Attracting fish is an important part of fishing and knowing how to get a fish’s attention is a skill we all need to have. The best way to entice a fish is to play to its predatory senses to convince it that there is something going on which will put it in hunting mode. Here we’ll discuss how to attract fish and I’ll take you through all the senses fish have and how to take advantage of them.
Fish do not have ears but they can hear, sort of. It is a very important sense that some fish have developed more than others. Sounds travel much faster underwater than above it and it’s much easier to identify where the sound is coming from underwater too.
Fish use organs called otoliths in order to hear and these are found in their head. When a sound wave passes, it causes the otoliths to vibrate, allowing the fish to hear. The older the fish, the bigger and more sensitive the otoliths, so they can hear better than young fish. Maybe that’s one reason why bigger fish are harder to catch.
How do we use their hearing as an advantage then? There are a lot of baits out there that make noise. A popper makes a loud splooshing sound on the surface and when fished right can attract a fish’s attention. There are also crankbaits with rattles inside them which help to attract fish. This tactic is especially useful on days when visibility is poor, as the fish will rely on their hearing more than their sight.
The way fish smell is through taste. They have a lot of sensors on their bodies that pick up traces of chemicals in their environment and they react to them accordingly. Fish can use smell to avoid predators, find food or find their way home. For example, if a pike upstream has been eating roach, and then expels the remainder of their meal into the water, the roach will smell this and begin to hide. Salmon use their amazing sense of smell to find the exact river they were born in. Carp will smell bait in the water and move towards it to feed.
When you go fishing, you can bait up the area you are in to attract fish. You can do this anywhere, even offshore. If you are carp fishing, you will throw in dog pellets, fish pellets, and bread in the area you are fishing in. The carp will pick up on this and start moving into your area.
The same thing works for tuna. Boats will anchor offshore and create a chum slick by throwing cut up fish into the water slowly over time. This is then taken in the current and creates a smell trail. The tuna will pick up on it and will follow the trail back towards its source, the boat.
All fish have a lateral line running along each side of their body. You can see it when you hold them and they use this to detect vibrations and pressure changes. This helps schooling fish know their position and maintain it, it also helps fish orientate themselves and find food. A baitfish in distress or a running away erratically will create certain vibrations that predators will pick up on. The vibrations not only need to be noticed but they also need to be located accurately so that a predator can feed. The lateral line will help the predatory fish to find and put itself in the right position for an attack.
When you are fishing, there are ways to appeal to a fish’s lateral lines. There are a lot of baits out there that cause a disturbance in the water and the fish will pick up on these vibrations. In bass fishing, you can use spinnerbaits, poppers and crankbaits that will displace water and push shock waves and vibrations into it. The bass picks up on this and comes to see if it’s of interest and worth eating.
If you are fishing offshore for billfish, tapping into their lateral line is key. When looking for marlin, you have to cover a huge amount of water to find them, after all, the ocean is no small pond. The first thing that attracts them is the sound of the boat and its engines. The propellors and the noise of the boat moving through the water create a lot of sound waves and vibrations that run through the water. In fact, some boats are known as better fish raisers than others based on the sounds they emit. On top of this, the boat will be pulling 6 to 8 lures that are making bubble trails adding to the noise and tempting the fish in through the vibrations it can feel on its lateral line. Once a marlin picks up on this, it comes to see what is happening, just like it would if it heard the splashing of a bait ball.
How NOT To Scare Fish
Now that we have discussed how to attract them, let’s make sure we are not scaring them away.
When it comes to smell, make sure you do not have anything smelly on your hands that the fish may not like. Getting suncream on your bait is the most common mistake people make. Fish will smell the suncream, know it is foreign and avoid your bait altogether. So be sure you have nothing smelly on your hands and clean them before touching your fishing equipment.
Be quiet when you fish, especially if you are walking through the water. Tread lightly and carefully so the fish can not detect the vibrations you are making.
Fish rely on their senses for survival as much as we do. Taking note of what they are sensing and using it to your advantage is a skill, the more you think about it and try and test it, the better you will get at it.