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Fishing Articles > Featured Fishing Authors > George Van Zant > Ten Cardinal Rules of Fishing

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Ten Cardinal Rules of Fishing

by: gossamer
These rules were devised with one of my fishing buddies. We have discussed them for hours while fishing. Steve Woodard, my buddy, will probably disagree with the list priority but we both agree as to the content. Each rule will be discussed bi-monthly.
1. Save some for seed:
Release the fish you catch if you are not eating them. I really don't have to belabor the point, we all know the great aspects of the catch-and- release program.

Here are some tips as to preventing injury to the caught fish that you plan to release. Use hooks that will rust quickly in the presence of water. Usually the dark color hooks indicate the kind of hook that will disintegrate quickly in a fishes' mouth or stomach. Stainless steel hooks are real killers and shouldn't be used as bait hooks. They usually aren't, but used extensively on lures and trolling feathers.

If the hook is deeply embedded in the throat or stomach don't try to dig it out. This action causes more damage than simply leaving it in the fish. When you cut the mono off the hook attempt to get it all, mono doesn't rot away like hooks.

Learn how to twist away from the point of the hook by making an effort to grab some part of the hook bend with the needle nose pliers and rolling your wrist to pull in such a motion as to retrieve the hook point in the same direction as it's entry.

The air bladder in some fish cause blow up problems because they are brought to the surface so quickly the fish cannot adjust the pressurized air in the bladder. Many of the rockfishes suffer from his problem as do calico bass. If you immediately release a calico, he will swim back down without a problem. If you hold a calico in the bait tank for a length of time he will blow up. Each angler should learn how to deflate a blown up fish so it can make it back down. The best example I have seen of gas release was by a Lake Tahoe guide, John Hinson, who used a hypodermic needle (the largest there is) on macinaw trout. When he inserted the needle in the correct location a loud "pop" sounded as the fishes'' stomach deflated like a burst balloon. The point of some knives are very thin and can be used for deflation and some anglers use an ice pick. No matter what you use, don't poke the fish until you are very sure where the insertion point should be.

If you are releasing the fish don't hold it in the air by the leader. Hold it gently with a rag around its' midsection as you pull out the hook. Sometimes the fish are really tired from the battle and upon the release turn belly up and float. In this case hold the fish upright and push it back and forth just under water. Most of the time this is all it takes to revive him and he will kick out of your hands.

Why kill a large fish? Most of the time they are too tough to eat so release them and keep the just legal ones for table fare. "A large game fish is too valuable to be caught only once"
2. Fish where the fish are:
Ten Cardinal Rules (con)#2. Fish where the fish are. Some anglers think that by moving their boat away from shore, out into the ocean depths, the fish will be waiting for them. Not true. Southern California water is really a marine desert devoid of fish life. This is basically true for any large body of water. Serious anglers always investigate the scene before they head out to avoid Fishing shutouts. How? Here are a few ways.

1. Hire a guide: Especially if you are fishing strange waters. Guides can be expensive but they almost always put you near the fish. An example of a guide would be a sportboat skipper. All of these skippers are guides in the true sense of the word. The sportfishing landings up and down the coast have veteran skippers that really know what they are doing. It is really worth it to spend your money knowing that you will be around fish.( Sometimes catching them is a different story) For steelhead fishing up north it's imperative that you have a guide. Guides know where the fish are holding in the river at a particular time and can put you on them immediately. Without a guide you could spend the whole time of your trip simply trying to find them.

2. Look for the action: The word of a hot bite gets out quickly into the fishing circles. If you are a boater in Los Angeles saltwater, look for the boats. For instance during the summer sand bass spawn, you almost need a parking lot ticket to get among the armada of boats on the Huntington Flats. Last year on Crowley Lake I saw 25 boats jammed into Mc Gee bay, so guess where I took my boat? Also a large crowd of anglers fishing the shore of a lake means fish are being caught or have been caught in that area. So go look for some shoulder room and crowd in.

