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Help – I Can’t Catch Any Fish! (Let’s Fix This)

How to catch more fish by taking into account the big picture. So many fishing variables to consider and learn.

Not being able to catch any fish hits us all at some point in our fishing careers. We can blame it on whatever we like, and we’re probably at least partially right. Fish may not be biting for any number of reasons, or it may be just for one reason.

The good news is, we can try many different things to get the fish to bite!

Let’s talk about catching Florida fish and not fish in Alaska, Colorado, or Maine.

Florida fish love warm water, but not TOO hot. Yes, the water can get too hot in Florida when the sun beats down mercilessly for days on end with few clouds.

The bottom of the shallows heat up and the water becomes so hot that no fish will be found.

Of course this happens in the saltwater and freshwater fisheries, so let’s talk about both at the same time here. Fishing is fishing and the same things that affect fish in the saltwater affect them in the freshwater.

Things that Affect the Number of Fish You’re Catching

WATER TEMPERATURE. This is a big one. The temperature of the water is of crucial importance to all cold-blooded animals like fish, reptiles, and amphibians. One of the first problems they need to solve on their “Fish Hierarchy of Needs” is water temperature.

They will go into deeper water to find some relief from the very hot shallows in summer. In winter they may seek shallow spots that are warmed by the sun.

Freshwater temperature chart showing preferred temperature range in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees.
Freshwater fish prefer this temperature range for activity like feeding. ©Salty101

How can you catch more fish with water temperature in mind? Research the temperatures that the fish you’re targeting thrive in. There is a range of temperatures, and if the water you’re fishing isn’t even in that range then you have little chance of catching any of those fish.

Remember, some fish migrate north or south to reach water with the proper temperatures. They may not even be in Florida waters anymore!

WATER OXYGEN CONTENT. This is one variable that you have zero control over but you can choose to fish when the tides are moving, or you can fish a stream close to where the water is moving and adding more oxygen O2 to the water.

Warm water cannot hold as much oxygen as cold water. Ocean seagrass and other plants give off excess oxygen that fish use to fuel their activity.

Weather also affects how much O2 is in the water. High barometric pressure like on a sunny day can infuse more O2 into the water than a low pressure day. With a week of rain in a low-pressure system, the fish may not be biting much at all.

WATER COLUMN. Where the fish that you’re trying to catch are located in the water column matters a lot. If you’re trying to catch mahi-mahi from a pier and you’re fishing the bottom, guess what?

No mahi on the bottom. They live in the topwater. Just like trying to catch flounder with a float. Not happening. They’re on the bottom and even under the sand or dirt.

In every case you’ll need to STUDY the fish you’re trying to catch. This is why I spent dozens of hours writing over 30 Fishing Guides to help you target fish you want to catch.

Where the fish are in the water column vertically is sometimes a bit of a challenge to figure out. If you’re fishing just the top, try a bit lower using a float and a small sinker.

Vary the depth of the line below the float until you find fish.

SEASON. The Florida fishing seasons correspond to when fish species are most active and also try to avoid their spawning activities so as not to interfere. Make sure you know when the fish you’re targeting are in-season and when they are out of season.

Some fish don’t have a season, they’re open year round. Others don’t have an opening season, and this fluctuates each year as the FWC finds low population numbers or low spawning activity or something else that could negatively affect the fish numbers.

MOON TIDES. Tides are affected by the pull of the moon on the earth. The earth doesn’t move much, but the ocean and large lakes do.

This movement of water is very important for fish because it stirs up the bottom and fish become much more active while the tide is coming in or going out.

Fishing during these periods of peak water flow is typically much better than fishing when there is little or no movement of water.

Learn to read a tide chart for your specific fishing spot and you’ll increase your chances of catching fish!

BAIT. Fish like specific bait. They may be opportunistic and eat pretty much whatever comes by, but they all seem to have preferences. Research and find out what bait do they prefer and load up on that bait.

Some fish prefer large baits, and the bigger ones usually prefer a bigger bait. Keep this in mind. You might be floating a little chub over and over by some big fish and they may ignore it. Put on a small mullet or big pinfish and your hook might get slammed by a lunker.

Always think about what you could change to make the fishing better.

With Live Bait you have to hook it in a way it won’t fall off. You have to present it in a way that looks natural to the fish you want to catch.

You have to choose the size of your bait. Snook love small mullet. If you put a huge 5 lb. mullet on your hook are you going to catch a snook? Not likely. The size of your bait and exact species of live bait you’re fishing with matter a lot.

With live bait you have the natural action of the bait swimming that triggers the feeding response in the gamefish. This is part of why it works so well.

With Artificial Lures you need to present them exactly how they would swim in the wild. For crab lures you have to put them on the bottom, not float them on the top. Fish would be confused by such a thing!

Gotcha Lures in silver and red and yellow and red colors are ideal for many types of fast ocean fish.
These lures are super effective for fast fish like bluefish, jacks, Spanish mackerel, and others. Just reel in fast! Highly recommended. See here.

