The Good, the Bad, and the Baloney - Gathering Info for Your Next Outing
We all like to have as much information as possible. Whether it’s for building a rocket ship or for cooking dinner, the more information you have the better the outcome. But what information is good, and what information is useless? When it comes to hunting and fishing I like to get as much information as possible. The tough part is separating the good from the bad and here are some things that I do to get the best information.
When planning for an adventure, the weather is the most important. The 10 day is great, but it is still a forecast, it can and will change. The Farmer’s Almanac has also been depended on a long time, just don’t count it out. Pay attention to the wind, this can make or break you. The closer to the date the more accurate the forecast will be, this also includes the temperature, rain, and snow. This information is the easy stuff, unless you’re getting it from Uncle Buck. The weather man is not there to screw up your plans and can be trusted.
Maps also have great information that you need and the maps of today are very accurate. Some even have people’s secret spots marked on them. What you need to remember here is that everyone has seen these maps and most likely that spot isn’t so secret. I like to compare maps against each other, looking for the sweet spots and confirming that these are true. Use information from friends to confirm this when it’s available. In the digital world most marks are GPS points, but you can purchase some high quality paper maps depending on the lake. These are the maps I like to use when sharing information with others and vice versa. Just remember you can write on the paper maps and have that marking for as long as you have that map. Do not forget the ancient way, which is my favorite, old timers who give the best information. I’ve had many an afternoon coffee with an old fisherman who shares their sweet spot, “At 4:00 in the afternoon in front of the Thompson cabin, line up Swanson’s flag pole and old man Tillman’s porch light, you can’t miss it. One arm length off the bottom with a 1/16 oz glow jig and a crappie minnow, you should limit out in 40 minutes. Be sure to let me know how you do!”
Next is the most confusing when it comes to information which is social media. There is a lot of information on the web, Facebook, Instagram, and fishing reports from resorts and individuals. Some of this is very accurate and some is not. I have learned over time which ones of these I can trust and which ones to take with a grain of salt. No individual wants to give up their secrets unless they are benefiting from it in some way. Most reports are from the past, that day, week, or month, and are basically an educated guess of what’s to follow in the days to come. These are great if you know how to use them. I compare today’s reports with reports from the last five years and compare the conditions. I use this all the time, it works great for ice trips and very good on the tournament trail. Be careful when you look at advertisements which can have great information, but you need to pay attention to the details. Look at where the sun is in the picture, this will give you the time of day or night. Look at the shoreline or ice thickness, clarity of the water. Very prudent information that may not have been intended to be given, but it’s there. Look at the line and how the bait is hooked. Pay attention to what is there, and what is not, this can make anyone a better fisherman or hunter.
This part of gathering information is my favorite, actual conversation, with real people. The conversations with the people you know are the easiest, because you know when they are pulling your leg. You can come right out and ask for specific or just general information. You will know who will spin you in the right direction, these are the ones that give you exact details. Depths, times, colors, and even as much as how they fished them, aggressive or just a dead stick. If they want you to succeed they will be honest and may even ask if they can join you or mention when they’re heading out again. Remember we all are looking for information to help us become better at what we do. So share info back if you have any, even if it’s for a different area or different species, this will keep everyone on the same page. I have learned a lot from just listening, whether it’s my buddies or complete strangers. These conversations can take place anywhere, from the bar to the bait shop, or even a school activity. The old timer info is pretty cool, but you need to show interest, these guys have been around the block and can read you far better than you can imagine, the utmost respect is needed here. Some of my prize walleye spots have come from these guys. Remember to not push for information, this stuff has taken years to get, and if they are willing to share, do not go sharing it with everyone you know.
The State DNR has a lot of information, available for the public however, this is where you will need patience, just to sift through everything. The DNR website includes netting counts, species numbers, stalking info, and areas where the info was taken. This information will be more on the technical side and actual data. How I use this is simple, the forage lets me know what they are eating, and the creel counts let me know what year classes are the most abundant. This by far is the most homework type of information that I search for, and I usually only use it for lakes that I am unfamiliar with.
I can’t say that these are the only ways of collecting or getting your information, but some that I use on a continual basis. Remember that we are all sportsmen and sportswomen and what we do is closely watched by the younger generations. Their information will be handed down by us, so don’t send them in the wrong direction.