More than 80 million Americans have used those two words this year. And in order to do so, they have spent almost 38 billion dollars on rods, reels, tackle boxes, lessons, lures, boats, trailers and fish restocking. Fishing is the number one recreational sport in the country.
Here, you will meet some BoatUS Members and learn where they go and why. And you'll meet some professionals who are willing to divulge a few secrets about how they make a living doing what many only dream of doing. Everyone here is serious about the words "gone fishin."
WHERE: Chesapeake Bay
RULES: (1) I always say fishing "pends da wind. West is best. East is least." (2) Fish the currents. You want maximum current velocity. (3) Never give out your buddy's secret fishing spot.
ADVICE: Take the kid.
FIRST FISH: I caught a 15-pound pompano in Florida fishing with my grandfather. He had to hold on to me when I hooked it because I wasn't going to let go of the rod and this was a big fish for a little kid.
FISH STORY: I was fishing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on New years Eve with my friend Tony. I was using my pride and joy rod and reel combination and connected on a big striper that was taking the drag in spurts. "Your drag is sticking," Tony said. "The drag on this reel never sticks," I shouted back. "You'll lose that fish if you don't loosen your drag," Tony yelled. "No I won't," I yelled louder. "Yes you will," and "No I won't" went back and forth until I actually did loosen the drag and landed the fish. I assured Tony my drag was properly set and it wasn't sticking but just in case he was right, I sent it out and had the drag rebuilt. Several weeks later, Tony and I are fishing in another favorite winter spot when I hooked another striper that took the line in spurts. "Your drag is sticking again. Loosen it up or you'll lose that fish," Tony yelled. "My drag is not sticking," I yelled back. "Here let me help you," said Tony. Then, poof, the fish was gone. The silence of the moment was shattered when I heard the words, "See, I told you your drag was sticking!" Truth be told, my inept net handling had cost Tony a big fish early in the day so, you can put this one down as a matter of deserved poetic justice.
RULES: (1) I observe catch and release rules. (2) For salmon you have to be on the water early. (3) When fishing San Francisco Bay, the fish bite on incoming or outgoing tides. (4) Be patient. ADVICE: Don't plan on catching fish. Instead, plan on having a good time out on the water. Catching fish is icing on the cake.
FIRST FISH: I was 6 years old. I caught a northern pike in Lake MacGreor in Alberta, Canada. I was with my mother, who didn't like fishing, and my father, who provided all the necessary guidance. My mother did a good job preparing the pike that evening but I didn't like it because of all the bones.
FISH STORY: A friend and I were fishing for albacore 20 mils north of San Francisco Bay early one morning. Seas were flat. We went to an area called "the 601 spot" and the seas started getting some swells. We had four rods in use with no safety lanyards (not a good idea) and the seas started getting rough enough that the lure would actually come out of the water and the tension on the line would be lost. At one point the lure came out of the water just as the boat took a huge wave on the windward side and leaned to leeward. The rod came out of its holder and into the sea. My friend and I watched it happen and neither one of us could react in time to save it. A few seconds later a rod in the back corner sounded off. My friend started reeling in and when the lure came to the surface, there was another lure attached. A familiar one. We had caught our own fishing rod.
RULES: (1) Fish on the East Coast of Florida are caught only when winds are less than 15 knots. Since I'm a working stiff, the only time I can get out on the water is Saturday and Sunday. And every weekend, the winds are blowing more than 15 knots. (2) Offshore trolling before 10A.M.is always better than fishing after 10A.M. ADVICE: A low tide on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is a great time to go to the boat ramp to watch the "low tide pull-out" drama. FIRST FISH: My first fish was a trout about four inches long I caught in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I was about 4 or 5 years old and I was with my Dad.
FISH STORY: One Saturday, two other guys and I launched my 21-foot boat from the Dinner Key boat ramp and headed across Biscayne Bay south of Cape Florida. We were going to troll for schoolie dolphin. We had four lines out and the deck was slippery because we had caught a few fish already. And since it was a Saturday, the winds were blowing out of the east at 20 knots. One of my friends gets a smoking reel hit on one of the deep-running baits. While he handles bringing the fish in, the other guy cleared the other three lines while I steered. A huge wave rolled beneath the boat and the guy with the fish lands on his back. The rod goes over the side. We were in 300 feet of water. A few months later, one of the guys buys his own boat. He asked for suggested names and we all agreed "Reel Loser" is appropriate.
WHERE: Hampstead, North Carolina
RULES: No matter how good you are and no matter how great your techniques, if you go where the fish are you always stand a better chance of catching them. ADVICE: Use your head.
FIRST FISH: I was 5 years old. And I was with my mother in a rowboat tied to the dock at the Morehead City/Beaufort Bridge. It was a blowfish and neither my mother nor I knew how to take it out the hook because it kept wiggling and swelling up.
