|Do you believe fish bite in the rain? Lonnie Boyer photo (I think)|
I am sometimes asked what special talents a fishing/hunting camp operator needs. This is usually followed by, "I guess you need to be a jack-of-all-trades."
That is true but if you could train for this business, I would suggest that the first thing you do is get a PhD in psychology. It might help you deal with the frustration and bewilderment you are going to encounter.
A question I am asked on virtually every boat trip from the dock out to camp is: "So, where are they catching fish?" My answer is usually specific and thorough. It might go like this:
"We're going to drive right past the very best spot and I'll tell you when we get there." When we do, "See that fallen tree in the water? Troll from there up to that point in 12 feet of water with spinners and worms. The colours working the best are orange in the morning and blue in the afternoon. The walleyes have been stacked in there for days now. The guys who left camp this morning told me you cannot get your spinner to the bottom in this spot without hooking a walleye. They are averaging 22-26 inches in length. The fish are going to be there until the wind changes so go there as soon as you get your license at camp."
If you think the angler will then go fish in this spot then you have never been a fishing camp operator.
There is no doubt where this fishermen is going to head as soon as he gets his boat -- the last place he caught fish when he was at camp, even if he hasn't been here in 20 years. He is going to work that place over thoroughly, even though the wind or other conditions might be wrong. In fact, he might spend several days there before coming to me mid-week and asking, "Where was that place you told us about on the boat ride into camp?"
Another question: "What are the fish biting on?"
Here's a clip-and-save bit of information: the fish always bite on the same thing! In May, June, July and August the walleyes bite on worms and leeches. In September, they bite on minnows. It never changes but it also doesn't make any difference. After I explain the above-mentioned preferences, the angler frequently adds anyway, "You know, I always fish with minnows!" So he could have stated from the outset, "I don't care what the fish are biting on, I'm going to fish with minnows."
The same thing goes with lures. Anglers have their pet lures and they are going to stick with these come hell or high water. But that doesn't stop them from asking me what I consider the best lures are for each species. Fifteen minutes into my explanation they finally 'fess up. "I find I always do best by trolling big Rapalas."
There are red flags buried in anglers' questions. For instance, "Have you ever used the walleye gullet for bait?" This means this person is only going to use walleye gullets (a v-shaped strip of flesh between the jawbone and the throat.) Do they work? EVERYTHING works, at least a bit. They don't work as well as worms or leeches but if that is the only way you fish, you know what? That is how you are going to catch every fish, thereby cementing your belief that walleye gullets are the secret lure.
Nowhere in life is it more evident that "As you believe, so shall you see," as in the sport of fishing.
This tendency is absolutely blinding.
Here is just one example: "As the water warms up, pike and walleye move to deep water." This is utter nonsense. On Red Lake, as the water warms up, the fish are more and more active. The minnows are in the shallows; so, that's where the fish are as well. They move to deeper water only when it cools off and the minnows move deeper, hunting warmer water. Most people just won't accept this explanation.
"When is the best time of day to catch walleye?" I should answer this with, "When do YOU think is the best time?" Because nothing I say is going to change this questioner's already-cemented belief. Somewhere, sometime, the human race was taught that walleye only bite in the morning and the evening. There is no point now in me telling them that probably the best time of day to catch them is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. If I do they just look at each other with "Boy, is this guy full of it" expressions.
Then there's the big-lure, big-fish myth. This is the granddaddy of entrenched beliefs. This blog and all of our promotional literature encourages anglers to use small-to-medium sized lures for northern pike. Why? Because that is what works best. If you are now thinking, "Yeah, but I want to catch really big fish" then your blindspot is showing. I haven't spent all this time promoting smaller lures just to help you catch little fish.
Oh well, I remind myself several times a summer, I don't care how many fish you catch, only that you are having a good time. It's the experience that is important, not numbers. That's a fact. Take myself: I always prefer fishing without bait, even if it means catching fewer fish. I just love the simplicity. I find bait-fishing to be stressful.