Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear (or read on the internet). At no time in history has this been more true than now, and in regards to fishing reports it’s the gospel. So how does one take the information available and use it to their advantage? First of all, you have to actually have some intimate knowledge of the area being discussed, and fish often. There is just no way around that.
A very high percentage of fishermen have this total inability to resist telling others that they caught a fish, but where exactly is often as elusive as the size of the fish exaggerated. To find the truth behind the lies one must ask the right questions and connect the dots. “What time of day did you catch it?” and “which way was the current going at bite time?” are excellent questions to catch a liar in the act. Another is “so, how was the weather?” The real trick is, not to tell the information provider that you think they are lying and shut down the conversation completely.
Using Catalina as an example, those three questions can nail down the details you need to at least get you to the right end of the island, and front or back. Again, being personally familiar with Catalina you would know that the West End and East end are very different on most days, and the answers to the 3 questions above would easily tell where the storyteller was.
Having a code group of guys that frequently give you intel also helps tremendously. This is a “give a little, get a little” cooperation. Train them well to keep their eyes open for every detail of their trips, and to report back as soon as they return even if their trip was less than productive. Then, when you read an internet report that a boat caught 20 yellows but the spot where they were caught is questionable, you can ask other guys in your code group if they saw the boat posting the score. Not just specifically where they were (or weren’t), but “which way the current was going”, and “how was the weather.” Now you can start to connect the dots.
Another piece that is of vital importance is the “when” because if a bite happened 3 days ago at Catalina then it is most certainly over now. That is your clue to “go the other way.” Nothing worse than fishing yesterdays news, a day late and a dollar short.
TIme of day helps when you have a tide chart handy when getting reports, as a school of fish can be tracked on what tide they’ve been biting on. If an internet reports says that a bunch of seabass were caught at the V’s early in the morning and the tide was low, you can deduce that it is a false report because the East End back of Catalina rarely bites on a low tide (and bites on a downhill current, typical in the afternoons). Nothing in fishing is “always or never”, so take that with a grain of salt and base your investigation on current bite trends.
“Silence is golden.” A few really stealthy guys refuse to give up ANY information when the fish bite, but are super chatty when they are in swing and miss mode. Call these guys often and find out when they are fishing. When you don’t hear back you can expect that they found some fish that wanted to bite. From there you can take the above information and begin your investigation. Someone saw them, and their silence is the clue you need to know it’s time to start making some calls.
Like anything else with fishing, time on the water and turns of the prop are more valuable than all other things combined. Avoid the trap of old timers that talk the talk, but no longer walk the walk. Things change and getting your intel from these old salts can be very misleading. Their ability to connect the dots has faded because of a lack of current time on the water.
Fishing information is here to stay, so the competition to provide the best intel is fierce. There is more than just money at stake here, there are reputations. Fighting it is like fighting taxes, you’ll never win. If you find a spot of fish that wants to bite and expect to keep it a secret the best thing to do is not tell a soul, but don’t make that your tell. Like any good poker player you’ll need to be aware of the clues you give, and know when others are trying to get you to make that mistake. Otherwise just tell the truth, that you had a fun trip but are keeping the details to yourself. Pure honesty, even if you don’t divulge any facts is admirable. Just don’t lie, because the clues will give you up every time.
One thing that is heavily disputed is the ownership of said information. The person who actually found the fish owns the intel, but can lose it by simply keeping it a secret or telling lies. “How is that possible” you ask? Simple. By not owning the intel and telling the truth, others trying to decipher the details may actually stumble onto the school of fish without the finder saying the magic words “and don’t tell anyone!” If I got a call that the fish were biting at a certain spot, at a certain time using a specific technique and the Captain told me to keep it quiet, I could actually run interference and keep it safe. Someone else calls me with a guess that is correct as to where the bite it, I would use some tactful redirection. Simply put, by being deceptive, you lose your rights to the spot and the fish. I see it happen day after day, as guys try to be secretive and go back the next day and wonder “how did everyone find out about this?!” Tell the truth to the guys that control the flow of information, and this will happen much less often. Then if your intel gets out, you have someone to hold accountable other than yourself.