FISH STORY: Two years ago I was fishing with my son, a friend of his and his father on his boat about 15 miles off Topsail Beach, North Carolina. We caught 4 kingfish in the 20 lb. range before noon and then everything shut down. Nearby boats left and my son's friend said "let's get out of here, this is boring." I said "no way" and his father said "they'll start biting around 2." At 2p.m. exactly we had a smoker on the line that took nearly thirty minutes to get into the boat because it was hooked through its fin. It weighed 40 lbs. (and we were using 16-lb. line. While we were cleaning the deck and trying to fit this fish into the cooler, I put another line in the water. I got a hit. Ten minutes later we had a 50-lb. fish in the boat.
WHERE: Arvada, Colorado
RULES: (1) When bass fishing, if the water is calm, fish deeper. If there is a chop, fish closer. (2) Fish after sunrise or one hour before sunset.
ADVICE: The first thing a fisherman should do is ask what kind of fish do they want to catch? A bass feeds differently than a catfish and a walleye likes different water than a trout. Each species has survived because it has developed unique characteristics that allow it to survive in its environment. Be flexible. The fish are always out there.
FIRST FISH: I went fishing with my brother at Lost Lake, 20 miles west of Boulder. When w e arrived I could see fish feeding off insects on the surface of the water. I used a lightweight spinning rod with a fly and a bubble and got a hit as soon as the fly hit the water. It leaped and made powerful runs for 15 minutes, almost taking the line off my reel. It was a cutthroat trout and I remember just looking at how beautiful it was with bright red gills. I was hooked by that first fish.
FISH STORY: I was fishing Lake McConaughy (225 miles NE of Denver) between Spillway and Browns Bay. I had a minnow on a lower hook and a jig about 30 inches above. I had a strike, set the hook, reeled it in and then realized I had caught two fish!
WHERE: Houston, Texas
RULES: Personal Flotation Devices. I wear mine. My wife wears hers and because of this example, we make our children wear theirs without gripes. It's just a given.
ADVICE: Practice catch and release.
FIRST FISH: I was 10 years old, using a borrowed rig and caught a fish in the surf at Brighton Beach in Queens, New York.
FISH STORY: I had been reading about a dolphin pod that was being tracked by the University of Florida and mentioned it to my 6, 11 and 12 year-old daughters. They said this was something they'd love to see which was all I needed to hear. Soon we were off trailering our 20 foot Bayliner to St. Petersburg where we put in at Maximo's Marina (a BoatU.S. affiliated marina). My brother flew his 11 year-old daughter in to join us. We boated all over the bay and found dozens of dolphins that swam in our wake and played around the boat for several hours. My 6-year-old said it was the best day of her life. Even without fishing, this trip was a real win for Daddy. I felt like a King.
WHERE: San Diego, California
RULES: If there is water, then I fish.
ADVICE: Some of the best days I have had fishing never resulted in a catch. Spend money on lures, plastics, fish finders and so forth but remember live bait works best.
FIRST FISH: I was trout fishing with my grandfather in Island Pond, Vermont. I caught three. That night we had fish for dinner. I asked, "where are my fish" and was told "they are on your plate." It brought tears but only for a minute. I really like trout.
FISH STORY: The first time I went ocean fishing in my boat I caught a 20-lb. yellow fin tuna. I was astounded at the size of it and how strong it really was. My wife, my cats and I all had great eating that week and we were amazed we had caught a fish that big (and we've been trying to do it again).
RULES: Every time I try to apply one of the rules and head out on the water the fish seem to have other plans for me.
ADVICE: A kid, a rod and reel and a can of worms beats Nintendo hands down.
FIRST FISH: I was ten years old. We lived near the Westfield River in Agawam, Massachusetts and I caught a smallmouth bass. It was huge by the standards of a ten-year-old.
FISH STORY: I enjoy sailing but love fishing. When the wind was light, I'd rig up two rods with a weight and a floating crank bait. One day, a local bass tournament was happening as I was fishing. My rod bent and I reeled in a handsome 3lb small mouth bass right in front of three or four anglers. I tossed him back in and watched as the bass people eagerly cast in the direction of the splash made by the returning bass. Mr. Bass got away clean.
THE PROS POINT OF VIEW
He has 5 World Championship fishing medals, and was a member of the 1982 World Championship team. Today, Mick coaches the U.S. team in the World Fishing Association competition that will be held in Florence, Italy this year. Mick designs fishing tackle and holds seminars for people wanting to learn fishing basics. He is known for introducing European floats and fishing methods to the United States.
RULES: In shallow and medium depth (to 30 feet), don't make noises, even if you are fishing from the bank. Never wear white or any light color cap or shirt that will reflect back into shallow water. Never stand high on the skyline or make any movement against the skyline. Remember fish can hear you and see you if the water isn't deep.
ADVICE: Never use those big old red and white round plastic bobbers if you are going after panfish like a bluegill. It's too buoyant for panfish. FIRST FISH: It was a perch off Montrose Harbor in Chicago using a cane pole. I was 5 years old and I was having so much fun catching fish that I didn't want to go home.
