Writing a fishing report is something you need to do after every trip. If not, you are doing yourself a disservice and will re-invent the wheel next time you launch the boat.
It was a spring morning typical of not only Louisiana, but also North Carolina. Chilly air had dew on every surface and the morning was peaceful; the sun peered through the wooded forest surrounding a clearing with a concrete building in the middle.
Crickets chirped, birds sang and the breeze blew softly. Everything was still.
The peacefulness was sharply interrupted when a wooden door exploded off its hinges. Men in bulky equipment made entry through the gaping hole followed shortly by minute popping noises that paled in comparison to the blast still echoing across the landscape.
The action was violent, fast and aggressive.
From outside the building more popping noises could be heard punctuated by additional deafening blasts. Smoke started to creep out from the crevices of windows and doors.
There was some more yelling, some unintelligible, some not, as the group of men started filing back out the door from which they came, all moving with purpose, a single cog of a much larger machine. Each took a knee, pointed in his own direction, aware of what was going on around him and reacting accordingly.
It was something like a well-rehearsed Chinese fire drill with explosions and gun shots.
Then, as if a silent signal were given, the group of men relaxed, taking off their masks and helmets before circling around a table. Mistakes were made inside that building despite their apparent fluidity and precision.
A group of instructors went over what went right and what went wrong then each man took turns going over his actions, justifying them and learning how he could improve his trade. These gunfighters were training to become better at gunfighting inside a house designed for such.
They would need it in the months to come.
How to Write Fishing Reports
That day was over ten years ago.
I was a Recon Marine with one trip to Iraq under my belt and preparing for another one. We were practicing CQB, entering buildings, clearing rooms and the like.
Each platoon in our company would take turns being the "bad guys", hiding inside the building with rifles outfitted to shoot simulated rounds, essentially a paintball gun. Another platoon would make entry and "gunfight" with them. In the heat of the moment, while your buddy is shooting at you and flashbangs are going off, it is easy to make mistakes.
What's special about that training, and relates to fishing, are the after action reviews we'd conduct after each run.
Instructors watching the takedown of the house would make notes and go over those things once the session was completed. This made us much better at our trade. Instead of leaving those mistakes in the past, we'd go over them and make them learning points, rather than a bad habit.
After action reviews, or AARs, are everything in the realm of professional training.
This is where fishing reports come in.
A fishing report should embody more than "I went here and caught this."
A fishing report, for all intents and purposes, is an after action review, though many inshore anglers don't treat it as such. A fishing report becomes the most important part of our efforts once properly recorded and shared with the fishing community.
Why do we write Fishing Reports?
We write fishing reports to help us remember where we caught fish and how we caught them. If you are the Rain Man of fishing trips and can remember every particular detail of what fish was caught, then good on you.
The rest of us mere mortals must resort to writing down those important details.
When we write fishing reports, we are taking our experience gained on the water and forever recording it so we can build off of that experience to become better anglers.
Take it a step further, turn your fishing report into an after action review: why did you go where you caught fish and why did you select the bait you were using?
Time Distorts the Memory
Fishing trips become better with time. As time passes people only remember the good parts of the trip and omit the key details that helped them find success.
A trip that started out in 15 knot west winds and dirty water but, after a day of grinding, ended with a nice box of fish will eventually turn into "we rode sea turtles to the favorite honey hole and caught a limit with each cast." Fishing reports help us remain honest with ourselves.
Taking the time to write a report and read old ones may give you important insights you otherwise would not notice out on the water.
What is and what is not a Fishing Report?
This is something that seems to be lost on at least a few anglers. A fishing report is not "I went out today to <insert general area> and caught <insert amount of fish>." That information is useless to both the poster and the reader.
Let's be real Saying you caught trout in Hopedale is like saying you shot a deer in Texas.
No Bragging Reports
A fishing report bragging about how many fish they caught but not including any useful information is not a fishing report. It is a bragging report.
A lot of fishing guides fall squarely into this category. They commonly make the mistake of showing off how much they caught, sometimes weeks or months after the actual fishing trip, without providing any useful information like tackle used and techniques implemented.
If they provided a little more value to the reader then chances are their bookings could increase.
Bragging reports are not allowed on my fishing report forum, Louisiana Fishing Reports, and are deleted with extreme prejudice.
A fishing report giving away an exact spot and how many fish were caught there is not helpful, either. On the next Saturday you can count on twenty boats being parked there.
It's about guaranteed none of those boats will catch fish if the conditions are different from when the report was posted.