3. Check with local tackle stores: The proprietors will always offer current fishing information especially if you buy something. One tackle store in Mammoth has all the fishable lakes on a chalkboard with what tackle and flies are necessary for each lake. They also offer the latest Fish and Game plants for each lake. Big Fish Tackle has personnel in the store that have the latest information on the surf fishing and also the latest info for the small boaters.

4. Read the natural conditions: Physical conditions of the fishing area can show clues as to where the fish are. For example, surf fishermen can read Along-shore rip tides and recognize that where they turn out to sea is the collection point for schools of spotfin croaker. Trout fishermen in the dead of summer know that the fish will be in the fastest or the deepest water to get into their cooler temperature comfort zone. Bill fishermen watch the postures and actions of soaring gulls to show them where the marlin are. Likewise the observant angler knows where not to be. He knows not to waste time fishing in dead areas where birds are absent, no bait schools dimpling the surface, and the water is cold and dirty. To the veterans this is called a Long life area. Basically this is all learned through years of experience but each angler should always be on the look-out for something natural associated with a successful fishing trip. There is always something in nature that made it successful.

5. Journal: After each fishing trip record in your log or diary the date, weather, depth and water conditions. Record where you fished, what you caught and what you did to catch them. (bait, hooks, leaders etc.). Also relate where you were located to catch them. The most important skill for boaters is the practice of triangulating your position. Out in the vast expanse of water you cant draw an OXO on the side of the boat, but you can learn to read land bearings so that you can always get back to the spot ,unless the land is obscured because of fog or haze. Draw a picture of the bearings and write down LORAN and GPS numbers.

6. Depth finders: You must have a depth finder! All boat anglers should have a depth finder whether it's fresh or salt water. If you read it correctly, you can identify bottom structure, hard bottom areas and fish. If you are somewhere fishing that you know nothing about, a depth finder can save the day. Personally, I wont leave the dock without one.

7. Current and wind: In the ocean, currents are very important. If you had a successful trip it was mostly because you had favorable currents in the places you fished. At Catalina island on the backside of the western end, the current must be flowing north-west to produce a sea bass bite. But backside on the eastern end the current must be going south-east to get a sea bass bite. If conflicting currents are prevalent, veteran anglers don't fish for sea bass. This is true for the entire coastline and you should know the favorable currents for the fishing in advance. Needless to say, wind can play havoc on a days fishing. Believe it or not though, sometimes a strong wind can help the scene. There are places on the Horseshoe Kelp that fish better in a strong westerly. If you are a small boater make sure you're anchored up before the blow and get ready to ride it out. Once it blows over 20 knots it's difficult to get up to the bow to pull the anchor.

In conclusion, to fish where he fish are, use your head. Certain kinds of fish are in certain places at certain times of the year, day, and hour. The surf perch are most abundant in the winter and they like strong surf. Sand bass and calico bass are around structure except when sand bass move into the sand bottom areas to spawn. Trout are caught best in early spring and late fall except for the usual rise to flies just before dark in the summer time. Tightly schooled shad indicate a striper lurking nearby. In the spring, eight feet of water with tree tops will always support crappie schools. Some anglers catch their best fish by the tale.
3. Think like a fish:
Biological functions that happen to a fish, occur proportionately to its habitat water conditions. These functions happen to all fish whether they are bluegill, carp or marlin.

Water Temperature. Every fish has its comfort zone and will leave it only to change locations or to chase food. Water temperature is by far the most sought after, by a fish. The temperatures vary according to the individual species. Rainbow trout want temps to 55 degrees, brown trout want colder than that and golden trout want water in the 40's, while Macinaws (lake trout) want water temps in the high 30s' or low 40s'. Mako sharks don't appear in our offshore waters until the temps reach 65 degrees or warmer and marlin are most active around here when the water is 68 to 70 degrees.

So what you ask! What it means is that if you are a fish, 95% of your life is spent somewhere in your zone. That means simply, that's where we should look to catch what we're after. If you are rainbow trout in a shallow stream you would locate yourself in the coolest possible location which would probably be in the deepest or the fastest part of this stream.

