When you book with a professional guide, time of day, air and water temperature, as well as, moon phase, tide, and feeding patterns of the fish all come into play. When you are discussing your trip, your captain is looking at all of these factors, as well as any historical data he may keep in the form of logs for the specific time of the year you are fishing. Fish move from location to location throughout the year following their food source. Your captain will know these patterns and tailor your trip to all the aforementioned factors.
By far the most common question I get is as a Captain is, “Why is it I never seem to catch any fish when I go out? I use the same bait, the same gear, and fish similar areas, but the fish just are not there.” Well actually, they probably are. There are many factors involved in a memorable day of catching fish.
Most recreational anglers fish when they can. Day to day life makes it difficult for most to just drop what they are doing and run to the ramp when a major solunar event is occurring, or a strong tide is about to happen and the fish are going to go into a strong feeding mode. A professional guide will use this information when booking with you to ensure a successful day on the water. The ability to preplan your trip and pick the right day with the right set of circumstances is a major advantage to you when heading out to catch that trophy snook or tarpon you’ve always dreamed of landing.
Another advantage is that your captain will have local knowledge of the areas you would like to fish. This, combined with time on the water, is a winning combination to locate and land the big ones. Let’s face it, most recreational anglers don’t have an average of 200 days a year on the water to study migratory and feeding habits of the local stocks of fish, nor do they usually spend more than a few hours a week fishing a specific area.
Most saltwater fish switch between food sources and will forage throughout the year searching different locations for different food sources. Knowing when and what the fish are feeding on is key. Most people in the area I fish, use live-scaled sardines throughout the year. Neither time, tide, nor temperature matter; only the pursuit of sardines. When and if they fill their bait wells, they will then pull up to a random mangrove, fill a chum bat with 30-40 sardines that they have wounded, and chum the mangrove. Success is random and requires a good amount of time looking for and catching bait and then time even more time searching for fish that are willing to eat a live sardine. Not to mention the added cost of having to prepare a chum mixture to catch the bait. Your guide will not only know where to get the day’s bait, but will also know where to find the fish willing to eat it. Spots are rarely, if ever, random with a guide.
A variety of techniques are also a big part of a guided fishing trip. There are many times throughout the year that cut bait may be more productive than live bait. There have been times where a lure or a jig will out-fish live bait. Your guide will know this and will utilize all the tools at his disposal to bring fish over the rail. Many people here on the west coast of Florida will utilize live shrimp as a bait all year long, never realizing that in the warmer months shrimp is only really going to be a productive bait for snapper in deeper water. Redfish and snook may take a live shrimp, but you will have to weed through a lot of junk fish which makes for a very frustrating day on the water. Late fall, winter, and very early spring are the best times for shrimp.
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