March 7, 2012

A Thinking Man’s Game: The Details Most Anglers Are Missing

Fishing is a thinking man's game with more to it than wind forecasts and tidal ranges.

A Thinking Man's Game

Riding Through Stump Lagoon

Captain Devin always keeps a sharp lookout.

Nobody is going to spoon feed this to you, nor will anybody hold your hand.

Fishing, even in the recreational world, is taken seriously and few anglers like to create more competition for themselves.

Only a handful really see fishing for what it is: fishing.

Because of this, natural selection reigns supreme and it's hard to get ahead if you don't know the finer details to the craft of slaughtering speckled trout.

dolphins hopedale porpoise

If you miss this, then what else are you missing?

I look at everything as I hurdle down the bayou.

It doesn't matter if I was there the day before or even earlier that day. I may see something that I have never seen before and would want to research later. I'll take a mental note as I keep my head on a swivel. I see more stuff than other people do.

It happens often, almost every fishing trip, that there are dolphins playing nearby or a nutria crossing the canal and nobody notices.

One time there was a nine foot alligator sunbathing on the bank of the Spoil Canal as we were returning to Breton Sound Marina.

My jaw dropped, but not at the alligator. The people in the boat looked right at it and had no idea a big gator just entered their field of view. I keyed them on and turned around so they could take pictures.

I'm sure you've seen this, too.

I'm sure you have seen other fishermen do it as they run right through the flock of birds you are fishing. It can be frustrating.

But maybe you're missing something as well. Perhaps it's not Troy Landry's tree-shaker or a hurricane of diving birds, but it's totally possible that you have been missing the finer details that could really boat you more fish.

Read on as I go over my own experiences and my thoughts on some of the things I have seen. Even more importantly, pay attention to how this can apply to you.

school of mullet breton sound bait fish hopedale

Captain Devin looks for piles of mullet when fishing. Finger mullet will congregate with bigger mullet.

I like to wade fish.

It's easier to fan everyone out (so long as they're comfortable with wade fishing) and cover more water. Everyone has plenty of casting space and for whatever reason nobody has to ask for the leeward side of the boat to relieve themselves. Sometimes people ask for the windward side and I tell you that is always self-correcting.

On one trip, I had customers in the boat and the fish weren't cooperating. I needed to fill that cooler up, so I hopped onto shore and started walking down the shoreline, looking for anything that would give away redfish or speckled trout.

My persistence paid off when I saw something that I had not seen before. I saw some finger mullet, by themselves, pushed up as far against the shore as possible. They were quite literally in an inch of water, moving with the small waves as they lapped against the beach.

Now, if I were a small mullet, why would I expose myself to shorebirds in that manner? Probably because I'm hiding from something. Probably something big enough to eat a 4" mullet. Perhaps even a trout or redfish.

I was on the money when I saw two perfect sized reds moving down the shoreline. My intention was to catch just those two reds. After I stealthily moved the boat into position, my customers proceeded to catch their limit of reds, catch-and-release ten more and then call it a day.

That was on top of the trout we had earlier, making it a banner day! In hindsight it sounded easy, but realize that I was gambling precious time on a hunch. But it made sense and was worth ten minutes. Having the patience to try something new is the hallmark of a good fisherman.

redfish speckled trout

Nice coolers of redfish and trout are possible when you become a keen observer.

I grew up fishing the Biloxi marsh.

My heart resides there and I used to run all over it with a fifteen foot long flatboat.

When doing so I couldn't help but notice all the white pelicans in the fall and winter months.

They always hung out with white ibis. And they were everywhere, but just off the beaten path, in and around shallow ponds. I thought it odd that white and brown pelicans didn't congregate. Then I thought I had never seen a white pelican dive on fish.

I just wasn't sure.

I made a mental note and saved that for later. Later a friend jump-started my noggin and motivated me to do some research on my own.

It turns out white pelicans don't dive.

They work as a team with other white pelicans (and ibis) to surround fish and herd them so that they can be scooped up to eat. Clearly, this could only work in a shallow pond.

I did some pre-scouting for potential fishing spots using this criteria and found what turned out to be small, shallow ponds packed with mullet. On a falling tide, I slaughtered some trout and reds that stacked at the mouth of this pond. It was a spot I had passed up a thousand times.

This validates that fishing is a thinking man's game. If you're the kind of person looking for handouts, then this game isn't for you.

But if you read this far, then you're probably a thinking man. And if you did indeed read this far,  I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to do so! It means the world to me.

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a former fishing guide and lifelong inshore angler. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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