It’s been a long time since I’ve done a year in review.
Years ago I ran a fishing guide service out on the Fox River and keeping excruciatingly detailed records, then summarizing them at the end of the year, was pretty much mandatory.
Have to prove your worth.
Now, record keeping is at best sporadic. Probably still better than most, but not like it used to be. If you ever played sports as a kid, keeping stats in your head for whatever game you played was easy. Granted, there was always that game where a brawl ensued because of conflicting stat keeping, but this is just fishing. I still get questioned, criticized is a better word, for the stat keeping in my head, but I have a pretty standard response for that.
Yeah, well, whatever. It’s just fishing.
In the last three years we had near record drought, near record flooding and last winter was one of the coldest on record. Of those three, I’d have to say that the cold had the biggest impact on the fishing. Fish can adjust to high and low water, but freeze everything over and eliminate the oxygen and the fish tend to suffer.
I think that’s what happened and why this was one of the worst years of fishing I’ve had since I started fishing the Fox River in 1996.
I only fish for smallmouth bass, I consider everything else bycatch. Some are entertaining to catch like the gills, crappie, white bass and even creek chubs. The rest are just kind of annoying with carp topping that list.
This year I probably got out fishing 75 times. The wife says more, but I no longer fish the colder months of the year, so I’m not sure. She might be right, but 75 still sounds like a good number to me.
The bulk of the fishing this year was on the Fox River and five of its creeks. I made one trip about 60 miles west to Franklin Creek. Tough access, beautiful surroundings and decent fishing for the second half of July on a creek. I would imagine May could be much better, fishing wise.
I also fish alone. I got out once with a friend in 2014. I tend to go fishing on a whim. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t go. If I decide to turn left at the river rather than the right I had originally planned, then I turn left. If the morning sucks, I go in the afternoon. Hard to make decisions on a whim when plans are made, so I avoid plans. You’ll see the end result of this solitary fishing in the pictures below. No hero shots with fish, no grinning fish holders, no monster bronze bombers, no pictures of me at all. Now and then I’ll do an arms length shot of a fish or a close up, but that’s pretty much it. The rest is just stuff I come across that interested me at the time.
I do a lot of short fishing trips now. An hour or two and at most I’ll go for five hours. Years ago I’d go over a 100 times a year with the average trip being five hours.
This year I know I caught at least 400 smallmouth bass, that’s about when I quit paying attention. I know I caught more, but I also know it didn’t get close to the 500 mark. With that ability to keep stats in my head, I also know I had at least another 200 smallies on that I got to see, but they were smart enough to spit the hook before I got to touch them. I quit paying attention to those stats when I hit the 200 mark.
Then there’s that small percentage of bycatch. At least I’m saying it’s a small percentage because I really don’t know. A bunch of other fish might be a good way to say it.
So yes, I know some would argue, but this was a bad year. A bad year in the past was a little over 500 smallies caught in about the same time frame.
I’m blaming the winter we had.
In the past when I did a year in review this is where I would go on and on with theories, strategies, equipment and lures used, but those days are over and so is my interest in elaborating.
So far this winter has been relatively normal. That’s a good thing. If normal continues, by mid March the fish will start moving.
Patience is not a virtue I have, but mid March is only 10 weeks away.
Tick, tock, tick, tock…