Who's the Leader? Tips for Catching Schooled Fish...  


Understanding the dynamics of schooled fish will help you catch more of them. Although fish in the vanguard of a school seem to be leading the others, if one on the flanks spies food, or a large predator, and veers away, the rest of the school follows. Though leaderless, the schooling fish move together with the precision of a drill team, swimming approximately the same distance from each other and moving in unison.

How do they maintain such choreography? The fish sense currents triggered by the movements of their neighbors, much as air currents created by flapping wings help birds stay together in a flock.

So why do about 4,000 species of fish school at one time or another in their lives?

To predators, a school may look like a single large animal, too big to attack. And sheer numbers can make a predator indecisive, uncertain which fish to target. The presence of multiple pairs of eyes in a school also improves the chances of spotting a predator before it strikes - and that includes you.

Search for a schooled fish by watching for "nervous" water (a chaotic rippling on the surface) diving birds and large, round, ball-shaped marks on your fish finder.

Tips for Catching Schooled Fish

* When maneuvering your boat toward a school, don't head for its front or flanks because that may spook the fish. Instead, approach at an angle to its forefront.

* Cast slightly off-center to the direction in which the school is headed, and chances are it will swerve toward your offering. Don't plop your lure down in the middle of the fish, because that may spook them, too.

* If you do spook the fish and the school disappears, or disburses, back off and wait before leaving the area. Even if they fled in different directions, chances are the school will reform quickly.

by Steve Hicks

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