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The Psyche Of A Fisherman

The Psyche Of A Fisherman Why do you have that lingering desire to pitch a bait into the drink and see what might latch on?

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I love to catch fish. Saltwater, freshwater, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes..it matters not, I just simply love to fish. I can fish all day or for just a few casts while watching a brilliant pastel sunset. If there is nearby water with fish in it, I have to try it. Heck, if there's water, and I don't even know if there's fish in it, I still have that lingering desire to pitch a bait into the drink and see what might latch on.
   As a youngster, growing up near a big Texas city, much of my memorable angling experience was fly fishing for trout with dry flies in cold, clear mountain streams in northern Colorado. After graduating college I spent most fishing time in the South, chunking crankbaits and pitching soft plastics into nearby waters of manmade public lakes, mostly around Dallas. Other great times have been spent along the gulf coast, chasing redfish or speckled trout. The public lakes within an hour's drive of home have been stocked with various types of fish, both native and exotic species. Aside from the standard largemouth, crappie and catfish programs, some lakes have stripers, smallmouth bass, hybrid stripers, and white bass. It has been fun to target these new species and try and learn how to catch them.
   I like diversity.
   BAM... therein lies the rub with me. Is diversity a problem?
   As life progressed I was able to buy some land, a nice ranch with rolling hills on the plains, with nice transitions into hardwood forests and river bottoms. I was able to build and stock a lake myself. For the last 5 years I have watched fabulous fish grow fast...5 pound bass, 7 pound bass, then 9 pounders. Catfish and bluegill are huge; everything is right with my eight acre lake. Even fisheries biologist and Pond Boss guru Bob Lusk is passionately amazed at progress of my fish in the lake. All three species are thriving.
   For the last three years, I keep ringing the guru's phone and asking him about other types of fish I can put in the pond. He acts like I am out of my mind, every time.
   Here are some responses:
   Crappie?..."pond's too small. They'll overpopulate and stunt."
   Smallmouths?..."water is too warm in the summer, and you have no rocky habitat."
   Tilapia?... "water is too cold in the winter, and tilapia won't bite a hook. Your bass don't need the food, they already look like footballs with a mouth."
   Hybrid stripers?... "might work, hard on the rest of the fish though, you will need to be committed to feeding them, most of the year. It's a weekend place, tough to commit to consistent feeding. You want big stripers OR big largemouth bass in your eight acre lake?"
   Stripers?... "water is too fresh, not enough open water, fish aren't available from producers, anyway."
   Finally Bob asks me, "What is the matter with you? Why are you asking about all these fish, when you have a great lake in the making, as a trophy bass lake? Geez, you wanted a trophy bass lake. Why would you want to change games when you are close to the goal line?"
   But, finally, ol' Pond Boss started getting on the same page with me.. .at least I think he is. With a wry smile on my face, I could hear his wheels turning as he scratched his head over the phone, "Come to think of it, why do so many people keep asking questions about stocking different fish when they should be ecstatic about the pond and the fish they have?" Hmmm... .I'm not the only one asking him? Now we're getting somewhere.
   I had to pause to answer his question. What is the matter with me? I have lots of fish to catch on my own pond, do I need professional help? A counselor, psychologist, maybe? Or a spiritual advisor.
   I told Bob I would call him back. I began to ponder this obvious psychological issue. The whole concept has nothing to do with biology. If the biology of many species of fish would work, I could figure it out. But, first I had to tackle this innate driving force from deep inside my soul. The issue took a couple of days to figure out. In fact I had to go fishing to bring it to the surface, so to speak. The lake is one of my favorite spots to think.
   I like variety and different fishing techniques to catch different fish and southern ponds simply have less tolerance for diversity in fish. Largemouth bass are king, and can easily outcompete other target species of predator fish. Crappie are like slab shaped stepchildren in a pond, seeking attention at every turn of the water.
   So here is my conclusion. Growing the best fish for your part of the world is different from catching different types of fish that might exist in different habitats. All the factors which make up your circumstances dictates what your lake or pond will do. Can we tweak nature? Sure, managers do it all the time. What may be the best fish for your set of circumstances may or may not relate to your passion for diversity in fishing. Is that a bad thing? No. Not realizing a lake's limits is a bad thing. Want to try something different? Go ahead, but understand the consequences and then proceed.
   An interesting dichotomy, no doubt. Whew...Bob had me worried there for a second; I thought maybe I was losing my passion for fishing. That driving passion for fishing takes second place to my lake's ability to grow fish. Now, I see what he's talking about.
   So, what to do next? I'm off to call Bob at PB headquarters with this revelationary response. While he's on the phone, I plan to ask him about that new breed of non-spawning hybrid crappie I heard about.

Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine

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