On The Hook: Elevating your fishing skill set

Bill Walsh

It’s that time of the year again, season! Many of you are putting the finishing touches on closing down the northern domain and heading back to the Paradise Coast. It’s been a pleasant late spring and summer for most of you sans occasional visits from marauding vestiges of tropical weather threats. 

You’ve got those tricky tee shots down pat now and your tennis skill has improved dramatically. You even had an excursion or two with friends to enjoy the exciting stretch run games at Yankee Stadium, Fenway or Wrigley Field.

Snook in ocean chasing lure while fishing

A complete late spring and summer except you didn’t go fishing! And now you’re about to make the trip to your second world where that sport will occupy a good portion of your interest level for the next three or four months.

Bottom line you’re out of practice and have a fading recollection of how it all works here. You would like to “fix” that shortfall with some suggested methods to hopefully re-ignite those latent fishing skill levels quickly and easily. We understand and will give it our best shot.


Even if you’re looking to fix those rusty techniques and methods, it’s also essential to get a current fix on what’s going on in the waters of your choice. Now, with absolutely no self-adulation intended, the very best coach would be a reputable guide, licensed charter captain. And your choice of captain should be one who has experience in the sector and fishing method you intend to enjoy. For example, some captains are strictly backwater, some are offshore and there are some who have experience in both sectors. A full-time captain, guide will be keenly attuned to the waters that you will be fishing and be right up to date on current activity both successful and disappointing.

As in most all endeavors, a few minutes here and there with non-involved sources can provide you with some solid leads as to “who,” local tackle shops, other familiar charter captains and marina employees can help with recommendations and leads.

Once you’ve selected a coaching mentor and deployed on your initial trip have a list of questions at the ready, about technique, equipment, species, and general fishing areas. Generally, the captain will be open and explanatory but do not ask or try to clandestinely discover the exact coordinates of the private spot you’re are fishing on that occasion. That will put an end to the coaching for sure.

If possible try a second charter with a reputable captain in the same domain to do comparisons. Every captain will do different things; none are right or wrong but will give you the ability to make choices.


Each fishing domain has a set of skills that are paramount for success. Take for example the choice of tree and obstruction lined backwaters for your fishing nirvana with literally thousands of snag points just awaiting for an errant cast. A quick trip through our extensive backwaters here will display “thousands” of remnants of errant casts hanging from trees, bushes and whatever. No need for that with a simple practice method.

Next time at the kid’s toy store buy a hula hoop. On the very next impulse to improve your casting skill, remove the hook from your spinning rig and see how many times you can hit the hula circle. Guarantee after but a few half hour exercises, you’ll be amazed at your improvement next time on the water even with tree and bush limbs jutting out all over the place.

For offshore action on the big stuff it’s more about arm strength and endurance. Next time at your workout, ask the instructor to put you on equipment that develops arm and back strength. You’d be surprised how a few hours on the equipment will add to your endurance when the “big one” is trying to tow you over the side of the boat.


Experienced fishing folks usually have at least one thing in common and that is the ability to “read the water” i.e. to see things on current flow or interruptions in the sequence or disruption of water flow that will signal the presence of sea life beneath. The first and most apparent signal is the presence or absence of water flow aka tidal activity.

Fish feed when the water is moving. Eons of time and experience have taught them to seek “food” when it is moving across the bottom; i.e easy to sit in place and have dinner arrive at your location. So, weak or virtually non-existent tides shut down the bite, totally.

And on the other end of the spectrum, when the tides are roaring fast that, too is a turn off as it takes too much energy for the fish to hover in racing water. They will move in such a situation to slower water usually well away from where you are unfortunately.

So, bottom line, sense the speed of the water as your primary “reading” point.

An important, secondary reading point on the water is to fish where the fish see food; i.e bait fish action. As you read a spot to set up for action, take a few minutes to observe surface bait action with splashes and jumps. Bait draws the fish for food and it also will draw sea birds for the same reason. If you see gulls or even skimmers working an area aggressively you are in the right place.

So, three starting points to sharpen that summer-dulled fishing skillset and get you comfortable as you enjoy these beautiful and generous waters this coming season.

Welcome back!

Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolmarco@cs.com.