Finding productive fishing spots can seem like black magic to beginners; the idea being that fish live in the sea so there must be fish everywhere in the sea. However, anyone who has been snorkeling or diving will know that this is not true – the vast majority of the ocean floor is much like an underwater desert and actually completely empty of fish.
Here we will give a brief outline on what to look for, by breaking down what fish need to thrive.
Look for areas likely for bait fish, squid or shrimp to reside. This generally means spots near the coastline or some kind of underwater structure with plenty of algae and other debris for them to feed on.
(Areas such as this with lots of nearby underwater rock outcrops and seaweed are quite often worth investigating)
Following from the previous point, finding work-ups is a sure fire way of being where big fish are. Work-ups are spots in the ocean teeming with bait fish being chased by predators to the surface, usually accompanied by flocks of diving birds also getting in on the action. Scanning the horizon for diving birds, dolphins and whales is a good way to find these spots. If all else fails, just look for groups of other boats!
(Work-ups at sea are always an amazing sight)
This criteria is more applicable to fishing in lakes or other freshwater bodies, but nonetheless, it’s important to know that fish prefer areas with plenty of oxygen available. Things that increase oxygen are water turbulence (caused by waterfalls or rocky outcrops), and healthy bright vegetation.
(Oxygenated and sheltered areas provide an incentive for fish to linger nearby)
Conversely, areas with lots of decaying vegetation or debris are unlikely to have many fish due to the lack of oxygen caused by the decaying process.
As fish need to hide from a variety of predators, they enjoy hanging out in areas with lots of ledges, seaweed and other underwater shelter to duck under. This means it’s crucial to look for underwater pinnacles, ledges and general anomalies on a fishfinder when your planning to stop at a spot.
Fish like to be comfortable, both in terms of temperature and current. This is a big factor in why seasonal changes and tide times affect which spots are productive.
For example, snapper generally move inland in large schools to spawn once temperatures reach 18C. This means that if you’re looking to hook some snapper during winter, it would be more productive to head further out from coastlines into deeper 30-50m+ water where the temperatures hold a bit steadier year round. Websites such as swellmaps.co.nz are great tools to look at to get a better idea of the sea conditions.
(Image courtesy of www.swellmaps.co.nz)
Tidal currents is another consideration – in areas with strong currents, fish are unlikely to hold for long or go out of their way to snatch your bait. This can also be an advantage as certain spots can consistenly bring in fish at specific tide times as they come in with the current to eat small crabs and other food sources which would otherwise be not worth the exertion.
Along the same vein, when fishing freshwater streams/rivers, look for narrow “lanes” of faster currents that carry insects and other food downstream. When these currents pass a sheltered spot, fish are likely to be found.