Managing the Variables for a Succesful Fishing Session

Hello, Readers!

Temperatures in Philadelphia are always so unpredictable, aren't they? On a regular summer day, temperatures can be over 95F one day, and then easily jump down to 70F the next day. It's important to point out that weather - in terms of temperature - is a very important "variable" for anglers. "Weather" directly influences the temperature of the water; therefore, it is also an extremely important variable in fish's spawning and feeding times. Below is a little chart with the "comfort zone" of different Species of fish in Philadelphia:

I took this picture long time ago, and I don't quite remember the book to quote it. From top to bottom: colderwater to warmwater.

As one can see, Sunfish, Bass, and Catfish are "Warmwater" fish; Muskellunge, Walleye, Pike are "Coolwater" fish; and Trouts and Salmons are "Coldwater" fish. This chart only shows the comfort zone of each Species; therefore, it doesn't mean that a Channel Catfish, for example, will not bite during Winter. In other words, this chart shows the BEST feeding times for certain Species in relationship to water temperature.

Generally speaking, I am the kind of person who fishes under the most extreme conditions (the crazy fisherman type). Hot, cold, rainy, cloudy, name it - I'll be there if there are fish! However, at this time of the year, never forget to go out prepared! In other words, protect yourself from extreme weathers. You can take a look at the picture below, and imagine how would it be to get toasted for a couple hours under the scorching sun. For my post on precautions to extreme hot weather, click here

During Summer time, fishing outside can be pretty outrageous. Never forget to bring some sun block, polarized sunglasses, or even use long sleeves to protect your skin from the scorching radiation.

Of course, temperature is not the only factor that influences the behaviors of fish. For the Schuylkill River, other factors include the tide level (fish locations - some migrate/feed during certain depth levels); rain (part of weather - depending on the kind of fish, rainy days can be more productive because "rain" is often a trigger for feeding); time of the day (D&D rule - Dawn and Dusk for best feeding behavior); etc.

Knowing the feeding times and conditions are essential for an angler; however, bait presentation is also necessary for success! For example...

Yesterday, before going to work, I stopped by my prime fishing spot at the Schuylkill Banks in the afternoon - around 2 p.m. - for a short fishing session. I simply thought: "Why not?" While I was fishing, I noticed an African American gentleman fishing under the Walnut street bridge. He seemed to be pulling some nice fish out of the water, while I was getting absolutely no bites! After fishing for 90 minutes, I ended with one small Channel Catfish (3/4 of a pound) on a piece of shrimp. Troubled by my poor results, I went to the gentleman and asked him a couple questions. We had a nice conversation, and I found out that he was using nightcrawlers. He fished for almost the same period of time as me, and landed about 15 fishes (Channel Catfish and White Perch).

Nice difference, huh? I got BBQed under the sun, and ended with a single fish. I only had with me 3 pieces of shrimp and some Catfish dough. He fished under the bridge (no sun), landing 15 fishes with nightcrawlers. Well...the basic idea here is to show how bait presentation is important in fishing!

Curiously, though, my catfish came with some extra "gear:" he had a #6 Aberdeen hook deep in his mouth, almost inside his stomach. With my set of pliers, I was able to easily remove the fish's "piercing." Picture is below:

So, changing a little bit the subject, let's talk a little bit about fisherman "malpractices".
What to do when a fish swallows the hook?

By the book, the person who released the fish did the plausible thing. A fisherman should always do the least possible damage to a fish in order to increase it's chances of survival. If a hook is deep swallowed, it's very advised to cut the line and let the fish slowly "absorb" the hook over a long period of time rather than pulling it off with brute strength, hurting the fish in the process.

On the other hand, the person can practice selective harvest. In other words, he can harvest the fish that swallowed the hook. Usually, anglers perform selective harvest when the fish is very sensitive and badly injured. Therefore, knowing that the survival chances are low, anglers just take the fish home for consumption or bait (note: never waste the fish).

Unless the fisherman has the right equipment for the job, it's good to leave the hook there. A trout, for example, can easily die from blood loss due to a swallowed hook. The same happens for Walleyes - a very sensitive type of fish. Note that blood loss is also a big issue in Shad fishing. Anglers sometimes accidentally snag Gizzard Shad while fishing for American and Hickory Shad (Gizzard Shad are filter-feeders; in other words, they will never bite a bait on a hook presentation). After released, there's often a chance that the fish will die due to blood loss.

Anyways..the Catfish was released safely. I took a picture of the hook just to show you guys how uncomfortable the fish must have been with that in its mouth. Imagine living your daily life with a "piercing" like that, against your will. =( Not fun, eh?

Coming back to the main subject - bait was definitely one of the factors that resulted in my poor fishing session. After all, fish can get really finicky at certain times, under certain conditions. Can I actually imply that weather itself was another factor that resulted in my poor fishing session? Perhaps. Maybe I could hypothesize, for example, that fish would prefer certain baits over others depending on conditions such as water temperature and season of the year! Think about it...

Curiously, I went fishing at the exact same spot at night time. I stayed there for exactly an hour, and I got 3 small white perch on shrimp. The Schuylkill Banks is beautiful after sunset...

My goal was to catch a Largemouth Bass on lures, since it is the season for them at the Schuylkill River (June-July between Locust and Market). It didn't happen, however. Notice that I didn't get a single White Perch during day time, even though I was using the same bait - cut shrimp. Isn't that interesting? It's very funny how fishing variables and conditions change so dramatically during a same day, at a same spot. I used the exact same gear for night time as I used for day time: one Medium action rod with 20lb Braided line (Spiderwire Invisibraid), deep water rig (2 three-way swivels, 1 flat 2 oz sinker, and 2 #4 hooks); and a light-medium action with 20lb Monofilament, simple float rig (Swivel, float, small split shot, and #4 hook). At day time, the Channel Catfish bit on the bottom. The African American gentleman was also catching his fish on the bottom. The rod with the float was totally dead! At night time, it was the opposite: nothing hit on the bottom. All the three white perch hit on the float! Once again - interesting, huh? It was a lot of fun...The variables just changed: (1) light was no longer present, meaning that the White Perch could actually swim "more freely" on top of the water without worrying about predators, and (2) temperature dropped dramatically after dusk.
So, here's the learned lesson: always take in consideration as many variables as possible, hence each one of them directly influences in the success of your fishing sessions.

Long days and pleasant nights.


Leo S.