What You Can Do When You're Not Catching Fish

Jun 22, 2018

Credit Chris Bentley / flickr

Some days it seems like none of your old standby spots, or lures, or tricks are working. So what then? For fishermen, it's a serious question.

Last week I found myself in the local tackle shop staring at lead-heads and rubber eels and jars of shelf-stable bait. I didn't know exactly what I wanted - I just knew that I needed something I didn't already own, because the fish weren't going for anything I currently had in my tackle box.

The dilemma of what to do when the fish aren't biting is one all fishermen regularly confront. 

Kevin Blinkoff, editor at On The Water magazine, also was giving some thought to the issue, as he searched for striped bass last weekend. Here is his checklist of suggestions:

  • Try changing tactics - try jigs instead of topwaters, trolling instead of casting, switch to bait.
  • Change location - try new spots, don't try to force it if it's not happening where you are.
  • Change timing - have you always been a dawn angler? Maybe it's time to head out at night, or work a different portion of the tide than you usually do.
  • If you're heading out for a boat fishing trip, give yourself a plan B. Pack the gear and bait you need to target a different species if things don't work out with your first choice. Switch over to black sea bass, pull up some scup.

And remember, if you aren't catching fish, at least you have a justification for buying more gear. The other day I walked out of the tackle shop with a handful of appealing new lures and other goodies – things I don't ordinarily use or keep on my boat. Will I use them? I'm not sure yet. But I'll have them, if I need to reach for something unusual.

And these challenges do force you to expand your fishing skill set, to think outside of your comfort zone and try fresh approaches. That's always good.