planning your fishing trip

The following article was published in the December issue of the Villager Newspaper.

Planning your Fishing Trip

Gary Rankel, The PackerYaker    

Finally, the answer to the age-old question: Why do 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish?   Because, of course, and bear with me here: 90% of the time, they target the 10% percent of water that 90% of the fish are in, instead of the 90% of water containing 10% of the fish you’ll be targeting 90% of the time if you don’t plan ahead.    As they say: Location, Location, Location.   Our cadre of fishing guides who are on the water most every day tracking the movements and whereabouts of target species, seem to put their clients in the 10% zone 90% of the time.  Those of us not fortunate enough to make their living fishing would be well served remembering the Rule of the P’s:  Proper Planning & Preparation Promotes Positive Performance & Production.  Implementing this rule will greatly increase your odds of returning home and treating your family to fresh fish dinners instead of leftover hamburger.  

Finding that productive 10% of water is best done the day before your outing, not after you’ve launched.  If you don’t know why you’re going to where you’re going, you’ll most likely end up where you don’t want to be: in the 90% zone.   The most valuable tools in finding that 10% of water are the satellite images provided on Google Earth Pro (download required) and the Google (, Bing (, Mapquest ( and U.S. Geological Survey Earthexplorer ( websites.  Google Earth Pro is especially valuable because of its tools for measuring distances and for viewing multiple historical images of target areas.  Google maps provide a Street View (or coastline / water view) tool allowing you to view an area as if you are standing adjacent to it.        These websites allow anglers to locate submerged sea grass beds, oyster bars, points, passes, potholes, troughs and other structure where fish tend to hang out.  Dark and light color shades on these maps can be used to differentiate between shallow and deeper water, and identify drop offs and even currents.  There is a learning curve associated with using these websites, but clicking on them and exploring what they have to offer is time well spent.   

The most important thing you can do the day before your trip is to click on these sites, zoom in on the area you intend to fish, identify points of likely fish holding structure and plot a course or route for targeting as many as possible.  Following this plan is especially critical for us kayak anglers who can’t motor long distances between potential “hotspots”. 

Once on the water, as you head to your target sites, continually survey the surroundings and learn to read the water, being especially watchful for the three B’s (birds, bait and boils) indicating the presence of predators.  Don’t hesitate to deviate from your planned route to investigate. 

Satellite imagery is especially valuable for observing structure in our shallow inshore environs, but it can also be used to identify depth changes and other fishy features on our deeper inland lakes.

After settling on an area and sites to target on your next outing, you’ll want to check out the best fishing tides and times for that location, as well as the wind and weather.  My go to sites are, and    

As they also say: Timing is Everything.      

Good luck to y’all.         
Peaceful Paddles, Tight Lines and Happy Landings
Nature Coast Kayak Fishers  (