Traveling across the continent to fish in famous places is a lot of fun. But those trips are expensive and time-consuming, and few of us can make such journeys more than once or twice a year, if at all. That’s why finding a decent fishing spot close to home is important.
If you have half a day, and if you can locate good fishing within an hour of home, that means you can spend three hours of that free afternoon with a fishing rod in your hand. Unless you live in the middle of the Mojave Desert, chances are excellent you live within an hour of good fishing.
How do you find those neighborhood honey holes? Or how do you find new ones when you’re in unfamiliar territory, whether it’s for a week’s vacation or the rest of your life after a move to another state? In most cases, the possible sources of information are both numerous and nearby, but you’re going to have to seek them out.
Let Your Fingers Do The Walking
First, check out the Yellow Pages. Look under “Sporting Goods – Retail,” “Bait Shops,” “Fishing Bait,” “Fishing Parties,” “Boat Rental,” “Taxidermists,” “Fishing Guides,” just plain “Fishing,” and similar headings. These should give you quite a few hits, but don’t get lazy. A phone call to these places is not the most profitable way to proceed.
Instead, pay some of these businesses a personal visit. It’s easy for them to blow you off over the phone, but face to face, you’re harder to ignore. At that point, you’re a potential customer (it’s not a bad idea to buy something before starting to ask questions).
Bait and tackle shops are probably your best bet, since they’re familiar with every lake and stream within reasonable range, and their clientele generally keeps them informed about fishing conditions at each site. Start off your conversation by confessing your ignorance about local fishing; you’ll be taking advantage of human nature by making it almost impossible for your source to resist showing off his encyclopedic local knowledge.
Make it clear early on which species (singular or plural) you’re interested. If you want to know where to go catfishing, there’s no sense in wasting your or your source’s time listening to a lecture on rainbow trout. These folks are happy to help you find fishing spots. They want you to go fishing and catch a lot of fish, because that keeps you in active customer mode.
Government Is Here To Help You
Your state fish and wildlife agency is another excellent source of accurate information. These people, too, want you to succeed; they want to sell you fishing licenses. However, you’ll probably be better served by talking to a representative of the agency’s public relations or information department rather than a fisheries biologist – at first contact, anyway. The PR staffers are trained to provide people like you and me the information we need to utilize the state’s natural resources, while the biologist is trained to manage and take care of those resources. Biologists are apt to presume we know more than we do; information department staffers aren’t so inclined, and most of them will take as long with you and go into as much detail as you want. After all, it’s what they do for a living.
In this case, a phone call is fine, because state-agency PR folks deal with customers on the phone all day. Personal visits are good as well. Whichever route you take, again confess your ignorance, and be specific about what you want to fish for. Be prepared to take notes, because you’re probably going to trigger an avalanche of information. Most good PR staffers are more familiar with the overall picture than most of the fisheries biologists.
Before you end your conversation with a state-agency PR type, ask if there are any fisheries folks or other people you should talk to. Some fisheries biologists are very PR-oriented, and if you can find one of these people, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Mine The Marinas
Marinas and boat-rental facilities are often found on major lakes and streams, and these can be good sources of information. However, a lakeside business that rents cabins and boats is likely to paint a rosier picture than is strictly truthful of the quality of the fishing, for obvious reasons.
However, these businesses are still worth visiting, as long as you remember to take what they tell you with a grain of salt. Hanging around on the dock and shooting the breeze with other anglers and dock hands is often more productive than a long talk with the facility manager, for the same reason a waiter can give you better advice on what to order than can the smiling face who leads you to your table.
Guides Are Gold Mines
If there’s an obvious fishing spot near home in your neighborhood – for example, if you’ve just moved to Nashville and you live in a subdivision overlooking Percy Priest Lake – or if you’ve decided through some other means on what water body you want to concentrate, hiring a guide for a fishing trip or two could be an excellent decision. Guides can teach you more about fishing a particular lake or stream than you can pick up in years of going at it on your own. Return to the place at a later date and put that information to good use.
On the Web, that is. You’re there right now, reading this piece about how to find good fishing close to home. Run a search: “Alabama Stream Fishing,” for example, or “Crappie Fishing Missouri Lakes.” You’ll find some useful hits if you search long and hard enough.
Rely On Yourself
Finally, don’t sell your own self short. You can learn a lot about the fishing potential of an area without talking to another soul. Get a set of good maps of your area of interest and hit the road. Go to those blue places on the map and take a look. How does the water look? Are there vehicles in the boat-ramp parking lot? Are there bank fishermen? Watch them for a while. Are they catching anything?
This, of course, is the slowest way to find a close-to-home fishing spot. But it’s by far the most satisfying, and it also has the potential of letting you find an out-of-the way hotspot utilized by few other people. This isn’t common, but it is possible.
Just Do It
No matter how you go about finding a fishing spot near home, though, it’s important to find a few of them if you want to get a full measure of enjoyment from fishing. Those weeklong adventures to distant fishing places may be what keep us looking forward to next month or next year, but it’s those local honey-holes that keep us sane.