Water Movement. One of the least known techniques for catching calico bass, is one that helps explain what water movement means to a fishes' zone. This technique is throwing iron jigs into the violent, white, foamy water around the shoreline. A calicos' life is spent in the rocky, kelp habitat and very early in the morning before the sun breaks, just before the gray, calicos' love to chase bait into shallow water. They trap the bait in the shoreline shallows where the water is turbulent. The bait has no where to go and many times will jump clear of the water to land high and dry on the shore. Large calico charge into these trapped schools in water so shallow that sometimes their backs are showing. I have caught many large fish with this method. (But also lost many jigs, you don't dare backlash) The water is only one foot deep whether it's into the shore or around turbulent rocky surf. The bite is over the minute the sun peeks, and I mean it stops cold.

There are times when fish will not bite on anything you throw at them. This is the real moment when you have to think like a fish. Since they wont move two inches from where you know they are, you have to put that bait exactly in their mouth. So if you are a trout in the middle of the day, hanging out in the fastest part of the stream, you would position yourself as close to the bottom as possible, behind a rock, not a big rock, but one that cuts the flow of the water. The position allows you cool crisp water flow but doesn't wear you out holding in the current. Mainly, you are in position to grab any morsels that swirl by. Knowing this, the angler would use the techniques to putting that bait right in front of him, so that it floats directly into his mouth.

If you were a corbina in the bay you would get most active when the razor clams raised partly out of their holes to take feeding advantage of a swift tidal flow. You would swim through the bed nipping off the clam tops before they retreated to their holes. You as an angler would drift a razor clam bumping along hopefully right into a 5 pounders mouth. If you were a big ole carp swimming around in a public lake you would immediately "wake-up" to the splashing antics of the ducks and coots, being fed bread by a picknicker. A bread ball stuck on a no.#16 treble, and floated into the turbulence would certainly get some attention by a grumpy carp.

Some fishermen wear rubber gloves to bait their hooks, not to protect their hands. but to keep the dreaded human smell off the bait. Some anglers rub their hands with oils and substances that smell and attract fish. I guess that means we should not only think like a fish we should stink like a fish too. "You can't fight nature and win". Ted Trueblood
4. Feed the fish what they want:
Rule #4: Feed the fish what they want. How do you know what they want? One thing for sure fishing techniques, tackle and bait can change in any given situation. My biggest problem is using my favorite techniques when I know that something else is called for. So, what are some things that will give you an edge, tackle wise? Tackle Preparation: As said before you have to have an idea on what tackle its necessary for the particular trip you are going on. But you must be prepared for any contingency. For example: Scenario #1. Halibut fishing in the harbor is done in shallow water with light tackle. For this trip you might have 3 rods, a spinning rod, a bass rod and a medium saltwater rod. This would cover most of the tackle needs for the harbor, including drifting. Still you might want to slide outside to the Horseshoe for a little bass fishing if the butts aren't biting. The medium rod with a backup reel with #15 pound would be perfect. Scenario #2. Off to Catalina targeting a sea bass bite calls for more preparation because you have to be ready for deep water attractions that could pop up on the way across. You should be ready to bait a swordfish, work over a kelp paddy, jig fish working birds, or to troll feathers and plugs. Don't forget the wire for a Mako that might show. One trolling rod with 50 lb on a 6/0 reel would duplicate for heavy trolling and/or baiting a swordfish or marlin. A jig casting rod could be used for both jig-in-squid sea bass bait or throwing iron at a kelp paddy. Finally, you need a medium rod for fishing the calicos. halibut, or sea bass. Of course backup reels with at least #30 and #40 pound test line is an absolute necessity for the Osmoses back yellowtail that swim by. Your terminal tackle should be prepared in advance with hooks, sinkers jigs, lead heads etc. Scenario #3. Freshwater. To bank fish a trout lake, you need a bait rod and a lure casting rod. (and a two pole use stamp from the Fish and Game). You need 4lb, 3lb, 2lb, and 1lb test line and leaders. While you soak a bait on the bait rod, throw lures or flies on a bubble set-up with the other rod. Fishing a stream means only using one rod. It also means not toting a tackle box up and down the rocky stream edge.

