July 31, 2013
By Sam Hudson
Notes will keep you honest, and put you on more fish season after season.
By Corky Decker
Whether it's bull dolphin or blue marlin, it pays to keep records of where and when, and under what conditions, you've hooked up.
I started keeping a personal log book in my early 20s running factory trawlers in Alaska, recording each tow's tonnage, position, sea state, temperature, depth and bottom, a breakdown of the most important species, and production for the day.
What does this have to do with sportfishing in Florida?
Well, bear with me a minute here. This information became so valuable to me in the commercial industry that I soon started to keep one for my sportfishing ventures and this written record has made me a much better captain over the years.
Most fish are creatures of habit. Their primary needs are food, spawning and predator evasion. Pelagic fish generally have spawning grounds that they will come back to year after year; in the Gulf of Mexico, the two species that first come to mind are bluefin tuna and cobia. Using these two species as examples, they have historical migration routes to and from their spawning areas. If you know these routes and when they occur, you'll have an excellent opportunity to intercept them year after year, assuming you've documented the conditions that trigger their movements, such as water temp thresholds.
Marlin are a different breed; they are roamers. In the Gulf, keeping records will not only help you locate marlin, but help improve your efficiency.
I find it handy to keep a hardbound notebook on the bridge and maintain a running tally of each day's events. The rough notes are later entered on a spreadsheet.
When you are trolling, keep track of water temperature and water color. At what latitude and longitude, and under what wind conditions, did you find the blue water? I also keep track of my trolling speed, knock downs, hookups, which lures we're using, and any fish tagged or boated. This data, in addition to helping you dial into the optimal conditions, will also give you your hookup rate, a benchmark for improving the overall performance of your boat and crew. I've gotten my HUR to just over 70-percent on billfish, which is pretty good. I never would have achieved this without collecting data and fine-tuning my methods.
Author converts paper notes jotted down during the day to a spreadsheet file.
How is writing down a bunch of notes going to help you catch more fish? The Gulf of Mexico is more challenging than any other place I have ever fished; the Mississippi Delta has a major effect on these waters. Finding the blue water is the top priority (in the Destin fleet, at least, 90 percent of marlin are caught in the blue) and keeping daily notes on where the break is, helps to figure out the starting point the next day. Temperature goes hand in hand with the blue water; it seems the green water, or blended, is almost always the warmer water. Once the cooler blue water is dialed in and noted, I'll note where I have found current lines, and weed lines. If I work these areas for an hour or so I'll be able to tell which way and how fast the current is pushing the line; this info will help relocate it again the next morning after a night of sword fishing.
I am a guy who loves numbers and data. For me, keeping records is fun thing to do. These records are helping me to achieve a goal I've had for years—to catch and release a thousand billfish (not as an angler, but as the guy driving) and catch every billfish species in both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. I am currently at 707 and have only a long bill spearfish and a hatchet marlin to go. If I didn't keep a good log, I'd never know this and I'd only be guessing and that would be telling a fish tale.FS