Straightening Out the Circle

Straightening Out the Circle

The appetites of fish, like those of other creatures, vary over time. When hungry, fish eat if they can. If they consume enough food, their pangs wane, and for a while, they become less motivated to eat. Over the years, I've developed a tendency to use a circle as a favorite way to illustrate the ever-evolving feeding mood of fish.   

A circle makes sense primarily because of a significant consequence spurred by the fishes' dynamic appetites. Through evidence gathered anecdotally, while probing the water with hooks and line, I've witnessed the effects of this truth on many occasions. Anyone who's wet a hook more than a few times has likely experienced it; fish feeding hard enough will abruptly stop chewing at some point, sometimes soon after they start. To my customers, I've often stressed the way this fact dictates a need for focus on our part, using some version of the following statement: “We better make hay while the sun shines, 'cause it ain't gonna last.”  

The optimal feeding mood of fish leads to gorging, with an associated period of inactivity immediately following the fill-up, so the most negative appetite level resides close to the optimal one, on the forward-leaning scale of time. Given this truth, a circle seems perfect for visualizing these events. The appetite climbs the curve to the top, then a breaking point occurs, and the 100/100 level drops instantly to 0, or at least close to nil, while fish take a break from eating and begin to digest what they've consumed.  

To some, it might seem more meaningful to snap the circle at the breaking point and straighten it into a line, placing the optimal feeding level at the top, the most negative one at the bottom. This linear representation does imply some things inaccurately, in my estimation, and I've synthesized a better way to graphically represent the mutability of this aspect of the fishes' behavior.  

Using line graphs, I've attempted to construct an easy way to grasp how various aspects of a situation can drive the fishes' appetites either up or down, and how anglers should typically respond to these changes. All my assertions assume a key fact related to any angling effort—the angler should always consider the appetite level of the fish when making decisions. For artificial lure enthusiasts, this assumption carries more significance than for anglers deploying live and natural baits.  

Producing line-graphs involves generating a grid with two axes, one horizontal, one vertical.  I've done so by placing time on the horizontal axis and feeding mood on the vertical. This allows for the simplest way of documenting what happens while sand slides through the hour-glass, as the feeding mood of fish either improves or declines. Obviously, looking at the images associated with this piece, the optimal feeding level resides at the top of the vertical axis, the most negative at its base. Time moves forward from left to right.  

It pays to think of a couple other things when visualizing the vertical axis. As temperatures rise, the likelihood of high feeding activity generally increases. This happens because fish have cold blood coursing through their veins; they're more active and thus need more energy as temperatures rise. This general truth does not always apply. Fish become negative in hot weather too, but this happens less frequently, for shorter periods of time, and with less severity, compared to what occurs in cold weather.  

In addition to considering temperature as an underlying, influential part of the vertical axis, thinking about what basic ramification the axis implies on the decisions made by anglers makes sense too. A better feeding mood in the fish means they will show a more cooperative attitude towards rising to take lures placed higher in the water column and moved around at faster speeds, with more erratic action. A vigorous bite on topwaters moving fast on the surface occurs more often when the targeted fish feed aggressively. Conversely, the most negative fish might only half-heartedly bite at something moving slowly, close to or on the bottom.  

Size of the lure also comes into play, in a similar fashion. Hungry fish show a better attitude towards larger lures than sated fish, so as the biting mood of the fish improves, larger lures stand a better chance of urging strikes, especially from mature predators accustomed to taking prey of more substantial size. In total then, a better biting mood increases the odds for anglers using bigger lures, presented more quickly and closer to the surface, while a really negative mood dictates using smaller lures presented slowly, closer to the bottom.  

These static truths remain in play all the time, but the feeding mood of the fish constantly changes. In an ideal world, anglers adapt their methods in attempt to adjust to the mutating situation. Doing so effectively requires more than a basic grasp of the foundational, static truths; it also involves an understanding of which environmental factors affect the feeding mood of fish, how they do so, and the probable intensity with which they influence a given situation.  

Certainly, some aspects of a situation could negatively alter the feeding mood of the fish, or at least the ability of the angler to take advantage of the fishes' desire to feed. Winds ramping up and staying at a high level for an extended period of time, excessively strong or weak tidal currents and frigid temperatures come to mind as prime examples of negative environmental stimuli. All anglers should fish in a mindful state, constantly attempting to adjust techniques to the factors which potentially stifle a bite.  

On the other hand, anglers should also remain poised to pounce on the advantages provided by stimulators, which increase the likelihood of temporary improvement in the biting attitude of the fish within the scope of their influence. A list of such stimulators includes some basic, more predictable ones, and some complex, unpredictable ones. The rising and setting of the sun and moon, the turn of the tide, and dramatic weather changes all potentially increase the motivation of fish to feed, and in so doing, the ability of anglers to catch them.  

These stimulators do not exert equal influence at all times. Some have greater impact than others. Additionally, the simultaneous occurrence of multiple stimulators can increase their cumulative effect, well beyond the norm. For instance, if a full moon drops close to the horizon while the sun rises and a strong front blows over the coast after three days without a frontal passage, the fish in the area might become ridiculously ravenous for a while.  

In order to address the issue of stimulators on the graphs I've produced for consideration here, I've placed a green S on the horizontal axis.  Making the S larger and bolder better represents its complete potential for influence, graphically acknowledging the severity of a weather condition, the strength of a moon phase and/or the simultaneous occurrence of multiple stimulators. Analysis of the three attached graphics will help clarify these concepts.  

In the first, titled Summer Day, excellent conditions, the line on the graph shows the bite attitude moving from medium into the high range and staying elevated for an hour or so, in response to a stimulator. This represents what typically occurs on a standard summer morning, with stable, normal weather in play, when the sun rises. Fish tend to feed somewhat aggressively in this situation, becoming easier to catch on topwaters for a while. The effects of a sweet tide-change or a strong setting or rising moon would likely increase the duration and intensity of the up-tick in bite attitude.  

The second shows the typical changes associated with a stimulator like a weak moon setting or rising on a Cold Winter Day, with negative conditions like bright skies and ballooned barometer in play. Finicky fish, nearly impossible to entice into taking a bite thirty minutes before and after such an event will likely become somewhat easier to catch for a short period of time. Note the line only rises slightly, meaning the angler should still employ something small, moved slowly, at or near the bottom, even during the perceived window of ripe opportunity. The S on this graph should probably be tiny and faint, to illustrate the weakness of the effects of the stimulator.  

A contrasting picture emerges on the graphic titled Winter Day, frontal passage, which documents what regularly happens during the cold season, when a front passes over the coast, ending a stretch of benign weather. If the passage occurs while the moon and sun both hover on the horizon, a steady, good feeding mood in the fish might morph into an epic, short-lived feeding frenzy, before collapsing when strong offshore winds replace the softer, warmer ones prevalent before the event. I've increased the size of the green S on this graph, to illustrate the strong influence multiple stimulators can exert. In such a case, an angler who chooses to replace a slow-sinking twitch bait or soft plastic with a topwater during the hour or so when the front bears down and passes through might catch more and bigger fish than one who makes no adjustment. Soon after the front passes, a move back down to a worm might be necessary to earn a few more strikes.  

In essence, then, anglers should learn to make both proactive and reactive decisions, in anticipation of and in response to external stimuli. These three line-graphs emphasize how static truths about weather and environment interact with the fluid nature of the biting mood of the fish and impact angling efforts. The smartest, most productive anglers mirror the dynamic qualities of the ever-changing environment, adjusting their lure choices and presentations to address the specifics of the situation.