Travel light but carry some of your favorite flies, and carry a couple favorite lures. The terminal tackle would be aimed at mostly bait fishing unless of course you are fly fishing only. I investigate the scene: Use tackle and methods that are currently working. With your tackle prepared to meet any situation, it's time to give them what they want. As I said before, if you are like me you will probably always have to test your Favorites first. For instance, in my case, if the anglers are slaying trout in a lake using a no. #14 Royal Coachman, I first will fish my favorite fly. If it doesn't produce then I switch to the Royal Coachman. No matter what was recommended at the tackle shop my first lure into the lake is a copper Super Duper, it being my all time favorite. Otherwise, do what you are told by the many references available. Last year, in the local saltwater, it was reported that a deep running, 6 inch, fire tiger, Rapala was taking local yellowtail. Of course I trolled my favorite anchovy colored Rapala and caught two barracuda in an hour of trolling. My fishing buddy boated 5 yellows with the firetiger Rapala. Yes, I finally switched. Be observant and watch the clues. Once on anchor on one of my halibut spots, we were using the standard large sardines for bait and we had pulled in many chewed up baits but no butts. I noticed a massive school of anchovies flashing and swirling under the boat.

Also In the general area the Pelicans and gulls were on a frenzied feeding rampage on another large school of 3 inch anchovies. For kicks, I snagged 5 or 6 of the 3 inchers, with a snag gang. I threw them into the bait tank but they went belly up so I wasn't very excited about using them for bait...Mistake! Dead or not I caught a 36 inch halibut the first cast before the sinker could reach the bottom. We ended up catching 4 nice halibut with the miniature anchovies. Later when we cleaned the fish we found their stomachs crammed with the small anchovies. This happened again with grunion. A beach jogging friend of mine found enough dead grunion on the beach to fill a bucket. We fished the grunion just behind the surf line in the area of the where they were beached and caught some very nice halibut. When you look at a trout's stomach, you will always find it full of minute midge and mayfly larvae. I could never handle fishing with midge patterns which call for a size #18 or #20 hook but when I found caddis in the stomach I knew my time was near. When you see the striped bass boiling after a freshly planted trout supply you know what they are chasing. Also a real show stopper is the display put on by largemouth's pounding on a trout plant in our local county lakes.

The most famous freshwater lure of all times evolved from this action it's called a Casitis Trout. It really produces large bass in those local lakes that have trout plants every other week. Remember the tuna crab invasion in the 1980Ġs? I caught a sheephead that had so many red crabs in stomach and throat the crab claws were sticking from his overloaded stomach out his mouth. He took a red, lead head, with a brilliant red Scampy rubber tail. When the grunion gather in the surf to do their thing, so do the halibut. (WARNING! There is a possession limit on grunion and they can only be caught by hand.) Believe me, its worth it to go out of your way to catch them, even if they are dead. For a bruiser halibut there's not a better bait. So, to feed the fish what they want, you have to be prepared for all contingencies, listen to the advice of the media, watch and investigate the scene and be very observant.
5. Never leave a bite: To understand this rule you have to determine what a bite is and what to do with it. The 3 most used expressions for a bite are, "it is a wide open bite", we are "picking away" and fishing "for nothing".1. "Wide open Bite". This term varies depending on what's being caught. To the sportboats it can mean 20 barracuda hook-ups going on for 50 anglers, 10-12 sand bass hook-ups, or 5-6 calico bass being caught. Absolute chaos for a wide open bite is 25 albacore hooked up with 35 fishermen. A wide open halibut bite can mean 3 keepers for 3 anglers all day. To me "wide open" means more quality fish in the boat or on the hook rather than quantities of fish being caught "hand-over-fist". I'll take 2 four pound calicos in an hour over 12 inchers caught every single cast for an hour.2. "Picking away". One or two sand bass hooked all the time for 50 anglers with flurries of 10-12 hook-ups now and then. Picking can mean catching a small halibut every cast and after catching 30 little ones, and then finally landing a keeper.3."For nothing". It's obvious. This statement refers to placing your boat over a known "hot spot and catching nothing, not even getting a strike. Or charging into a frenzy of yellowtail birds and not catching one fish. It's time to move on to another spot if you have truly fished it out. Actually a fish bite is all in the eyes of the beholder. Some anglers have ants in their pants, others wear out a spot catching nothing. The impatient ones are those that need to have a fish going every cast to keep them happy. Personally I will wear out a spot if it is one of my best spots. It's one of my better spots because it has probably been a fish producer, so it needs lots of attention. Many anglers tire of catching one particular fish in a wide open bite or even a picking bite and move on, looking for a different action. Invariably, they don't catch another fish any where else, so they head back to the original bite which has completely shut off.

