How to Find Saltwater Fish Anywhere
Use the 3 P's to Locate the Big Schools.
When you have fished one place -- or even one huge fishery like we find in Tampa Bay or Charlotte Harbor; or Biscayne Bay or the Raritan River in New Jersey; or Galveston Bay or Boston Harbor, you get to know it well. And you might even be one of that broad swatch of any angling community like ours that are of the "that is my spot" coalition. All communities have such populations of the protective, just as they have some anglers who are willing to share just about any honey-hole they happen to find fish at. And in those same communities you will find that even the most willing-to-share fisherfolks have a spot or three that they just will not share regardless of the price someone is willing to pay for the numbers.
Scouting New Fishing Areas
What do you do if you find yourself able to fish new water? Do you normally make fishing new water part of your fishing routine? Or do you fish the same places over and over? Some of you do not need to answer. We have known you for 20 years. If you are going to fish for redfish, you start at Tarpon Key. You have had good days there and at other times, found 30 boats and not enough room to slip a remote kayak 10' long in between any two of them.
What makes this little cove (above) a place you are more likely to draw a strike from a snook than another spot 10 yards away? It's a pocket, and pockets hold fish. Learn the "Three-P's" described by Captain Rodney Smith in his Book "Catching Made Easy", and you will be able to find fish in water you've never seen, never fished, and never thought of fishing.
Do you want to be a better angler? Are you sure? It isn't easy, you know. You can talk about it, and wish for it, but to do it is going to take a commitment. A commitment to learn how to find fish. Not a commitment to "make it out this weekend" or "fish the intercoastal." It's going to take a commitment to finding your own new fishing spots. And then to share them with our community. We can help, and we hope that if you do find this article helpful, and you do commit to spending the time to practice what we are going to talk about, that you share the knowledge back with our community.
To make this work, plan on scouting. If you have spots and have to catch fish to justify the sport, by all means keep going to the places you are comfortable with. But add another aspect of the sport to at least some of your trips. Go somewhere you have never been, and try to find fish using these ideas. They work, and finding new spots will make you better and better at doing just that -- finding new spots. The more you do this, the better you will get at fishing new places. And your world will open. These ideas work in Texas, Mexico, and would, we are sure, work in any waters anywhere fish swim. They will open that world to you, too.
Finding New Spots
So what makes spots secret or special? They hold fish regularly. That is what is so special about them. Productivity is the commonality between great-spot1 and great-spot2. But why are 90-% of the fish caught by a mere 10% of the people trying to catch them? What makes 90% of the anglers that leave the house at dawn on Saturday morning come home fish-less at 5:00pm?
Where the fish live; that is what. Ninety percent of the fish are occupying only 10% of the water. Places where they find it easiest to find the food they most love to eat. Simple, right? According to the vast majority of the e-mails we receive for our "Ask A Captain" section, finding fish is anything but easy. People are fishing where there aren't any fish, or at least in places unlikely to hold them regularly.
There is a trick to finding out where the fish are, and we are going to tell you. It's called fishing the "Three P's". I wish we could say that the idea belonged to us, but I can't. The idea came from a book on my desk. The book is called "Catching Made Easy," and it was written by a good friend of ours whose work you will often find here, Captain Rodney Smith.
Rodney is retired now and no longer publishing the magazine, but he is still the fishing addict he always was, so he is kind enough to contribute his many years of experience to our readers. On page #163 of the book there is a chapter that says it all, and establishes the "Three P's" I am talking about: points, pockets, and passes. If you remember the "Three P's", you will always be able to find fish no matter the species, the tides or conditions, or the lures or bait you happen to have. The idea is one of the fundamental truths of our sport. Understand what points, pockets and passes are and why they hold fish, and you will be a better angler from this moment on.
Pockets can be tiny holes, like the one we showed in the first image. A point can be the connection between a bridge and the land it touches, and a pass is anywhere that water flows in on high-tides, and pours out during the outflow. Think pockets, points and passes, and you will find fish in every body of water in the world.
Of course like any statement that says "You WILL ..." or "This IS..." is not only arrogant, but the advice itself often wrong. That is true with the "Three P's". Most of the time they will work and you will be able to find fish on new water. Other times they will not be worth crap, and doing exactly the opposite will result in a banner catch and harvest. You never know.
Remember, fish will be found at places other then the ones identified by the "Three P's." So the "Three P's" are not the only thing you need to know. Rules in the world of fishing are made to be proven false. Remember that.
Now that we have made the ultimate disclaimer about fishing advice, here is our attitude. Use the three-P's, try scouting new water regularly, stop fishing the same spots over and over and over, and you will join the ranks of the ten percentile. And if you are into fishing, that ten percentile is exactly where you want to be.
Why Points, Pockets and Passes are so Productive
So why are points, pockets and passes so productive that we can make a statement like we just made? Easy. Structure and tidal flow. If you put together the fact that all three of these locations are real structure, and that they are effected more because of tidal flow, you can see why fish hang around those spots.
Small fish and crustaceans hide in those places, or are moving through or past them on their way somewhere. And where bait moves, the predators that eat them do, too. So find a point, a pocket, or a pass and you are where the fish are. We cannot guarantee that you might catch one, but we can guarantee that you are where the fish are ... most of the time.
Fishing the Points
When we say the word point, you probably thing of a narrow finger of ground sticking out into an open body of water. And you would be perfectly correct in making that assumption. But that assumption would not be 100% right, either. Anything that "points" into the water is a point. Want a good example of something we would see as a point that you might not think of the same way? A dock. A sunken boat half grounded. A shopping cart stuck in the mangroves somewhere deep in a mangrove canal. Anything that points is a point, regardless of its length.
The easiest points you can find in any body of water are the ones connected to bridges. When bridges are built, the first thing the engineers do is build a connection to the land where the bridge is going to attach to the road. This construction of two land points on which to construct the bridge components create a point. Park your car, take out a fishing rod, and fish these points anywhere in the world. They hold fish anywhere in the world water flows past them. And the concept is not limited to saltwater.
Big bridges going across big bodies of fresh water are just as fishy as they are in our coastal water.
Finding the Fishy Pockets
As Rodney pointed out in the excellent chapter of the same name, a pocket is just that -- a pocket. It can be as small as a shopping cart, but is an indent in a mangrove island, a pipe on the edge of a seawall, or any small entry or opening, or tiniest of what would look like a bay to a tiny man two inches tall. But it is a pocket. Holes on grass flats are a type of pocket, in fact so pockets can be in the water or on the edges of something that is on the water. But they can be thought of as a pocket once you get the idea into your head.
What are Passes?
Passes can be gigantic landmarks that can be seen from outer space like John's Pass, or tiny like Dick's Creek in upper Tampa Bay. They do not have to have a name, either. They are simply places where water moves through on an outgoing tide and fills up on an incoming tide. The bigger the pass, and more importantly the harder the flow of the water passing through, the more likely it will have fish at the moment you cast your bait into the water, but all passes hold fish, regardless of how big or tiny they might be.
Using Google Earth to Find the Points, Pockets and Passes
Now that you have come to think of scouting as an event, try to find a point, a pocket or a pass to try your luck at. Spend the time and effort (but not a dime) to download a program called Google Earth to your computer or hand-held device (there are versions available for all the devices I think). Once you have it, you can look down on the earth from miles or a few hundred feet. Try the "Three P's" on waters you have never fished, and see if what the Captain said it true and works for you. We are confident that it will, and it will work well.
Thanks, Captain Rodney Smith.