Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

Are they 'on the feed?'.

Over the years I've spent many hours biteless. Once I got to know the basics of each form of fishing it became apparent that most of these 'dead' sessions were because a) I was in the wrong place or b) The fish weren't feeding. If the fish are absent there is not much you can do about it but new light has been thrown on the latter aspect in a recent scientific review by an American scientist - A.W.Stoner.

Dr Stoner was interested in whether catches on baited lines (of the type set by commercial fishermen) gave a reflection of what fish were present in the area. The interest to us lies in the fact that he delved into the importance of temperature, light, atmospheric pressure, etc. as influences on when and how fish feed.

Of course there will always be factors that you can't account for (this may be what we call 'luck') and it is essential to bear in mind the species you are after (what's warm water for a cod may distinctly chilly for a bass or mullet). However, once this is taken into account there is a lot to be learned from the science. The conclusions were that water temperature, light intensity, current speed and the local abundance of prey have the largest effects and could affect catches by as much as tenfold (it could, of course, make a much bigger difference if you take 'blanks'into consideration).

Without going into too much detail it's worth looking at the main factors. Higher TEMPERATURES generally speed up swimming and give the fish more chance to find your bait. Changes in temperature also affect what the fish prefer to eat. For example grass carp develop a taste for different amino acids as the temperature rises. Normally fish become hungrier as the temperature rises to satisfy their need for energy - experiments have shown this for cod, flatfish and trout. The demands of turbot for food increase exponentially (= much more than you might expect) as temperatures increase from 6o to 22oC. As anyone who has tried coarse fishing after a sudden frost knows, sharp changes(falls) in temperature put fish off the feed. In salmon and trout it can take weeks for them to get back to normal. At low temperatures salmon tend to feed more at night.

LIGHT under the water is affected not only by whether the sun is shining but by wave action, coloured water and depth. Pacific halibut are most active in full sunlight and it took them much longer to find and attack baits in poor light. Cod are also slower to locate baits in the dark (or in dirty water). On the other hand fish in clear water nmay be attracted to sediment clouds. In addition there are stacks of examples of fish that are mainly nocturnal (conger, dogfish, scad etc.) or diurnal (mackerel, wrasse, etc.) in their feeding.

Lastly there is the effect of currents and tides. Whiting feed much better when there is a decent flow. Cod and place, in contrast, both take shelter from very strong currents. Some species of salmon and trout switch from daytime to dusk feeding when river flows are high.

It may surprise many that BAROMETRIC PRESSURE changes have not been shown to have strong effects. In contrast the PRESENCE OF PREY can either stimulate feeding or can mask the attractiveness of baits. For example, in general hungry fish find and attack baits more quickly whereas cod catches are sometimes poor when there are abundant baitfish present and tiny increases in the background concentrations of the chemical Glycine (leaking from shoals of prey animals) stop them finding baits. Tuna catches tend to be high when shoals of baitfish are small and widely scattered. I think that's enough for the moment but if people are interested I'll write more on a future page.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com


Are they 'on the feed?'


A fine summer day on the Dorset coast.  Something should be biting well.

Ice floes and a cold sea.

Arctic cod bite well under these conditions.


The sun is low so not much light penetrates the sea surface.

A touch of colour.

--- but not too much for this pike to feed .