Some anglers don't realize when they are well off. Catching 3 nice calicos for three guys in an hour is better than none in an hour. Impatient anglers are always rewarded with nothing. If you are with me on a bad day, you will most certainly be bored especially, if you suffer from the "impatient" disease.

If I am convinced we have anchored correctly, yet the fish aren't biting, I'll stubbornly fish until one is caught. Sportboat captains in their fishing search must move around because their paying customers demand action.

What is a bite? That's up to you. But if you have caught one quality fish, stay there and fish for more. Don't get ants in your pants.
6. Patience: Patience is the rule most broken by anglers. It's easy to haul anchor and move from place to place using the mobility of a boat to cover lots of area when apparently they aren't biting. This mobility is the main reason for the lack of patience it causes. The same happens to the shore angler who can move, an move, an move impatiently down the shoreline from one spot to the next never catching anything. The point being, that anglers shouldn't let the ease of moving around let them pass up fish that will bite with a little patience. How long you spend fishing a spot depends on the following:

1. The conditions of that spot.

2. What tackle tactics you are deploying for the type fish that inhabit the spot.

3. Your preparations before going to that spot.

Many anglers are not concerned with these tactics and are the ones usually found lacking patience. If you are one of these people on my boat you will be bored to tears. My goal is to catch quality fish not quantities of fish. So when I don't catch fish every cast it doesn't bother me. (much) Preparation before fishing a spot is important. (As mentioned in rule #4).

For instance, two rods can be deployed into a lake. One for bait fishing, the other used as an all purpose rod for casting lures and flies, or as another bait rod. Your preparations before leaving home base should include the different kinds of bait that have worked or baits that you have been advised to use. You should have all the lures and flies that are popular for the area and your own general favorites. Finally, you need the terminal tackle to fish the spot. If you go through all these possibilities you will be rewarded because you will be spending lots of time trying to catch a quality fish. Also it will take lots of time to deploy all of these tactics and keep you from the path of impatience. If you have yourself properly equipped and the boat anchored correctly, take the time to deploy all the tactics to fish it out On the shipwrecks sculpin sometimes take over an hour to start biting. They seemingly have to gather together as a group under your boat before they jump on the hooks. A calico bass rock on the Horseshoe Kelp takes a precise, methodical approach, especially when you use live bait. First, start by casting the bait flyline. As the bait drifts back, pause now and then by thumbing the spool. Hold it a few minutes, then allow it to drift back further. Repeat this process until the bait is back behind the boat about 50 yards (or more with #15lb test line, less with lighter line). If they don't bite add a 1/4 ounce slip egg sinker and repeat the process. Keep adding weight until they start biting. This procedure takes at least an hour to complete and it will further keep you from the impatience bug. Finally, you can deploy the famous method that guarantees a bite.( but you have to be in perfect position over the rock). Tie a 3 foot dropper, 3 feet over a sinker at the end of your line. Attach a 4/0 hook to the dropper, pin on a large sardine or small mackerel and lower it straight into the bowels of the rock. Put your rod in a rod holder with the reel in clicker position and pop out a sandwich. Usually by the time you finish the sandwich, some denizen has ran off with your bait.
7. Keep the rod bent and reel: Sure, there is no guarantee that all hooked fish will be landed, but you can deploy tactics that will reduce the loss ratio.... that's what this is all about.

