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Advice & More March 2015

Hooking the Big Ones

By Geno Lawrenzi, Jr.

We were all three using the same bait and tossed out our baited hooks about the same distance from the boat. I averaged as many bites per hour as they did, but when we pulled our catch out of the water, their fish were always larger than mine – sometimes twice as big.

Like a lot of people who grew up next to a river, I am hooked on fishing. There wasn't much else to do during those endless summers in western Pennsylvania except fish, play baseball and talk about girls. My dad was a coal miner and we lived in a housing complex owned by the Pittsburgh  Consolidated Coal Co. which operated the Warden Mine where my father  worked. Just across the railroad tracks from where we lived was the Youghiogheny River, named after an Indian tribe. Fishing was great in the Yough. You could catch giant catfish along with slim carp and even sunfish or an occasional water snake.

My childhood dream was to grow into a man and continue fishing, but not on rivers or lakes. I wanted to be like Pelle the Conqueror and fish in the deepest waters I could find – the ocean. There I would send my hook and bait to the bottom and pull up fish that were larger, more powerful and better tasting than anything I could catch in the rivers or lakes that captured my boyhood interest.

I became grown. As a journalist, I had the ability, the means and the responsibility to travel. My travels took me to Florida, to places like Naples and Bonita Springs. There, with the help of a rented pontoon boat, I found the big fish.

This is a confession I am reluctant to make, but it is true. I have never been a great fisherman. I am not even a good fisherman. To be characterized as such, one would have to catch fish that were larger than those caught by one's fishing companions. That has never happened to me. Even my children and grandchildren have always out-fished me on the few occasions we have gone river or ocean fishing.

Years ago when I lived in Ft. Lauderdale, I boarded a fishing boat for half a day. The boat took us several miles into a calm ocean where the captain dropped anchor and we began fishing. I remember standing between a married couple and being thoroughly embarrassed by them. We were all three using the same bait and tossed out our baited hooks about the same distance from the boat. I averaged as many bites per hour as they did, but when we pulled our catch out of the water, their fish were always larger than mine – sometimes twice as big.

I tried to do something about it. I even complained to the men who baited my hooks, asking them what I was doing wrong.

The wife of the fisherman who was on my left shook her finger at me and smiled. “Honey, it ain't the size of the worm, it's how you wiggle it that counts.”

Keep that in mind as I offer you a few tips to improve your fishing techniques. These tips have seriously increased the size of my catch and have made my hobby much more pleasurable to me. I think they will help you as well.

  • Whether you are on the pier or on a boat, look for sea gulls or other sea birds. Where they are, that is generally where the fish will be.
  • Watch for floating debris and floating pieces of wood, the larger the better. A large piece of floating wood is generally where the big fish will be hiding.
  • Look for snook. They are big, great eating fish, a challenge to catch because they are wary. But you can find them hanging around ledges, piers, posts and rock piles.
  • Know your bait. Know what the big fish in your area are feeding on. The best and quickest way to find out would be to talk to the local anglers. Handled with finesse, they'll tell you the truth.
  • Always fish around the reef. They are hotbeds of activity for tiny fish, and the small fish make good eating for the much larger fish.
  • If your anchor snags on a rock, as many do, don't panic. Attach a floating device to it and return after the tide changes. That should be sufficient to free the anchor.

 

Geno Lawrenzi Jr. is an international journalist who has worked in many parts of the United States as well as the Caribbean on newspapers and magazines. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Meet Geno