Best Fishing Questions


What is the absolute best time of year to come fishing?

When I want to fish a new area, this is one of the first questions I ask. With guides or resort staff, I’ll ask what time of season they would recommend for a family member or close friend. When receiving an answer to this question, sometimes you need to read between the lines. As I lay out in Fishing Lodges Dirty Little Secrets, numerous lodges built more than 20 years ago are in areas that currently have greatly reduced fish stocks, whether due to changes in migration patterns, ocean salinity levels, or overfishing. But because of the need to continue business operations, prospective guests are sent brochures with pictures of fish caught 20 years ago…or during the peak season, which is often less than 3 weeks long.

How many river systems supply fish to your target area?

A good follow up question to this is: “Are most of the fish you catch native to one or two river systems? Numerous lodges and charter outfits are located to capitalize on salmon returns to one river system. If the fish are later (or earlier) than expected, or if that particular river has a weak run due to flooding three years ago, your chances can be severely diminished. Most people don’t bet their retirement on a single stock, but invest in a wide array of financial vehicles. Personally, I prefer to fish an area that I can catch fish from any one of hundreds or thousands of rivers. That way, if one river has an off year, I probably won’t even notice.

What is the longest time a weather system has prevented you from effectively fishing your best areas?

Some people are surprised to discover that the warm, sunny days of summer can produce incredibly strong sea winds and terminate planned fishing expeditions. These high pressure systems can linger for days and make fishing less than comfortable. Conversely, low pressure can bring stormy weather lasting for 3-4 days, wiping out most of a fishing vacation.

At what point do you consider the water too rough to fish?

Much can be gleaned from the response to this question. It can also tie into some of the other questions. If the fishing destination is on a river, the answer will probably be: “We rarely have that problem”. (But then you realize you are targeting only one run of fish.) If your destination is the ocean, and you receive this response, there are four possible reasons for this.
  1. Your prospective host is a bit of a daredevil and takes pride in the fact that the weather never keeps him off the ocean.
  2. you will be fishing from a boast so large that weather does not affect the fishing destination. Usually boats of this size are designed to fish large groups of up to 50 people.
  3. The fishing area is well protected, such as an inlet or group of islands.Trends in salmon runs, due to varying degrees of salinity throughout inshore waters, seem to indicate that inlets and well protected waters will only experience plentiful salmon numbers for a few short weeks each year. Of course there are exceptions, but lately I have found this to be a general rule.
  4. Your prospective host has so many holes in his schedule that missing a couple of days is no big deal for him.

What percent of your season brings repeat clientele?

This question can be innocuously slipped into your conversation, such as when you are talking about how well a certain group did the year before. It is not uncommon for most areas to have at least a few days of good fishing in any given season, so obviously these are the testimonies and pictures which will be promoted. But if most of the other groups were disappointed, return rates will be extremely low.

How many of your guests report that they ate all, or most, of their previous year’s catch?

This question can be asked in a light-hearted manner, but the answers can be very telling. There are two very important aspects of preserving the quality of your salmon or halibut. It might seem obvious, but what is the quality of the fish before you caught it? How is fish kept while on the boat? I have seen some operators fill their coolers with water and leave the fish submerged in bloody water for 8-10 hours. Yuk!

Is the catch vacuum sealed and flash frozen in meal size portions? Catching lots of fish is great, but having 15 pound hunks of solid fish in the freezer can be a little daunting.

More commonly, though, I see charter operators send their clients home with coolers full of unprocessed fish, still on ice, that must be butchered, packaged, and frozen. Are you comfortable facing this task when you arrive home from your trip, maybe at midnight?

How much guiding experience does your least experienced guide have?

(Not fishing experience, guiding experience.) There is a big jump between experienced fishermen and qualified guides, but that’s another topic. Again, I touch on this subject in Fishing Lodges’ Dirty Little Secrets. Many fishing lodges are forced to recruit bare novices as “guides” because they find it impossible to hire any number of talented, well-vetted guides.When I guided for a 5 star lodge on the North Coast, I saw dishwashers pressed into service and passed off to unknowing and high-paying guests as experienced guides. Experienced fishing guides don’t want to spend their season fishing in a desert, so they won’t sign up to guide an area where there are no fish. Therefore, the lodge must recruit guides who are not familiar with the area and don’t have the experience to be employed at more productive fishing grounds.

What is the FUN factor you try to achieve with every guest?

Let’s face it, even with the best laid plans, fishing is still fishing. Not every day is guaranteed to be picture perfect with the fish literally jumping in the boat. What is important, though, is having a great time with your guide enjoying the chase.