reports.http://www.fintalk.com/fishing-reports/modules/news/read_more.php?id=3482