Too often I hear the suggestion from anglers, “Think like a fish.”
We’re human, so we can’t truly think like any animal, but we can understand them and their movements. We can ask why a specific species of fish reacts certain ways in different aquatic environments.
Fish won’t be splitting the atom anytime soon, but they’re not dumb either. We often hear how the brain of a fish is tiny. Yes, humans in proportion to our bodies have larger brains, but compare fish to other animals and they’re not too far off. Besides, you don’t require major brainpower to avoid danger. Wild turkeys have small brains but they’re very hard to hunt.
All fish are wary and capable of learned behavior. Either way, I’m convinced some fish are smarter than others. Anyone who’s monitored a school of fish under the ice knows some fish are more catchable than others. Are the tough-to-catch fish more intelligent? At the very least, there’s a learn behavior, scent, noise, or appearance that they know to avoid.
Understand the habits and environment of fish, including their food sources, locations, spawning history, and the calendar period. These are all factors we must understand that contribute to the lures we use and the locations we drop them.
Too much noise, cold water, lower metabolism, food locations: These are all ingredients that successful anglers understand and accept as influencing fish activity. On a bright, sunny day with clear ice and no snow, a walleye can see an angler through the ice in 10 feet of water or less. This must influence how you operate on the ice!
In the final fishing equation, it adds up to starting with more action and large baits. If you're not catching anything, then begin working towards small and subtle. Mix up your presentations so fish are not seeing the same thing. And by all means, remember to eliminate noise!