FISH STORY: I can tell what kind of fish is on the line by the movement once the hook is set. Bluegills spin in fast circles. Catfish have strong slow headshakes. Crappie feel like you are pulling a small towel through the water. Carp are heavy and deliberate for a few seconds and then explode like a sprinter in any direction.
FAVORITE FISHING PLACE: Any urban lake or pond where people say the fish don't bite. And if there is a child I can teach to fish, then wherever we are standing is my favorite place to fish.
When Mike isn't on the water as a professional walleye champion, he is usually on the ice as a member of the Portland Pirates, a farm team in the American Hockey league. The Calgary Flames of the NHL drafted him in 1994. Mike will be fishing in two walleye tournaments this month in North Dakota. He scores in the top 15 events sponsored by the National Association of Walleye Angler events around the country. This year he played in the American Hockey League All Star Team.
RULES: Fishing is like playing hockey. It should be fun and when you keep it simple, you will have fun despite the circumstances. You have to be in the right position to catch a fish. You need to listen to them. Every time you catch a fish, make a mental note of what just happened. You will soon learn there is a connection.
ADVICE: When fishing for walleye, always keep your line at a 45-degree angle.
FIRST FISH: I was young and fishing with my father outside Denver Colorado. Today, he and I spend hours fishing together.
FAVORITE FISHING PLACE: Lake Sakawea, North Dakota. Walleye are 2-3 pounds all the time.
Professional bass angler and designer of the EZ Rig lure used in Carolina Rig Fishing.
RULES: Bass fishing is at its best when the weather isn't. Low light conditions are key to fish activity so fishing in early morning or late evening when the sun in on a low-angle improves your success.
ADVICE: In general, always bring the camera and don't wait for trophy shots. Take pictures of the spilled tackle box or a rain soaked fishing partner. Those are memories. When fishing, use smaller hooks, like a 1/0 or a 2/0 size for easier hook sets and when you rig the hook, don't bury the barb deeply in the worm.
FIRST FISH: It was Easter weekend and I was about 7 years old and my dad took the family fishing on Lake Mead near Las Vegas. I remember crying all the way as we left home because I was afraid the Easter bunny wouldn't find me out on the water (there was a huge Easter Basket hidden behind the only cactus outside of sunrise service though). My dad baited the hook and cast the line and handed the rod and reel to me. I was bank fishing. I kept reeling the line in and my dad kept telling me to leave it in one place in the water. Well, after the fifth time of casting the line back out in the water for me, I got a fish. And instead of reeling it in, I started walking backward and pulled a largemouth black bass up on the shore.
FISHING STORY: I took my grandson, Ryan, fishing on Lake Fork which is a huge bass lake near Dallas. He had never caught a fish before so I was hopeful this would be the day. We fished all morning and didn't get a single bite. I suggested we go in, have lunch on shore, and come back out for another try. I bought some minnows while on shore figuring maybe the bass would prefer that to the lures we had been using. We fished in an area where there were probably six other boats nearby and all of the sudden, he had a strong pull on the pole. Ryan caught a 6lb. bass. As we were taking the hook out of the fish I heard what sounded like someone clapping. Sure enough, over in a nearby boat, a man had watched Ryan land the fish and he started applauding. Then his fishing buddy joined in. Then men in other boats joined in and all of Lake Fork was filled with the sound of applause.
FAVORITE FISHING PLACE: Lake Fork, Texas because it has the potential for someone catching a world record bass. And I think about it with every cast.
Operates a fly fishing school with partner Bert Darrow in Rosendale, New York. When she isn't fishing, Karen is an Estee Lauder model who can be seen in the "Resilient Slip" ad campaign and who has been on the cover of Vogue Magazine. She will be seen this January as hostess of In search of Flywater on ESPN2.
RULES: The rules depend on the fish you are going after. For trout, you have the best luck in the middle of the day so trout fishermen don't have to be up at daybreak. Use barbless hooks and don't handle the fish by the gills when doing catch and release. Always take raingear and always wear sunblock.
FIRST FISH: I was 5 years old. I was with my grandmother in a cow pasture pond in Mississippi. I caught a bluegill on a bobber with a worm. This is the way all kids should start fishing. They won't become scared if they are catching a panfish.
FISH STORY: My partner Bert Darrow and I and a friend went fishing in Lake George for landlocked salmon. It was sleeting, the line froze in the guy of my flyrod and we were all standing on a narrow gravel bar. Our friend wasn't dressed warmly and was shivering so Bert took him to get another coat and they sat together on shore having lunch and drinking hot coffee. And I'm standing out there fishing in the snow. I asked them to bring my sandwich with them when they came back. So when they were warmed up and returned Bert took my rod so that I could eat my sandwich. And as soon as I handed the rod over to him, a landlocked salmon took the Mickey Finn that I had so proudly tied. I learned that day never let anybody else hold your rod.
FAVORITE FISHING PLACE: Henry's Fork River in Idaho.