Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Saltwater or freshwater fishing: So which is best?

Jeremy Keehl was a competitive bass angler before moving to the Tampa area of Florida to start a guide business. He now prowls the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in search of big fish. If asked which resource he prefers, freshwater or saltwater, he’ll tell you he just likes to be where the fish are biting.

I spend a lot of time on the ocean. This past winter, I sent an extended period on the saltwater Gulf of Mexico. The other ocean I’m on a significant amount of time is Lake Superior, which is fresh water. Now I know technically Superior is not an ocean, but it is often described as an “inland sea” because it acts like an ocean due to its sheer size.

Sometimes anglers who are committed to one source for their fishing will debate which is better. Saltwater addicts love the ability to target huge species in big boats. Freshwater enthusiasts are adamant their H2O provides a more consistent fishery. There are many other facets to their arguments, but is one resource actually better than the other? Well, I have an opinion.

The reason for consistency is a valid point. I love fishing for huge smallmouth bass. I built a place on Lake Superior so I could be near Chequamegon Bay, one of the finest smallmouth fisheries anywhere. I use a medium-weight rod and reel and cast jigs and crankbaits to structure and cover. Other than the occasional 38-inch pike, 98 percent of the fish I hook are bass.

On the Gulf of Mexico out of the Tampa area I will motor out to a man-made reef and cast jigs and crankbaits for snapper, trout, and mackerel. I use a heavy fluorocarbon leader because everything in saltwater has teeth. I also use a much heavier rod and line because if you hook a big grouper, sheepshead, or barracuda you won’t land that fish on lighter tackle. When I fish freshwater I generally know what species is going to bite. On saltwater, it could be anything on the end of that line.

The enormity of the species options in saltwater is worth crowing about. There are dozens of choices for anglers to focus on, but this can be a conundrum, too. You need a big boat to travel way offshore to target some species and the flat boats are better on the shallower inshore zones. I have access to both, and there have been many times I have cussed a blue streak because I thought the snook would be shallow and they weren’t there, then the anglers who headed deep had non-stop action. And of course, the opposite has been true. Either way your fishing day is wasted!

The freshwater angler can recover quickly if his first angling option doesn’t pan out. Say you’re testing the docks for big bass and they’re not there. Go deep and toss crankbaits. It’s a 15-minute transition. If that doesn’t work, grab an ultralight rig and pull in some big bluegills.

One beautiful thing about the saltwater: When you hit the right spot, you have action all day. The bite can go on for hours. It’s rare you get that kind of action on freshwater unless you have traveled to a remote body of water.

I’ve only touched on a few debate points to show that pros and cons exist for saltwater or freshwater. Bottom line, when it comes to fishing it’s just great to be on the water, no matter if the salt content is 3 percent or zero. The beauty is that fish flourish in both.

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