MotorGuide | How To Catch Skittish Fish


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Fishing on the flats is can be a challenge to get those skittish fish that face significant fishing pressure and boat traffic. Rich and I will frequently stake out and try two or three times before we can get their attention. Fish like this we refer to as suffering from “lockjaw” as they will refuse to eat. Fish like this include reds, snook, tarpon and others such as striped bass and sea trout. In these cases it can be frustrating because even if you do everything right there are certain details that must align for you to reel in your desired catch.

A little encouragement with respect to “lockjaw” fish, unless there are some atmospheric changes that make the fish inactive for a bit they will not stop eating. If you scale down the size of your lures you can produce less noise and splashing and this will make the lure less threatening to the fish and easier for them to snag. This will increase the potential for you to catch one of these easily spooked fish.

Situations that may affect your catch could be your lure seeming more menacing rather than like wounded prey (again, downsizing your lure may help with this issue). You must be monitoring the movement of the lure so to have it rise and fall with precise timing. Other factors may be that the fish have limited vision due to schoolmates or that they are rooting on the bottom and mud is suspended in the water and prevents them from seeing your lure.

However, once you locate the fish, it is super important that you stay calm. These kinds of fish may ignore you, be spooked or you may lose sight of them. Being calm and patient is important because the skittish fish are known to high-tail it several hundred yards away from you to end up turning around and coming right back to your boat the next minute.

In the case of snook, tarpon and large trout they tend to stay in small packs or even be singles cruising or staging. They will be spooked by a fast boat or by loud noises. The way that Rich and I consistently catch these fish is by treading slowly and quietly with our trolling motor by MotorGuide. We will then stakeout in a strategic spot and wait for the fish to come within casting range, and then we will move another couple yards and repeat the process. First we cast around the outskirts and then post the structure, retrieving the lure right over it. For fish cruising along the trough we cast roughly 20 feet beyond them and retrieve the lure to meet the fish.

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