Skunks: the ugly truth
By: Kirby Desha for The News Messenger
-A +A

Come on, fess’ up. We’ve all had those days on the water. Skunked; aka the striped kitty, nada, zilch, lockjaw, … these are just a few of the terms to describe coming up empty.

It’s a topic no angler really wants to discuss. Getting a bite or losing a fish still doesn’t count. The fish has to be in the boat in order to count.

In an effort to ease the embarrassment, some guys will use a tried old cliché’ such as “Still beats a day at work,” or “Still had a nice day on the water,” both of which are technically true. However, catching fish is the object of fishing, not just taking a boat ride.

The sport of fishing can drive one crazy.

A few days before our recent vacation, I spent a Saturday fishing at Collins Lake. I am lucky these days that my schedule allows me to fish during the week, so I had not done a weekend in a while. Still, I wanted to get out before we left.

The temperatures have dropped into the range where top lining is again a viable option.

What a day! Two fish at 5 pounds each; another one at 3 pounds and a couple more around a pound and a half, all within three hours. I was off the water by 10 a.m.

So, fast forward to last Wednesday, after we returned from vacation; I ran up expecting the same results and got what … ? The old shunkeroo – same lake, same conditions, same lures – not even a bite!

OK, no big deal, I’ve been blanked before.

Friday, I went out on the lower Sacramento with my buddy Bass Jack Naves, a salmon slayer, and again … nothing! It is really unusual for Jack to not at least get a bite.

I tried again Sunday with my daughter Raina and her boyfriend. We hit Verona in hopes of getting another late-season king salmon – nada. Well, truthfully, we didn’t actually get skunked, as Joel hooked a tiny spotted bass that tried to eat a lure as large as it was.

So, is there anything to be gained from these humbling experiences? Yes!

Keeping a trip log or notebook can be a great tool. Make entries as to what the conditions were, where was the moon, what did you use and what was the water temperature. Then you can look these over before you go out on the next trip.

The fish are there; it’s just finding some technique that’s going to get them to strike.

Speed up or slow down, those are two of the first things to try. Did a rainstorm or cold front just pass through the area? Sudden changes in water temperatures or barometric pressure can bring on lockjaw.

Same with changes in the water levels and moon phases are a hotly debated topic.

Personally, I don’t do well during a full moon. Oh, I’ll still go out, but my expectations are lower and, if I get skunked, I have an excuse to fall back on.