Hunting Fishing

Why were they (or not) biting? All of us anglers have our reasons, even if we lack proof

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley.
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley. THE FRESNO BEE

It’s one of the favorite pastimes of serious and not so serious anglers: trying to figure out whether the fish will be biting or not! Even with so many plausible factors from which to consider and choose, I have to laugh at some of the stabs I hear fisherman take. However, since I think we all have our suspicions about what makes fish tick, I decided to plunge into this world of dark science, one my wife is convinced is just a bunch of excuses for poor fishing on my part.

OK, let’s start with some of the reasoning we have been dealing with, in particular, the past couple of years. I’ve had guys tell me fishing is bad because of the low water; others ask why it wouldn’t be good with fish concentrated in one spot. I’m not a fan of low water, but I’ve seen both sides – with great and terrible low-water fishing! I always tell folks the fish have to eat sometime … at least I think? In high water, on the other hand, we are sure fishing will explode. But in many cases, I’m still waiting for that to happen! Somehow the aura of a sure thing didn’t impress the fish as much as it did me. It did get me excited and hopeful, which may be behind a lot of our optimistic extrapolations as anglers.

The easiest thing is to try to figure out, maybe even invent, what unseen, unexpected factor negated what seemed like a clear pattern.

The next area of conjecture is the region of the unseen. For starters, some anglers live and die by the solunar tables. I’ve found that no matter what it says is or is not a major bite time, I still just gotta go fish if that’s the only day I have to go! Same thing with the low-pressure/high-pressure debate, where fortunes sometimes completely contradict expectations that were based on past experiences.

The easiest thing is to try to figure out (perhaps invent) what unseen, unexpected factor negated such a clear pattern. “If I had just known that the pressure system was trending that far to the south (and those darn weather guys had told us),” we moan, “I wouldn’t have gone!” At least it’s a pretty good excuse that lets me off the hook, a line of thought showing things were beyond my control.Whew! My wife, though, ignores this reasoning, usually asking, pointedly, why I went in the first place.

I’ve heard of all kinds of other reasons for good and bad bites, ranging from the lake having too low (or high) ph, to the thermocline being high/low for the fish. Water clarity is another factor, although it’s hard to fish in mud! All kinds of pet theories get thrown around. Full moon versus a quarter moon? No moon at all? You’d also have to factor in cloud or fog cover to be accurate, I think.

Then there are the wind trends, temperature cycles, water flows, weather fronts and what your Ouija board is trying to tell you. Taking all these variables and trying to predict how good the fishing will be is the art and (guess-science) of fishermen everywhere. I suspect many of us are wrong most of the time about the real reason(s) the fish did or didn’t bite, but I’ve found that a lot of anglers don’t let facts influence preconceived notions! I resemble that point.

Face it: It’s just more fun to go on believing we have it figured out! If you say it forcefully, with enough conviction, who’s gonna question that? (My wife, for one!) Yep, there are many factors we can use to make our fishing decisions and interpret the results we get, but I suspect ultimately many of us give it our best guess and hope we’re right.

For all the spouses out there with a fishing mate, your angler usually will try to explain to you why the fishing wasn’t so good, in detail, especially after they left the house so full of confidence! Be easy on them; they work hard trying to fool all their buddies, but they know you have them pegged! I’ve personally found that pride is a tough and usually prickly thing to swallow! Ha! Never give up!

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at,

at and @StriperWars on Twitter.