An actual, bonafide fishing report contains information useful to the poster and reader. What's key is to provide information that sets yourself up for success years later when you read it again.
What information should I share in a report?
A fishing report should include where you caught the fish, what the conditions were like, what lures/bait were used and more. This does not mean giving away your fishing spots. Take it from someone who has given away fishing spots, people will abuse them and not be so kind as to post quality fishing reports in return.
The kind of fishing we do here in Louisiana has little to do with spots so much as it does conditions and the time of year. Speckled trout and redfish are constantly moving to stay in vicinity of baitfish.
Fishing reports include:
Conditions at Hand
- water clarity
- tide (rising or falling?)
- wind direction and strength
- weather (raining, overcast, sunny)
- air pressure (high, low, rising or falling)
- What kind of rod and reel? What kind of line?
- Did you use artificial lures or live bait?
- What kind of tackle did you use your lure/bait on? Popping corks? Carolina Rigs? Jigheads?
- What color did you use for your lures?
- Did you use a steady retrieve or did you jig the lure? Fast or slow? Hard or soft?
- Where were you casting? Into moving water? Against the shoreline? At a drop off?
- this does not mean the exact location, but give an area (i.e. Lake Borgne shoreline, The Wall, Bayou Biloxi, etc.)
- was the water deep? shallow?
- was aquatic vegetation present?
- were you fishing any particular structure and cover, like a deep hole, oyster bed, drop off or oil rig?
- were they concentrated or scattered? did you have to move a lot?
- were they striking aggressively or was the bite very soft?
A narrative is basically a story of how your fishing trip went. It's usually in the narrative you include other details that don't fall under the previous categories and any theories you have about what was going on underwater during your fishing trip.
When is the best time to write a fishing report?
Ideally, right after the fishing trip. Sometimes the day is long and you are too tired to make the effort, so the ideal time would be the day after.
I'll admit that I am horrible about writing fishing reports but I have made the effort to do so, especially seeing I actually own and operate a fishing report website now. Ha ha ha!
Where can I post a fishing report?
There are a myriad of different fishing report forums out there. Some are outdated, others are not moderated and some aren't bad, but I urge you to post fishing reports on my site at Louisiana Fishing Reports, or LAFR for short. Let me tell you why:
For starters, my fishing report forum is moderated. I have been a moderator on one site or another since I was 16 years old, giving me over 14 years experience. I know what makes for a great discussion forum and I put that knowledge into mine.
Bragging reports are not allowed and they are immediately nuked off the face of the Internet. So are trolls and naysayers. If you ever see one that is still alive then please report it to a moderator and it will be dead by the end of the day.
At Louisiana Fishing Reports I encourage members to post informative and relevant fishing reports.
Myself and my moderators set the example and others have followed. Fact of the matter is we all want a place we can discuss our inshore fishing passion, not a place dominated by advertising and bragging reports.
We all want a place we can grow as inshore anglers, connect with one another and become better at our passion. That is what Louisiana Fishing Reports provides.
The most important part of the fishing trip is after the fishing is done.
That is the time to reflect on how the day went and how it could have gone better. That is the time to record the details and set them down in stone so time can't stain the memory.
Make Posting Fishing Reports Easier
LAFR is responsive, making it easier for you to view and write fishing reports from your smart phone. This doesn't mean it resizes the website to fit your screen and the text is tiny and hard to read, it means it resizes the content to your screen, making it easy to view and read.
In addition to that, I use the Shell Beach Buoy to handle all of my tide and wind data when writing my own reports. I do this by taking screenshots of it on my phone or computer.
You can read more about using weather buoys to Fish Smarter by clicking here. Because all of that information is in the screenshot, it's less I have to type in my narrative.
Best of all, I am always working on the website. It is awesome, has over 2,000 members and is growing daily, but I have big plans and it will only get better.
I am an inshore angler just like you and I spend my free time fishing on the water. It is fishing reports like mine and those posted by our awesome members that myself and others use to embark on better fishing trips.
I value having the best website possible for us to enjoy, so I will never compromise it with advertising.
What if you didn't catch a lot?
Nobody is judging. We all started somewhere and I promise you that nature deals crappy hands to those of us who have spent a lifetime fishing her waters. Remember:
If you post a report and detail how things went, but didn't catch what you expected, then I promise me or one of LAFR's awesome members will be there to help out. That's what the forum is all about.
So this ties it up! You understand why it is important to post fishing reports, now it is up to you to do so. Am I going to see you introduce yourself on Louisiana Fishing Reports? I hope so.