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Using Your Eyes as Your Fish Finder

GarboGarbo Posts: 1,262 Officer
This morning I walked a mile and a half of beach to the east then turned and walked back. I do this as often as I can and just as often carry a small ultra light spinning outfit and a handful of small pompano jigs. It was a little overcast this morning which made for a cooler walk, but also made it more difficult to see into the water. The water was very clear and there was a light surf as the early morning wind came from the beach.
After starting my walk I came upon a dark spot moving toward me from the east but as it got closer it become obvious it was as school of small mullet. They moved in unison so tightly together it would have been just as easy to think they were a large ray.

As I made my way I thought about why I prefer to sight fish much more than any other type of pursuit of catching fish. There is a great value in the experience of spotting a fish then making an effort to convince it to eat an artificial bait in the way you the angler makes the artificial imitate something the fish would be some confident to try to eat as prey. To blindly cast into the water and work an artificial in an effort to draw a strike is sometimes a better odds, better results and better plan than to look for fish to try to fool, but I am many times guilty of trying to see the fish first and excepting the lesser odds in order to get the greater reward of seeing the fish and convincing it to eat my fake offering. It seems that see the fish first is more on the fishes terms and the angler is going one on one….Mano-Mano…with a spotted fish with the same goal of catching it, this upping the stakes and just as much upping the reward.

Eventually I made my destination and turned to make the return trip home. Now with the sun over my right shoulder even though the overcast sky still hampered my vision into the water I could now see much better walking away from the sun. I walked several hundred yards before seeing movement along the beach and as I approached I lost my new excitement to find it to be a very large Blue Crab foraging for something to catch….much like I was. As I passed by leaving the crab to his business as hand I settle back into my search mode and scan for any color change or movement in the water as far from the beach as my eyesight will allow. Not much farther down the beach I see a flash and again I get excited and start focusing my sight to the area where something glanced the sunlight back to me. As I got a little closer I see the shapes of four fish making their way west as I and milling about as they went. I cast my little jig out in front of their path and allowed it to sink to the shallow bottom and await their approach. As they approached my plan was to make the little jig look like it was spooked by the fish and making an effort to escape them. When they had moved to within a few feet of the little jig I lifted my rod and lightly bounced the jig one time by popping it up off the bottom back toward me. All four of the fish I now see as being Pompano go into hyperdrive and seem to be in an instant competing to for the right to be the one that catches the tiny creature that has the nerve to feel it can escape their wrath. After the first bounce the tiny jig settled back to the bottom and just as soon I lifted the light rod to bounce it a second time only to be interrupted by a vicious hit that bent the rod double and made the little spinning reel scream as it released drag for me and helping me save the light mono from certainly separating me from the now hooked Pompano. The fight was good but not good enough to convince me that the Pompano was a large enough to make the trip home with me. After a nice tug of war between us I beached the Pompano, unhooked it and sent it back to find it’s three buddies none the worse for the wear.

Sight fishing is something that anyone can do and truly adds a value to one’s fishing experience. It requires some patients at first but that same patients over time becomes a greater part of a trip. Looking at the environment, seeing sea life and nature and spending more time truly observing soon becomes something that requires no patients at all and in many cases replaces the need to catch larger numbers of fish.
At the end of my walk I only caught one fish, the small Pompano that choose to play with me, but that one Pompano was enough to make the trip very worthwhile.

If you have never tried sight fishing you should as it truly adds a great value to hooking a fish.



  • Cut runnerCut runner Posts: 948 Officer
    Good read.
    Another thing I might add, and Jose Wejebe was really big on it as well.
    Diving your favorite fishing spots can greatly give you a better understanding of whats there and why, which will help you when you come back with a rod immensly
  • ZimmerNoleZimmerNole Posts: 9,244 Officer
    Amazing write up as usual Garbo.

    This is how I learned how to fish as a kid, I used to patrol the banks via foot with a spinning outfit and a pack of plastic worms in my back pocket. One of my favorite things to do was find Bass that were sunning themselves, bedding, preying on bait fish etc. I always loved to sneak up on them all quiet like and present the bait in just the right way. Nothing was more frustrating than to have a bass inspect it and turn on it! So I started traveling with different color worms in the same pack, different presentations etc. Thinking of ways that I could hook the worm and make it fall more naturally or slowly bounce it across the bottom in front of his face. Eventually my dad helped me rig a few sections of PVC to my bike and BOOM! I was hitting more banks, more canals, more lakes etc. Now I had the ability to cover more ground....and thus catch more fish.I used to travel with a disposable camera (pre cell phone/digital camera) and take pictures of each bass that I caught along with the worm or other bait that it was caught on. At the end of the camera, dad would develop them and we would review the pictures it really taught me a lot about presentation.

    Eventually I started traveling with two rods, one bass rod and an ultralight for bream/bluegill. I loved catching one on bread and getting to watch it (easy enough...but fun for a kid) and then hooking one up on my trusty worm rod to present the bait in just the right way to a bass in the shallows. Granted, artificial are more "rewarding" but there is nothing quite like that primal reaction strike! Watching a bass engulf a bream vs cautiously hitting a plastic worm are two completely different scenes.

