Why Can’t I Catch Fish? 10 Things Hurting Your Chances

We all have days when we go out fishing and come home empty handed. But if it is happening to you on a regular basis, it is time to look …

We all have days when we go out fishing and come home empty handed.

But if it is happening to you on a regular basis, it is time to look seriously at what’s going wrong.

We’ve put together this list of common mistakes people make while fishing to help our readers boost their strike rate.

If you’re finding the fish aren’t biting when you are on the water, these tips will help you turn things around on your next fishing trip.

This will help you use your precious time fishing effectively when you visit your favorite fishing spot.

10 Reasons You Aren’t Catching Fish

1.Not choosing your Target Species

Too many anglers decide to go fishing without thinking clearly about which fish they are trying to catch. In almost all cases, you are best off choosing the target species and selecting the right lures and gear for that species, than just taking any old rod out of your garage and going down to the pond to “fish”.

Any research you can do beforehand about what fish there are in the fishing spot you have chosen and which species you will target, will really help you catch more and experience more fishing success.

2.Using too thick a line

Most anglers go in overgunned in the line department by using way too thick a line. This means they don’t get the bites that a good angler does. Yes, they don’t lose fish to line breakages, but if you are fooling only a small percentage of the fish that another angler is then this doesn’t matter.

Therse anglers will say the fish aren’t biting, and in a sense that’s true – but they aren’t biting because they realise something is suspicious.

Use as thin a line as you dare is our motto. That way you get more strikes and more fish.

Of course you have to consider the target species (another reason why point #1 is important) – let’s say you are targeting brown trout, a 6lb test line can handle anything up to 8lbs or more when it comes to trout, so that’s what we’ll use.

Of course we increase the line size if the fish has sharp teeth or a tendency to dive into structure.

3.Fishing in the Wrong Spot

Location, location, location! Yep, just like real estate, location is all important in fishing. There is no point fishing in a spot where your target species is hard to come by. Do your research and find the best spots nearby to catch, say, bass if that’s the species you are targeting.

There are lots of way to get info on good fishing spots these days including word of mouth, speaking with nearby tackle stores, your favourite fishing website, reading fishing forums, social media and apps like FishBrain.

If you are in a boat or kayak, of course you can use your fish finder to locate fish or likely looking spots. There are also some great castable fish finders and underwater fishing cameras that help shore based anglers and ice fishing enthusiasts find fish.

4.Fishing at the Wrong Depths

In truth, finding the right spot to fish is only part of the battle – you need to be fishing at the right depth (and with the right technique).

Taking trout fishing as an example, you need to be presenting your bait, lure or fly at the right depth in the right way. Catching fish depends on this!

If you can see fish on the surface rising or swimming around in shallow water, then you need to be fishing close to the surface to get their attention (your best chance will be fishing with a dry fly).

If the fish aren’t on the surface and you think the fish are on the bottom of the lake or river, you need to head deeper and make sure you bait or lure gets right down to them.

They will only rarely rise through the water column to take a lure, so it is up to you to get the fish to them at the right depth.

You need to fish deeper and choose the right weight jig head or weight or the right diving depth for crankbaits to make sure they get down.

5.Fishing in the Wrong Season

Fishing is very seasonal – different seasons produce different river flows, water temperatures and prevailing winds, as well as migrations of fish and their prey.

So assuming the fish that we want to target is able to be caught year round (like largemouth bass for example), then we need to adapt our technique to match the fish’s activity in a given season, where it is found, how it behaves and what kind of prey it is eating.

Again, do your research and don’t waste time fishing for species that either aren’t feeding or aren’t found in the areas you are fishing.

There is no point booking a fishing trip to target a particular spot or species if it is the wrong season with the wrong water temperatures – fishing success depends on not making this mistake.

6.Fishing at the Wrong Time

Just as fish behave differently in different seasons, their behaviour – and how aggressive they are – is also heavily dependent on the time of day.

The best time of day to fish depends on both the targeted species and the conditions in the location you’ve chosen.

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But as a general rule, fish feel more comfortable to feed aggressively in low light conditions, so dusk and dawn are two peak times for successful fishing for many fish species.

7.Fishing with the Wrong Lure or Bait

Lures, in the main, have to do two things – emulate the prey that fish are feeding on (think of a ned rigged crawfish for example), or trigger an aggressive attack from a fish that feels annoyed or threatened (think of a big flashy spinner bait buzzing past).

For the first example, it is about what fly fishers call matching the hatch. That just meets choosing a lure that closely resembles what the fish are eating. Fly fishers know that successfully catching fish depends on this.

Grubs, worms, crankbaits, jerkbaits and swimbaits are all good examples of lures that match the prey the fish are eating, as are topwater frogs.

Flashy style lures that trigger annoyance can be just as effective when fish are aggressive – as well as spinnerbaits, buzz baits, poppers, chatterbaits and inline spinners are more examples that work with aggressive fish.

8.Lure Size or Color Issues

Similarly, it’s important to match the size of the prey too – so that means choosing smaller lures or larger lures depending on what they are eating. Sometimes you need to fish natural colors, and other times very bright colors if you find the fish aren’t biting.

9.Your Technique Is Wrong

Another of the common mistakes anglers make is not fishing the lure correctly. The rod and reel, used correctly, give the angler the ability to create lifelike movement in the lure. That’s what get’s fish’s attention and encourages it to strike.

There are tried and tested ways of fishing all the various types of lures – do some research on the right retrieve rate and rod action for, say, jigging, or crankbait fishing.

Practice makes perfect. Vary your retrieval speed (within reason) and the action you are imparting with your rod tip to see if you can induce a strike. Try a slower presentation, then a faster presentation, a more jerky one … until you hone in on what works to attract fish.

10.The Fish Have Seen You

Big fish become large by avoiding being caught. The bigger the fish, the smarter it is and the more difficult it will be to catch.

One way to boost your success, particularly with these smart, bigger fish is to make sure you stay out of sight. For many species, such as trout, once they see you the game is up – they won’t take your fly or lure and it is game over.

So catching fish depends on remaining out of sight and putting casts into the area where the fish are holding without them discovering you. Be stealthy at all times and you will reap the rewards.

In a boat, this means using a trolling motor or even a pole or oars rather than the boat’s engine.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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