The new hooks on the market are really doing the job. They are much sharper than the old standards and that's the major improvement. Ask any angler why they lose fish and they will tell you to the man it's because of dull hooks that do not penetrate to the bend of the hook and allow the barb to perform its function. The old standard hooks need to be sharpened even before they are used once. The new breed of hooks like the Gamakatsu, Owner, VMC, Eagle Claw etc. are chemically sharpened and they become as sharp as a hypodermic needle. But they are very expensive and you don't like losing them. The style hook you use should fit the fishing occasion and the rod you are deploying. The popular "live bait" hooks are stout, straight eyed (ringed is the proper terminology) with a sproat bend about 1X long. You can get them as small as a number #10. At one time we used to catch the schooled blue fin tuna at Catalina using "pin head anchovies" on a #10 hook. These fish were so spooky (and still are) that many anglers swore they couldn't be caught with hook and line. But with a no. #10 Mustad 9176 live bait hook, stuck into a 3 inch anchovy, 10 to 12 pound test line, and lots and lots of chum you could hook one. Most tuna at that time didn't exceed 20 pounds, but now and then a 50 pound bruiser quickly spooled you before you could talk yourself into breaking it off.

Stout hooks need a stout rod to exert the necessary backbone to push the hook to the barb. Use hooks that fit your rods bend. For trout fishing I wrap my own fly rod blank into a spinning rod. The fly rod quality makes it very willowy and slow bending. This is necessary when using running line of 2 lb test. It performs a spring like action against a fighting trout, especially a 5 pounder. I use a 2X fine, light wire, fly tying hook, because they are skinny and penetrating. Using 2lb line needs the soft backbone of the fly rod. In fact they are so light and skinny, you can bend them with your fingers.

Conversely, if you are throwing iron jigs at barracuda, you need a long rod for casting distance but a stout fast action type to set the large treble hooks of the jig into the fish.
Also, hook size should fit the bait you are using not only for hiding but also for proper penetration into your quarry. For instance, you shouldn't use a hook larger than a number #10 on a 3 inch anchovy or a number #10 on an 8 inch sardine. One leading factor for losing a running fish is an improperly placed hook in the bait. If the hook is too large it will turn around and stick back into the bait, usually into the eye socket ; thereby. burying the point so it can't penetrate into the aggressor. This happens all the time with large sardines and mackerel. Most of all fish are lost because they throw the hook out of its penetration on slack line. The whole idea is to keep the line tight... at all times! As the fight progresses a pumping action is needed to gain lost line back onto the spool. This is the way to do it. As you wind against a heavy fish (only when it's not running), lower the rod tip slowly downwards to reduce the weight so you can retrieve line, but keep pressure on it never allowing slack. Sounds easy doesn't it? One fishing trip while throwing iron jigs, I hooked 15 dorado and landed one. They kept throwing the jig because I couldn't reel fast enough to keep the line tight as they charged the boat. They would charge and leap out of the water directly at me at a 30 MPH clip, throw slack and the jig right back in my face. I couldn't keep the line tight even with a 6-1 Shimano reel. Most of the time on the pump downward, you will have to wind as fast as you can to keep the line tight.