Artificials need to be ‘worked’ with a certain action so they entice the fish to strike. Using a 7″ plastic worm with a small nose-cone sinker letting it sink to the bottom then giving it a series of bumps up off the bottom into the lower water column can produce instant strikes from largemouth bass.

If instead you dragged it along the bottom you might get a catfish.

The action of the lure really matters in freshwater and saltwater fishing because the closer you can mimic one of the natural baits the fish likes to feed on, the more strikes and hook-ups you’ll get.

WATER TURBIDITY. Just a fancy name for the amount of floating stuff in the water that limits visibility. Some fish like bonefish love ultra-clear water. Sharks bite in any quality of water, but maybe more so in murky water. Again, know your fish and what it prefers and you’ll have a much better time of fishing anywhere.

In general, clear water is better. If the water is exceptionally clear the fish can see the hook and line easier and may choose to avoid what you’re offering. A little dirt in the water is better for most species.

LINE THICKNESS. If fishing with 120 lb. test wire was no problem for any fish, we’d just use it all the time. Unfortunately, fish can see the wire and heavy fishing line. Wire and thick braid are easy to see.

Mono and Fluorocarbon lines are not so easy, but some fish are still able to see it and won’t bite your bait.

The trick is to use as lightweight a line as possible. Especially when slow fishing. Slow fishing means the bait is sitting still or moving slowly in relation to the fish. The fish have time to inspect it and either pick a piece of bait off, or just ignore the entire thing.

If you’re fishing fast, like trolling off the back of a boat, 100 lb. test line is not that visible with all the bubbles, so it works great!

If you’re using 30 lb. test for speckled trout, try 8 lb. I’ll bet you see a big difference in the number of strikes!

CASTING ACCURACY. If you’re just floating a lure or bait off the back of your kayak or boat, then casting accuracy doesn’t come into play. Where it matters is when you’re trying to cast to a specific spot say where a big snook is and you have to get your bait under some low-lying tree branches without getting caught in them.

There is a lot to be said for casting accuracy when fishing for snook and other fish that hang around piers and other structure in the water.

You’ll save yourself a lot of snags on branches, piers, rocks, etc. if you can cast well and put the bait or lure where you want it 80%+ of the time.

Personally, my favorite reel to ensure accuracy while casting (and all the pros say this) is to use a baitcasting reel like this Penn reel, or this one.

Once you get over the slight learning curve and learn how to cast with a baitcasting reel your accuracy will increase measurably!

RETRIEVAL TECHNIQUE. We might as well go deep and list every possible problem with your fishing right now in one article, don’t you think? Let’s do this!

Reeling fish in (retrieval) is a learned skill in fishing that is very important.
Reeling in the fish is one of those skills that doesn’t take long to learn, but it’s pretty essential to have good technique.

Some hooks you need to set. “J-hooks” are set with most fish species. “Setting the hook” means you feel a bite and depending on the fish type, you pull hard up on your rod with no drag (you can hold the line for the set) and you lodge the hook in the fish’s mouth. Hopefully.

Other hooks like “Circle Hooks” you don’t set. They work their way into the side of a fish’s mouth like magic. You just reel in.

“Treble hooks” (3-hooks in one) are usually on lures and when the fish bites, it sets the hook without you doing it.

Retrieval is an art for some fish. Reeling in when you can, and allowing the fish to take back some line in bursts when it has energy to expend is a good idea. When in a stalemate you can pull up on your rod tip and then quickly drop it and reel fast to regain some line and get the fish closer to the surface.

Keeping the drag on your reel set correctly is pretty crucial. Too tight and you’ll lose the fish because the line will break or the hook will rip through the mouth.

Too loose and you’ll never reel a big fish in, it will just keep taking line from you.

You have to guess how tight to set the drag by how hard the fish is pulling and by your guess of what type of fish it is.

If you think it’s a huge snook, you can set the drag fairly heavy with 30 lb. test line but be ready to loosen it a bit for the first run which can be a flat-out explosion forward. Lots of snook are lost in the first 5-10 seconds of a hook-up!

Summary

It’s crucial for your success as an angler to research the fish you’re trying to catch before you go to catch them. You’ll need to look at all or most of the factors above and know what you’re doing, have a game plan, in order to have a successful outing.

It will help tremendously if you can find a fishing club, group, or buddy that already knows how to fish for the fish you are targeting.

The amount of knowledge you’ll gain from just watching one person do it is priceless and you should buy that person a pizza every week for a couple months as they share tips with you about tying knots, line strength and type, bait types, where to get bait, when the best times to fish are, and so much more.

Once you learn a core set of fundamentals, you’ll be fishing on your own and targeting new species within a short time. Put a lot of time into learning the variables above, like a week, or a month solid and you’ll be able to go forward from there.

[Images of fishing from Unsplsh. Gotcha lures from official website.]

If you’re out there catching fish – LET ME KNOW! Send photos! Send videos! I’ll post what I can here on the site with your credit. Contact me at the link at the bottom of the page. Or here.

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