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How To Know When The Fish Are Biting

by: Lloyd Tackitt 5/2/2014
My Grandmother could catch fish out of a dry bar ditch, and she'd catch a whole stringer full too.  She knew more about holding her mouth right while baiting a hook than any 6 year old could ever hope to absorb.  She taught me a lot of things about fishing, and one of them was how to tell when the fish would be biting.

Everyone's heard the "Fish bite the least when the wind is out of the east, and bite the best when out of the west."  She told me that was just an observation of the obvious.  As she put it, most people think there's something magic about that statement, but the plain truth is that the wind is out of the west a hell of a lot more often than it is out of the east, given the way the world spins on it axis.  So that's a lot like saying nothing at all. 

One that she swore by though was whether cows were standing up or laying down.  If they were laying down, so were the fish - so to speak - and they wouldn't be biting much.  If the cows were up, then the fishing would be good.  She also said that this was a very localized thing.  If you drive a long way to go fishing you're going to see cows standing and lying and mixed groups too - and that the fishing would be good, bad or mixed in the area where those cows were - but it told you next to nothing about further on down the road.  

Over the years I have pretty well come to believe she was correct about the cows.  But only the cows nearby where you are fishing.  I also believe it includes all wildlife as well - it's just that they are harder to see.  If you watch squirrels for instance there does seem to be a correlation between the number of squirrels out and about and their activity level and the fish bite.  Goats, deer, name it, the correlation seems to be there.  So does the "local-ness" of it.

The "local-ness"  of it (as opposed to the "loco-ness" of it?) creates a ton of questions.  My best theory is that there are localized magnetic and geographical variations that cause a disparity between areas, and these are emphasized by moon position, weather, solar storms, what have you.  

My Grandmother also advised me that when the cows were flying it was best to stay at home.  It's difficult to remember everything from when I was 6 years old, but I'm pretty sure that she said flying cows was an indication that it would be difficult to cast.
Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Member comments
Flyrodn, CO   5/2/2014 4:35:52 PM
I'm with your grandmother on active wildlife/farm animals nearby indicates fishing will be good. Nature seems to work that way. All are in the mood to feed, or none are, but it doesn't stop me from trying. Haven't encountered any flying cows, but I suspect there's a lot of truth to that one too.
IceFishingFool, CO   5/2/2014 4:51:56 PM
Don't think I would want to be "out" and having to duck flying cows LOL
Dave Mauldin, TX   5/2/2014 8:34:08 PM
. a dumb girl friend of mine said many times' "either they are hungry or they or not". I have since come to realize she was exactly right, even if she knew nothing abut fishing. It's really all in proportional to how hungry they are...and we have to fish according to how hungry they are. Some of my best tournament finishes were during the times the fish were NOT feeding, but I found a way to force feed them.
OldMikkDale, CO   5/2/2014 9:36:12 PM
One of my chores on our farm was to feed the livestock. I could tell when a storm was coming in when they would eat more. They were also more active and playful. I also would check the barometer which also indicated approaching storms. Some fishermen who keep detail records include the barometer readings. One can google barometer effects on fishing and there are several sites on this subject. Of course other factors can also come into play.
sgtk, CO   5/3/2014 12:39:56 PM
I think there is always a fish feeding somewhere on a body of water. I dont think feeding just shuts down. We catch more when we are in a spot where more fish are feeding when they are feeding. High pressure just reduces the numbers of feeding fish or move them from where we expect them to be. Sometimes we catch them when they are not feeding at all just forcing the reaction strike.
SnipeHuntin, CO   5/3/2014 11:50:41 PM
You just answered a question I got the other day. Thanks a million. I love reading what you write down.
Dave Mauldin, TX   5/4/2014 5:12:32 PM
I think feeding DOES shut down some times. All the fish are affected by high pressure, or other negative conditions, cold, etc. Deeper fish are affected less because their environment may not have drastically changed, and sometimes you can fish for deep fish and do OK under conditions where feeding has shut down. Actually we can do quite good on deep fish, when shallow fish move deep, especially after the spawn. But I do believe all fish are affected by a negative condition on a given body of water in the same locale. I am referring to bass more so than other species. My opinion...What is your experience with other species?
Dave Mauldin, TX   5/4/2014 6:12:33 PM
Lloyd, I do believe your grandmother was right about the wind direction. If the wind is out of the west, a front is coming....and all the conditions including barometer are right for fish feeding. The fish know: feed now, because tomorrow we won't get to! After the front, and the wind is out of the East, they slow down for a while. They don't feel good, and the bait doesn't move around. This is especially true during the winter, spring, and early summer months, when we mostly fish. Not so true in late summer/fall. What do you think?
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX   5/5/2014 8:16:29 AM
Dave, I think you know way more than I do about this. I fish one area predominantly and the wind changes directions down in the river bottoms a lot. On any given day the wind will come from any of three directions - and sometimes all four - in a fifteen minute time frame. So I don't go by the wind very much. I bet on lakes it's a lot more consistent.
opencage, CO   5/5/2014 11:49:16 AM
Hagler, which I fish a lot, is right next to a ranch. I'll have to pay attention to the cows a little more next time I'm out :-) Thanks Lloyd.
lewdog, CO   5/5/2014 12:06:17 PM
I learned the cow trick a long time ago from my grandad. I told my wife about it before and she thought It was just stupid. She now believes since this blog. Thanks
Dave Mauldin, TX   5/5/2014 9:13:20 PM
..and for those who fish "river systems" current, and wind directions are more of a consideration. Fish in river systems feed based on current, tides, and wind. River systems are so hard to predict because so much is changing on a real time basis. River systems can humble us... Huge lakes are not so affected by current, however we've seen current play a role in large reservoirs under certain situations. Fishing is not a clear cut thing! It is always so interesting! Like a welder told me: About the time you learn how, you go blind.
Dave Mauldin, TX   5/8/2014 9:28:25 PM
fishing was really good yesterday and today. A late spring front just passed thru central Texas an hour ago. The barometer was really low (29) for two days, humidity was high, and winds were up the last two days, all conditions that turn 'em on! We wacked 'em...and knew we would. It was a classic set up.
oley, CO   5/13/2014 11:01:13 AM
I've always found the best days for fishing were the days the wife said I could go. After all the honey-dos were done regardless of the way the wind was blowing or the barometer. And sometimes fooling the one fish on a particular day is all that it takes to make it successful (not that no fish days aren't successful too - it shows us what not to do and where to go unless just plain resting was the ultimate goal).
Lloyd Tackitt
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