Another important consideration for hooking a fish, is winding up slack line that has accumulated. Slack can occur when a live bait runs out and then back to the boat. This happens many times with sardines and mackerel. It also happens when your bait is picked up by the one you are trying to catch and it runs full speed back to the boat. Anglers that fish with downriggers are always retrieving slack that falls out of the clip on a strike. Bill fishermen have that problem with a baited marlin. When the marlin runs off with the mackerel an angler never knows in which direction it went. At the point of a marlin pick up they put the boat in gear and charge forward as fast as they can, going sometimes a half mile before the line comes tight. Then they actually go a little further to help set the hook.
Slack happens many times when a calico bass runs with your bait back to the boat. It can fool the angler because there is so much slack the actual entry point of the line appears to be leading away from the boat, and it is, for a ways. Down below the fish has caused a giant loop back to the boat. This is why you don't set the hook immediately when the line runs off the reel spool. Wait until your rod tip goes down before you set the hook. This means the fish has pulled out the slack and is ready to be hooked. I like to use very light, 8 lb test line when IĠm fishing for calicos. Most of the time I allow the bait to run back until it is bit, sometimes 60 to 70 yards. By the time I feel a pick up it's virtually impossible to get the hook set into the bass with so much line out. But I try with lots of gusto and set the hook numerous times on the pumping in with the fish. If he stays on the hook it's rarely penetrated to the barb. As a matter of fact, I have gone to the use of barbless hooks with all my light tackle. Also with the light line I have gone to very light wire hooks in the Octopus style.

If you fight every fish that pulls back thinking that the hook is not set to the barb, it makes you realize the need for constant pressure. That's why you keep the rod bent and reel like crazy.
8. Don't touch that drag: Most anglers adjust their reel drags before they cast and just as many forget too! One way not to forget that critical maneuver is to establish a habit of backing off the drag after each trip. The time to back them off is when you are preparing to stack your rods in the garage, just after washing them off. Also, if you remove the terminal tackle when you finish a trip thatıs the time to back off the drags. (Following the wash off). As you string the line next time, set the drag also.

Itıs an understatement to say that many fish are lost because of an insufficient drag. Itıs a fact that most fish are lost because of poor drag washers or improper setting of the drag. If your line is in good shape, not twisted, nicked or old, the condition of your drag becomes the most important part of landing a fish capable of breaking your line.

Veteran anglers usually start off with lighter drag than the breaking strength of the line. During the battle some anglers tighten the drag when the fish is completely whipped. Thatıs the point when itıs on its side and sliding to the gaff. This is dangerous though and the experienced fishermen never touch the Star Drag Wheel even if the fish appears to be whipped. They thumb the spool tightly while dragging the fish to gaff. Many fish are broken off because of tightened drags, when the fish exerts a last ditch effort after appearing whipped. Many times the gaffer misses the swipe an activates the fish into a sudden lunge which breaks the line if the drag has been clamped down. At the point of the gaff swing you should throw your reel out of gear, just in case he misses.

After the fishing trip, when itıs time to wash down the rods, tighten the drag all the way before you put water on the rods. After the washdown back off the drags all the way. This procedure keeps water from seeping through the drag washers. Many reel manufacturers are recommending that you not wash the reels, but wipe the salt off and spray them with WD 40 or silicon based lubricants.

Reel drags must be changed periodically. How often depends on how many times a fish has tested the washers. Line must run off smoothly when you pull it at its tightest setting, without any jerking. Some anglers change their drags after every trip when they have been catching the powerful albacore. Itıs also time to change washers after catching 3-4 yellowtail. Most fishermen donıt change their washers enough and thatıs a shame because itıs simple to have it done. For a few dollars any tackle store will quickly replace the drags. There is nothing more important than a smooth drag.
9. Avoid contempt from fellow anglers: Southern Cal lake vendors stock trout by the tons to attract money paying fishermen to their lakes. Each lake has a group of "regular" anglers that know the lake like the "back of their hand". They know exactly where to fish
for the stocked fish. In most of the lakes the regulars are shoulder to shoulder in specific areas of the lake to catch the freshly planted fish. Their rods, stuck in the sand spikes, are sometimes 2 feet apart.

If you want to fish the lake after a fresh plant and you are not a regular, it can be dangerous trying to fit into a fishing spot. So what can you do to avoid contempt from the group and find a plot of shoreline to wet your line? You have three choices. 1. Rent a boat. 2. Force your way in to a spot. 3. Ask permission to squeeze in.

In most lakes renting a boat doesnıt work. The planted trout move up and down the shoreline in very shallow water, 30 feet from shore. (Some say they are looking for a way out of the lake). If you pull a boat to where you can cast to the fish, the shore anglers will retaliate with verbal abuse or throw sinkers at you. On shore, if you try to force your way in, you risk hand-to-hand combat.

