I don't know about you, but more and more I have found that when I lay out a game plan for my day of fishing it doesn't always go the way I want it to.
For example, just last week I had my whole day mapped out. At low tide I was going to go to this spot and as the tide began to rise, I would go to another spot and so on. The problem with this way of fishing is you get to your spot, and there sits another boat. With more and more boats fishing these waters, this frustrating start to the day has been happening to me a lot, and every year it just gets worse.
Quite honestly, I try my best to hide fish from other anglers who might be riding past me as I am hooked up. Two of my favorite ways of doing this is to either put my reel in free spool and let the fish swim around until the other boat is out of sight or, secondly, to ease the fish in the boat over the side farthest away from the prying eyes of the anglers on the passing boat.
These old tricks aren't working like they used to, though, so what now?
I don't do it all the time, but lately I have been exploring new areas. All you have to do is look at a nautical chart of the area, and you will instantly realize there are creeks absolutely everywhere. Even after living here for so long, I'll bet I haven't explored 80 percent of these tributaries and, in my mind at least, there just have to be fish in most all of them. They might not be there at low tide nor mid-tide, but if you put in the time, chances are the fish will be there at some point during the cycle. All it takes is patience and a logbook, where you record what time during the tide the fish showed up in that particular place.
I think about exploring new areas more than I actually do it, but lately I have noticed the majority of boats regularly out there are almost always at a handful of spots, and these spots are hit hard day after day. And because there always seems to be a boat at these places, newcomers to our waters figure there must be something there. Then they tell a friend, and that friend tells another friend and, before you know it, it's like winning the Mega Millions Jackpot when you get to the spot first.
Sadly, though, after a while these productive spots are fished out, and the whole process starts over in another place.
It does take skill to read our waters and narrow down the places where fish might be, but if you fish enough the searching becomes easier. Just like largemouth bass fishing in freshwater ponds, reading salt water is no different. Bass fishermen look for old trees that have fallen in the water, little coves, points that jut out and structure because they know that their chances of hooking into a big largemouth are greater in these places.
Saltwater fishing, especially around here, is no different. The best time to go looking is low tide when you can see live oyster mounds, eddies, points where old trees have fallen in the water and any other types of structure. I make notes in my journal and, using a nautical map, I circle these places, because, as you know, once the tide comes in and covers up these jewels, it is nearly impossible to locate the exact spot again.
If I had to give you one piece of advice when looking for new honey holes it would be to start looking at low tide and fish the incoming tide. It's not that I have anything against falling tides but, thinking back, I have caught way more fish on rising tides than I have ever caught on falling tides. If I had to guess why the rising tide is better, it would probably have to do with water clarity.
On a rising tide, clear water is pushed in as the tide rises while on falling tides, more mud and silt is washed out from the creeks, making it harder for fish to locate your bait whether it is a shrimp or whatever. If you do fish the outgoing tide, I prefer lighter color baits that stand out in the dirty water.
Lastly, I will tell you this about exploring and finding a new spot. Unlike anchoring at a place where you saw another boat fishing, when you find a new spot and start catching fish, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride that will make that day even more special. And, for God's sake, don't go telling your friends where that place is. It took me years to learn that lesson. I don't care how great a friend they might be because most all fishermen are the same. They will swear up and down they'll never go there unless you are with them, but from experience, they will be there the first chance they get.
Hey, it's just the way fishermen are!
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.