Peck: Sometimes fish are to blame for slow day

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Ted Peck
Special to The Gazette
Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Millennial mantra “it’s not my fault” chafes Gen-Xers and Baby Boomer generations who were raised with the ethic of personal responsibility when well-made plans go awry.

But sometimes the kids who are more comfortable communicating through shiny objects rather than face-to-face are on target when it’s time to assign blame to failure—especially when it comes to fishing.

If fish always bit because the fisher had done everything right, I suspect there would be a lot less interest in sport fishing today.

We certainly have the technology and tools available to solve every variable of fish location and hook presentation.

But the fish get a vote, too. Sometimes the fish vote is a resounding ‘NO.’ This can be devastating to an individual who has invested $87.50 for every fish that comes across the gunnel during an average fishing season.

You don’t see many union carpenters showing up for work with a 16-ounce Walmart hammer driving a 25-year-old Toyota truck.

Those who fish for a living tend to buy high-end toys, er, tools. Not just St. Croix rods—self-described as the finest rods on earth—we’re talking the best rods St. Croix offers.

Pro anglers tend to justify top-shelf purchases with extensive mental gymnastics. If an Ugly Stik can catch one fish, a basic St. Croix will catch three. The top-end model will catch 10—and the fish will be bigger.

In many instances this contention is true. Top-end rods have better balance, sensitivity and ergonomics. This allows an angler to cast with less fatigue and greater accuracy in an exercise where just a couple of inches can make a world of difference.

There are times when fish will chase down any lure which merely hits the water. Last Wednesday was just such a time. The weather pattern was extremely unstable. Severe thunderstorm cells were rolling through every couple hours. Certainly a day when it was unwise to even consider launching a boat.

These cascading storms caused wide fluctuation in barometric pressure. Fish were hitting aggressively on almost every cast. When Janesville’s Dave Dvorak called, we quickly hatched a plan to go get ‘em, convincing each other that if we fished from a dock, conditions really weren’t that dangerous.

Dave showed up with his son, DJ, about 20 minutes later. DJ is a Millennial with a Baby Boomer outlook. Credit good parenting and the fact that Dave is still a kid at heart.

In less than two hours, we had a six-gallon bucket two-thirds full of jumbo perch using my Perchanator jig/fly. We tried the same presentation in the same place the following morning with profoundly limited success. The fish were still present, but they get a vote.

We opted to go for bass and pike instead. Team Dvorak boated 54 fish in four hours.

The natural phenomena of barometric pressure and, to some extent, moon phase greatly impact fish behavior. Other variables like water temperature and available forage base also play a role.

Right now we’re in high summer with generally stable water temperatures. Fish metabolism is in overdrive. But in some fisheries, like sprawling Lake Winnebago, action is slowing down because there is so much readily available food in the water.

This doesn’t mean a six-inch fish won’t hit a four-inch long lure. Opportunity will sometimes trigger a strike. If fish are coming up and just bumping the lure, try speeding up the retrieve rather than slowing it down, or switch to a different lure color.

White bass behavior illustrates this point. Fish can swim much faster than you can turn the crank. If white bass are bumping your bait, start reeling as fast as you can and sweep the rod forward to get the lure moving even faster. This presentation will usually result in hooking up.

But sometimes not. The fish still get a vote. Sometimes they simply don’t want to dance no matter what you do. Don’t fret. It’s not your fault.

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