Really, the only way to handle the situation is to ask permission to squeeze in. Some might say "no", but somewhere down the line-up you will find a forgiving soul. When you find a spot use only one rod and cast straight to avoid crossing any of your neighborsı lines. Soon you will be accepted and avoid that awful contempt.

Competition can be very strict on the ocean too. The commercial sportboat skippers know most of the favorable fishing spots and the week-end small boaters know it. The best and easiest thing for prospective private boater to do in finding a fishing spot is to find an anchored sportboat and fish around it. But many small boaters have discovered the wrath of the sportboat guys by taking on the bombardment of iron jigs, sinkers and verbal abuse for
getting too close to them. Sportboat skippers continually throw over chum to attract the target fish. This is a chum line designed to attract the targets to casting range for the paying customers. The chum line usually extends a minimum distance of 100 yards, usually further and calico bass, barracuda, and yellowtail love to follow the chum up to the sportboat. When an unsuspecting boater crosses behind the sportboat, through the line, it will shut off the bite for the sportboat anglers. This is definitely a "no-no". To avoid contempt cross only in front of a parked sportboat or cross 1/2 mile behind.

Trolling contempt can come from a troller whose plugs or feathers have been cut off accidentally by an unsuspecting boater who crosses too close behind the troller. You have to be vigilant for these boats. Trolling boats can be identified by tell tale clues as they appear in front of you. If a boat is crossing in front at a slow speed, look for anglers in the stern looking back at their wake. Obviously they are watching their rods for a strike when normally they would all be looking forward. You can usually see rods sticking up from the boat and bent in a curve toward the wake. Sometimes, depending on the angle of the sun, or if there is any sun, the lines will glisten as they trail back to the lures. But if you can
see the line, youıre too close and take emergency measures to escape crossing their wake. Trolling boats cannot maneuver quickly, so avoid contempt and give them a wide berth.

There are many situations in the angling scene that can cause contempt. I prefer to be a good guy. Yes, there are many that simply donıt give a damn.

10. Prevaricate with intelligence: Once, in the late 1960ıs I was fishing the trout opener on the June Lake loop. I was fishing on Rush Creek below the campground. The sun was barely up as I approached the first hole. Six fishermen surrounded the hole. I got into the water and waded in from above and drifted my bait over and down the small waterfall into the hole and immediately hooked a 3lb brown trout that took me down the bank weaving over and under the bank anglers. After landing the fish at the bottom of the hole I walked back around the amazed anglers back to my starting point. I drifted another bait down the waterfall and instantly hooked another 3lb brown. Again, I struggled through the anglers
to finally land the fish. This procedure was repeated 5 times with just as many fish, 3 nice rainbows and 2 more browns. Finally it came. "What are using for bait?" Intelligent prevarication or smart lying sometimes is hard to do. Should I tell them or not? I felt very greedy though and confessed to using Velveeta Cheese. Velveeta cheese was just beginning to gain popularity at that time, so at least, I felt better about giving then a viable
substitute. I felt badly as the time went on, but I really felt worse when the only store in the area sold out of Velveeta cheese in 2 hours. If those guys found out about the prevarication I would have been lynched.

After many experiences like that over the years, I usually do not outright lie anymore about fishing secrets. Itıs hard to live with yourself especially when it involves your fishing friends. Itıs better to simply tell them nothing, or if it involves a fishing spot, be very vague about its location. I donıt lie about hot bait or a successful fishing method anymore. Itıs easier to sleep at night.

But in some cases it is still difficult to divulge a secret. If you click on my home page "Contact Me" I just might tell you about the greatest trout bait ever! The one I used on Rush Creek.

This concludes the Ten Commandments Of Fishing. Follow them to be a better fisherman and a better person.

"SOME ANGLERS CATCH THEIR BEST FISH BY THE TALE"

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Added: Mon Apr 28 2008
Last Modified: Fri Aug 01 2008

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