Up the odds of getting a bite

By Sarah Petrie

It might take hours, or happen right away, but the thrill of a feeling a nibble at the end of the line is incomparable. Your adrenaline spikes, you kick your reel into high gear and maybe, if you’re lucky, the day’s biggest catch will be yours.

It’s the sensation that gets people hooked. Each year, millions of Canadians participate in recreational fishing and it’s not hard to understand why. At the very basic level, it requires only a few simple pieces of equipment to get started and with so many places to fish in this country it’s an easily accessible hobby.

The most arduous, and definitely most crucial, factor is finding the fish. Of course you can cast a line off the end of the dock, from shore, or off a bridge, but if the line is dangling where the fish aren’t swimming, you’re not going to have a whole lot of luck.

There is no better means to catch a fish on the go than by boat.

There is no better means to catch a fish on the go than by boat. Plus, let’s face it, it’s just a heck of a lot more fun. They go hand in hand; boats travel through water, fish live in water and when you combine the two, the chances of encountering one another increases.

Dedicated fishing boats make up a large portion of the pleasure crafts sold in Canada every year. In 2010, anglers spent more than $1.1 billion on boats and boating equipment. Manufacturers have exhausted a lot of time and money catering to that niche, too, creating boats customized to every type of fishing possible – offshore, bass, multispecies – the options are endless. Fish and ski combos are popular as well.

The rest of the boaters out there don’t use their boats primarily for fishing. Often they are specialized for other uses, like wakeboarding, waterskiing or just for running about with the family. Regardless of what kind of craft you have, it’s still possible to cast and make a big catch. Just be mindful of where you are, the depth of the water versus the draft of your boat, motor and propeller and what kind of waterway your boat is made to navigate.

Enough about the boat for now, we’ll have more on the fishability of boats in future issues. There are a few fundamental things to know before you begin. First, research regulations and licensing requirements in your region. Every province and territory has its own policies in place for fishing and for operating a boat. Second, find out which fish are in season. That means being aware of the species you are allowed to catch, how many and where they can be caught.

The essentials – a net, lures, a rod, reel and line

As previously stated, when starting out, the equipment necessary is pretty simple – a rod, reel, hook, fishing line and some form of bait should be good enough to get you going. Ask the staff at your local bait and tackle shop for pointers on the type of bait to use in your area if you feel intimidated. A net is a helpful tool as well. Once you become more comfortable, you can upgrade to items that are better designed for what you want to catch.

When it comes to recreational fishing, there are a few approaches to using your boat to make a catch. The first is trolling. It’s an easy way to find where the fish are hiding. That’s why so many fishing boats are equipped with trolling motors, meant to move at slower speeds.

To troll, cast your line out behind the boat and drag it along. Start moving at a snail’s pace then speed up, ever so slightly, varying your speed until you feel something. The point is to go slow. If you get one, you might just want to anchor in the same area to try to snag a few more. Trolling close to shore, near weed-beds or over areas where the water drops off are good places to start.

Lines in the water
Lines in the water

Drifting with the boat, like trolling, involves letting the wind move the boat over, or near, a probable food source, like a rocky bottom or weedy shoreline. Just be alert of wind speeds and obstacles as you cast at different depths. Once you get a bite, keep casting to the same depth to raise your odds of netting a few more.

Half of the fun of fishing by boat is exploring areas that are not accessible by land. While sightseeing, if you find an area that looks like a potential fishing hole, set the anchor and cast a few lines. Better yet, if you’re looking for a more relaxed fishing experience, set a bobber on your line with a worm or a minnow and place it so the bait hangs a few feet from the bottom. Keep an eye on it while you grab a snack or a full out picnic lunch. If you’re not having any luck, try somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Make a day of it and be prepared to be a little patient.

If you’re serious about learning the ABCs of angling and becoming familiar with your fishing area, it might be a good idea to hire a guide. Gord Pyzer, Fishing Editor of Outdoor Canada Magazine says, “For the same price as going to the theatre, or catching a football game, you can learn more in one day on the water with a guide than in three years of trying on your own.” Like acquiring the advice of a golf pro, a guide can help you learn how to properly cast, give advice on which bait or lures work best for your lake and offer expertise on all the local hotspots.

A fish on the line
A fish on the line

If that just isn’t an option for you, there are a number of resources available, offering advice on everything from what to fish, where to fish, how to fish and when to fish. Pyzer suggests reading online forums, blogs or talking to a fellow fisherman out on the water, “Most anglers are very social folks, so don’t be afraid to ask.” Though he warns some anglers might be protective of their secret fishing holes so “don’t expect people to give you all of the information, but for general tips, anglers are very helpful!”

There are number of gadgets out there designed to help you track down fish, too. A fish finder is one of them.

With the expansion of smartphones in recent years, software developers have worked with professional anglers to create phone applications like iFish and UFindFish, to name a few, dedicated to helping their users find and track their catches.

You don’t have to jump in head first to embrace the advantages of recreational fishing. It all boils down to enjoying your day out on the water. Like any other activity, it takes practice to master. As Pyzer points out, “Fishing is not luck. There’s a reason why ten percent of the anglers catch 90 percent of the fish.” Though he says that’s not a reason to get discouraged, “fish are always on the move” so you need to be as well. With thousands of species of fish hiding in Canadian lakes and waterways, it’s up to you to find them.

This article is featured in the 2015 Fall issue of Boats&Places.

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Sarah Petrie is the Editor of Print and Online content for Lifestyle Integrated Inc. She oversees Boats&Places Magazine, BoaterNews.ca and contributes to PowerBoat Television. Prior to her current role, she spent five years working in a live, television news environment. First as a chase producer, booking and coordinating news guests, then as a writer and video editor and, most recently, as a promotions producer. She graduated from Western University in London, Ontario with a degree in Media Information and Technoculture as well as a diploma in Television Broadcasting from Fanshawe College. After marrying into a boating family Sarah has spent many hours out on the water boating, fishing and exploring.