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Articles:                                                          Read other articles

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Three Steps to Finding the Best Spot

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Once honed, the following three steps will catch you more fish. These steps are a top-down approach. They begin high and removed by viewing aerial maps from the comfort of your home. But, by step three you're in the water getting personal by pinpointing the exact location of fish.

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AERIAL IMAGES/TOPOGRAPHICAL MAPS:

Use aerial imagery to find better fishing spots.  If you've been fishing without aerial images, you need to change!  Aerial imagery can be an invaluable resource whether your stalking wild brook trout in a remote ravine or casting to stripers off Dogfish Bar

(explained below). You will be able to select optimal fishing spots. Anyone will tell you "there's plenty of water to fish", however most successful anglers have an uncanny knack at eliminating water and selectively picking water that produces. Knowing how to read aerial images will increase your confidence and, you will catch more fish.

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What to look for? Easy, if you're saltwater fishing or lake fishing look for areas along the coast that are different. Find a reason why a fish would stop and hangout. In a nutshell, there's no good reason why a fish would stop on a straight coastline, look instead for something that'll hold the fish. Piers, points, coves and sandbars are all good spots to target but they're not your only choices. Try locating darker areas close to shore. These typically will be deeper troughs or sloughs that'll harbor predatory fish during feeding time.

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Why look for the abnormal? Bait! Piers, points, coves and sandbars all provide protection in one form or another for bait. Congregated bait equals a ringing dinner bell to hungry fish. One special note, a change in the current seems to coincided with increased bait populations. If you can look at these aerial images and train yourself to look for structure with deep water close to shore, and if you predict areas with current change, you're 90% there. The last item is to check the topographical map. Topographical (topos) maps show changes in water depths and obstructions like wrecks. By design, topos are great at displaying elevation changes. The closer the contour lines, the steeper the grade.

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Aerial images are also important for stream or river fishermen. More often than not, close contour lines next to a stream coincide with deep water. Look for bends. Targeting areas on the far shore is a sure bet to finding deeper water and more fish.

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NOTE: Typically, in Step 1 you will review several miles of shoreline looking for the best spot.

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Examine your fishing hole via:

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Microsoft TerraServer (displays large images)

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or

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Maptech (includes nautical charts)

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Below are examples using a popular Martha's Vineyard destination, Dogfish Bar. If you just showed-up on the beach without doing your homework, you'd see a long flat beach, possibly the exposed bar. However, the images below provide an idea what to look for. I used the aerial image below to envision bait being washed across the bar on an incoming tide. My "theoretical" preferred spots are the deeper holes noted in red, however this is a best guess made from the comfort of my computer chair. Being a guess and because these images may be more than 10 years old, we need to clean it up a bit by moving to Step 2.

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Dogfish Bar Aerial Map

Image courtesy of USGS, click to enlarge

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Dogfish Bar Topo Map

Image courtesy of USGS, click to enlarge

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USE A GPS:

Short story - I'll never forget the one night I was walking to my fishing spot.  I had scouted Dogfish Bar the previous day at low tide and now I had returned with a low lime-green light beaming from my GPS.  I approached an angler who I first thought was

a fishing buddy.  But after coming within 5 feet I soon realized it was a stranger.  Feeling a bit lost for words I managed to stammer out "how you making out?"  The angler responded "ah not much, what are you talking on your cell phone?"  I responded "no, it's a GPS, I've marked my holes.  I'm just on my way to my fishing spot."  Well, that resulted in the angler immediately winding up and following me about 20 paces behind right to my spot.  Within 10 minutes I had landed 2 six-pound bass right before a massive thunder storm ended all fishing for the night.  Lesson here is this stuff works.

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I've done Step 1, so what next? You need to find those nice areas you had picked from the comfort of your favorite computer throne.  More than likely a GPS won't be needed to find these spots, however, a GPS will be needed to pinpoint the spots you'll want to fish (this is more important for fishing areas with tidal fluctuations).  GPS's come with an array of features, whether cheap or expensive it just needs to mark spots.

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Amazon has an easy navigable site that includes reviews.

 Checkout GPS's

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I use a Magellan Meridian Marine handheld.  Regardless of the model, you'll want to walk the beach at low tide and mark the areas that look most promising.  I usually look for areas with deep water close to shore or a change in water currents or an obvious point or structure.  Mark it!

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Beach hot spots

Click on image to enlarge. Once enlarged, maximize image size.

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I'm not buying a GPS, I'll just use a stick or rock?

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CAUTION - While not buying a GPS will save money, you won't be as accurate which may be the difference between catching or just fishing.  Plus, why alert others to your spot by marking it with a stick or rock?

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Short story - My parents and I fished Assateague Beach the day before and had done well.  I marked the hole with my GPS.  My father and I looked around taking visual mental markers of its location.  We returned the next day in two separate vehicles.  My father and I, both being rigid people at times, parked our trucks at "our" perceived hot spot.  Funny thing is we were parked roughly 80 yards apart.  That's a huge difference in fly fishing!  So to settle matters I broke out the GPS.  Our hot spot was exactly between us.  This is just an example of how even an engineer and a scientist can get dead-reckoning wrong at times.

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NOTE: During Step 2 you'll typically find multiple good spots.  These individual spots may be contained in a 100 yard distance or you may just find one good spot.

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WALK AND FISH:

Walk and fish! This is a very important step and rarely used by anglers.  In Step 1 you reviewed miles of shoreline, Step 2 you marked the "theoretical best spots" and Step 3 is "walk and fish"!  By walking and fishing you'll cover areas not visible to the eye

(even when wearing polarized glasses).  Located near your "theoretical best spot" will be subtle differences in the bottom where fish will hang.  If you sprouted roots at the first spot you started fishing, more than likely you'd miss a depression that holds fish.

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The game plan I use is to begin 25 - 50 yards up-current of the "theoretical best spot".  I cast and retrieve while walking with the current past and beyond my spot by another 25 - 50 yards.  Typically, I'll receive consistent hits or catches in one specific location.  Once honed in, this becomes your "BEST SPOT"!

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Dogfish Bar

Click on image to enlarge. Once enlarged, maximize image size.

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FINAL NOTE:

Steps 1 through 3 will work for saltwater shore fishing. Step 2 and 3 usually are not needed for freshwater fishing.

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These steps have been used successfully at Assateague (VA), Martha's Vineyard (MA) and streams throughout Pennsylvania.

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