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By Capt. Chuck Uzzle
For the Record 

It's right in front of you

 

Last updated 5/14/2024 at 6:19pm

“You can’t see the forest for the trees” is a well-used phrase that I’m sure each of us has not only heard but can completely relate to in some form or fashion. On more than one occasion over the past few weeks my wife and I have laughed while watching different groups of people in places like restaurants become living examples of the phrase about seeing the forest. Case in point, a family of 4 at the table and each one has an electronic device in their possession, so they have become oblivious not only to those at the table but to the world around them as well. Instead of taking in the moment and enjoying the company they have chosen to insulate themselves from everything else and to get lost in their little electronic world. What a shame.

Fast forward to your favorite fishing spot and you can almost witness the exact same thing happen as it did in the restaurant, only this time it happens to be a fisherman staring intently at their electronics instead of reading the water and other conditions around them. I have just been blown away at how electronically dependent some anglers have become, and it doesn’t appear this trend will slow down anytime soon. Now don’t get me wrong the latest technology out there is a huge help in certain situations, in fact it’s almost like cheating in some cases. The ridiculously sensitive scanning sonar out there today has elevated many a fisherman’s game to the next level, but it has also weakened them in other areas. The high-tech electronics work magic for offshore anglers as they probe rocks and wrecks while looking for just the right spot for their next cast. Other anglers who key in on structure like the guys in Florida who chase snook around docks benefit greatly from being able to see fish before they spend the time to set up on a location. And don’t even get me started on our freshwater neighbors, that has gotten to be a completely different world to say the least. I looked at a tournament anglers boat and all I could do was shake my head, 4 separate electronic units, some as big as the television on my wall in the living room. I don’t know how they have time to read them all.

Now this exactly where the standard issue Texas saltwater fishermen differs from the rest of these folks, electronics on many boats are minimal when compared to offshore and freshwater anglers. Most folks who spend their time in the bay rely on a basic unit that has some navigation features like GPS mapping or charts along with depth and temperature indications, that’s it. In all honesty it’s really all you need as far as technology goes. Folks who frequent the bays spend way more time actually “reading water” than most anglers, especially those who are glued to a screen. The lower coast crowd who stays in 2 feet of water or less are perfect examples of folks who get it done without all the digital or electronic wizardry. They have learned to actually look for signs of life or variations in the water color, things most electronics are unable to do in those areas, in order to catch fish. Obviously the sight fishermen lead the field in reading water or fish behavior and it’s refreshing to see those who are really good at it in their own element. I hate to sound like the old man who screams at the clouds or says “get off my lawn” but every now and again you must open your eyes because you could be missing a whole lot of good stuff.

Some of the best signs you’ll ever see cannot be duplicated electronically, set off an alarm, or call your attention to the circumstances at hand. Seeing a big heron walking easily down a shoreline is more often than not a dead giveaway to finding fish, especially redfish. In the spring when the tides get high and the tiny shad that have just hatched ball up along the shorelines the flounder will also give away their position as they gorge on the bait fish. Both the sight of a heron along the bank or a flounder busting through the bait are welcome sights that many anglers key in on when they are actually looking for fish instead of the screen. And any talk of visible keys to finding fish would not be complete without at least mentioning “slicks” which are perhaps the most unmistakable sign out there. Both the sight and often times smell of a slick will cause just about any saltwater angler who is worth the price of a topwater plug to instantly go on point like a good bird dog. The best way to describe a slick to those who don’t know is it’s a shiny spot on the surface of the water that’s caused by oils off of baitfish that trout and redfish feed on. Often times fish will eat and the oil released from the baitfish will cause this “slick”, it actually looks like an oil sheen on the water, to appear. You not only can see these signs but you can smell them also, they are often described as smelling like watermelon. Once you learn the nuances to finding slicks you will have a decided advantage over those who haven’t gotten on board with the concept because they flat out produce fish.

May will be one of the nicest months to be on the water as we will soon be staring at summer. As of right now we are still dealing with extreme run off but there are a few bright spots. The redfish bite has improved in the marshes, especially on Calcasieu where effect of the run off is much lighter than Sabine. Most of the best catches have been on live bait during the tide changes around major drains and cuts. Speckled trout are still tough to come by but hopefully that gets better as well. Until we get some better conditions things will tougher than usual but that can’t last forever. Take advantage of whatever pattern you can find and be sure to take a kid fishing if you get the opportunity.

 

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