    I find myself thinking about my bass days when I'm sight fishing snook under dock lights on the new river (where I now live) as well as sight fishing reds in Everglades city (such as this weekend). I agree with you, it adds an entire new element to fishing. It takes the right bait, at the right time in just the right place (just like your jig perfectly placed for when the Pomps swam by) and when you get 'em on artifical there is really no other better feeling. I did something similar this past weekend in Chokoloskee, I saw a red cruising the bank and instead of casting right at him I threw my DOA shrimp about 15 feet in front of him and let it sink...as he approached I gave it a HARD twitch to make it seem like the shrimp was retreating into the mangroves in fear of the fish. I've never seen a red attack a bait like that...it was just so awesome I was rewarded with a VICIOUS strike and a great battle ensued. By far the best red I've ever caught, I'll remember that for the rest of my days.
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  • GarboGarbo Posts: 1,262 Officer
    We come from the same background Zimmernole.

    Lot's of people I have fished with have complained about not being able to see fish. This is something that can be frustrating but can also be overcome.

    Many years ago my wife would walk the beach with me and she would not see fish I would try to point out to her. I tried many times to teach her to not look at the water but to look through the water and try to look at the bottom. She just could not control her eyes to see past the surface of the water. One day she was standing in front of a large mirror in our bedroom and I asked her what she saw in the mirror? She said...."Me". I said do you see the picture on the wall behind you? Do you see the bathroom door? Do you see the tree outside the window on the opposite side of the room? Do you see your purse sitting on the dresser behind you? She answered...."Yea". I then told her that all those things were there and visible before but she didn't see them before she made her eyes look for them. She agreed. The next time we walked the beach I asked her to remember looking in the mirror and she started seeing the fish that I would point out that very day. Now she actually points some out to me pretty often.

    The ability to see fish is not as dependent on quality of eyesight as it is trained eyes and it is not really that hard to do although many think it is very hard to do.

    Give it a try sometime and you'll be glad you did...

  • If1shalldayIf1shallday Posts: 464 Officer
    Nothing like watching a red strike nothing......
  • mandaferretmandaferret Posts: 932 Officer
    One night snook trip recently, I was fishing an underwater light. About 6 lower 20" range snook were lingering at the surface hitting small minnows that passed by. Every now and then, they would scatter, and the shadow of a 30"+ snook would pass over the light. I had made a skip back into the dock and was working a white zoom super fluke jr. across the surface. I watched one of the larger snook at the surface, probably just under slot, key onto it and start following it. Bait and fish left the light, and about 5ft out from it I get a nice hit. Like all but one of the snook I have recently been fishing lights for, it broke my 8lb.
    I always seem to set the hook at the wrong time when sight fishing though.
  • Chuck DChuck D Posts: 427 Officer
    O Like all but one of the snook I have recently been fishing lights for, it broke my 8lb.
    I always seem to set the hook at the wrong time when sight fishing though.

    8lb is just not enough to fish dock lights with. I know guys that use 50lb braid and 80 lb flour for snook fishing around structure. I use 20 lb braid and 30lb leader and I still break off a lot.
  • Josh85Josh85 Posts: 377 Officer
    Ive been in the creek before, way in the back, and seen what I thought was a kayak or boat wake coming around the tight corner. I Swear to god there must have been at least a 100 good size reds schooling by. It was incredible. Ive seen lots of reds tailing etc, but ive never seen anything like it. It was like the whole creek picked up and moved. Its stuff like that not everyone gets to see....
  • Anclote KeyAnclote Key Posts: 2,354 Officer
    Sight fishing is pretty awesome. One of my first experiences with it was with a little black tip shark. It was unforgettable to see him take my bait and swim away with it.

    This is my son and I sight fishing a tailing red. Didn't hook it up that day, but we'll be back.
    The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t. –Patrick F. McManus
  • GarboGarbo Posts: 1,262 Officer
    I always seem to set the hook at the wrong time when sight fishing though.

    Don't feel bad I know several people that have had the same problem and I did at one time as well.

    Seeing the take or bite while sight fishing can trigger the angler to pull the lure away from the fish instead of getting a good hookset. The best solution I have found is although I see the fish and see the fish take the bait....I still wait until I feel the fish through the line until I set the hook, just like you would when blind casting. It is a discipline that takes some effort to develop but it works. Some fresh water guys that bass fish have the same issue when fishing topwater in they pull the plug away from the bass after seeing the topwater bite or explosion. It works there as well....If you wait until you feel the fish then set the hook your hookup ratio will go up dramatically.

    Cool Post by the way...Thanks for sharing.
  • Josh85Josh85 Posts: 377 Officer
  • Pescatoral PursuitPescatoral Pursuit Posts: 5,065 Admiral
    I used to think flats fishing/ redfishing was over blown. Heck, they don't even jump.

    Then a buddy turned me on to it a few years ago, and now I can't get enough!

    I think its a combo of seeing your quarry, and the way they react in 12" is twice the effort you get than if they're in the relative security of deeper water.
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