I will use the Thomas Dolby reference again (http://s0.ilike.com/play#Thomas+Dolby:She+Blinded+Me+With+Science:37316:s92698.9636634.132723126.96.36.199%2Cstd_2b8d7a7e3ee448a7b9a747dca648c456) to tell you about some of the fisheries research going on in Nebraska. Actually during the winter I attended a couple of meetings of fisheries professionals. One of those was our Nebraska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (http://www.nebraskaafs.org/index.html), and the other was the annual meeting of the Great Plains Fishery Workers Association (Nebraska hosted that meeting this year). I hear about a lot of interesting things at those meetings, some deep, pointy-headed fish biologist stuff, but a lot of stuff that would be of interest to Nebraska anglers; I should post more of those things, but seem to have lots of things to blog about. Anyhow, today I am going to finally tell you about one of the posters that was presented at our Nebraska AFS meeting.
Those of us who hang around on internet fishing forums often joke about “internet scouting”. Internet scouting would be looking for fishing spots and hot bites by monitoring the internet, the old “outdoor reports” of years ago are obsolete–if you want to know where the fish are biting you can get it faster than ever on the internet. I can tell you that internet scouting is a FACT and there is even some scientific research to prove it. Dustin Martin and Dr. Kevin Pope of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln presented a poster entitled “Predicting Angler Effort from Online Fishing Forum Use”. Their research was straightforward–they wanted to see if there was a relationship between the amount of traffic, number of posts, on an on-line fishing forum about fishing on particular bodies of water and actual angler activity on those bodies of water. What they found was a very strong relationship between on-line traffic and actual angler use. Simply put, if you are seeing a lot of “chatter” on the internet about the fishing at a particular body of water, you can expect there are going to be a lot of anglers using that body of water. Dustin and Dr. Pope even concluded that on-line fishing forums might be a tool that could be used to estimate angler distribution, angler use, or angler behavior on a regional basis.
I have said before that in the “age of fishing” in which we live, there are no secrets. Between the internet and cell phones, news of a hot bite travels like wildfire. As soon as the fish are biting, it only takes a day or two for everyone to know about it. That means that there is as much or more harvest pressure on our fisheries than there has ever been. Folks often ask me how that can be when fishing permit sales around the country are less than they were years ago. There may be less licensed anglers, but the anglers we have now fish more and are more effective than they have ever been. That makes it challenging to develop and maintain our fisheries as anglers can have a significant impact on those fisheries. When the fish are biting, anglers can have a significant impact in a short period of time, within weeks or maybe even within days.
I also have said that if you want to catch fish and especially if you want to catch big fish nowadays, you have to outsmart other anglers as much as you have to “outsmart” the fish. You can bet that if you are hearing and seeing lots of reports about some hot bite, there have been a bunch of anglers taking advantage of that hot bite for some time already. By the time you hear or see about it, you already “should have been there yesterday”, or last week. I love to hear reports of good fishing and see pictures of big fish as much as the next guy, but those reports have very little impact on my fishing strategies. What I try to do is be on the hot bite when it starts, before everyone else finds out about it. I try to evaluate which waters offer the best potential and then fish those waters during prime times for the species I am pursuing. When and if the crowd starts to show up, well, then it is time for me to move on to something else.