8 Reasons Why You Are Not Catching Fish

And What You Can Do About It

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"What's Wrong?" Is the Proverbial Question. Here Are Some Answers.

fishing on a boat
(Ken Schultz)

Even very experienced anglers have days when they don't catch fish or do very poorly. It happens to the best of us, and when it does you can always come up with a bunch of reasons to explain what's wrong. Perhaps these answers will resonate with you wherever you fish.

1. The Fish Aren't Biting

When you fish hard and don't catch anything, it's easy to say the fish are simply not biting, or not active. That may be generally true but the results of some fishing tournaments prove that this is not a valid reason. There are some occasions in tournaments when no one catches fish, but that is usually under extreme weather conditions. Frequently, at the end of the day, when there are many participants in an event, someone has caught a fish or two or many. So there were some fish biting on something, somewhere. You didn't find them or couldn't figure it out.

2. A Cold Front Turned the Fish Off

Cold fronts do affect fish but there are still ways to catch them. You can use smaller lures, fish deeper, fish tight to cover, and fish slower.

3. It's Too Windy or Not Windy Enough

Wind can be your friend or your enemy. If it is blowing too hard to fish effectively or to control your boat, it can hurt. But wind can position baitfish and the fish you are trying to catch, so wind can be your friend. It can also help you drift areas quietly. It all depends on wind strength. If there is no wind, use lures that are better in calm conditions, like finesse lures and topwater plugs.

4. It's Too Hot

At times it can be so hot that fishing isn't fun. But the fish still have to eat. You can beat the heat by fishing at night, by fishing for the first and last few hours of the day, by finding shaded areas to fish, by dressing properly and drinking a lot of water, and even by going swimming to cool off.

5. It's Too Cold

Fish are cold blooded, so temperature affects them in different ways than it affects people. Many species still feed underneath a frozen water surface, and ice anglers repeatedly show that you can catch fish no matter how cold the water gets. When the water is very cold, you should fish slowly, use small lures, and fish deep.​

6. There's Too Much Boat Traffic

A lot of boat traffic can be dangerous, and it can make fishing uncomfortable. But it can actually make some fish, like bass, bite. Waves created by passing boats stir up baitfish and confuse them, making them easy targets and turning on bass. Sometimes waves crashing into docks, grass beds, and other cover cause bass and other species to feed, so try to figure out and fish what places would be affected in this way.

7. I Don't Have the Right Lure

As noted in another article, lures are first made to catch anglers, not fish. Any lure that you use, within reason, can catch fish. Of course, it's foolish to use a surface lure for bass when the water is 35 degrees, but most lures will work most of the time if you just use them in the right places and under the right conditions. Have a good selection of lures to choose from, so you'll have confidence in what you're using.

8. I'm Fishing the Wrong Place

Move. If you're fishing from a boat, change areas of the lake and types of cover you're fishing. If you're fishing from the bank, try another area or a different type of spot. Knowing when to make a change is something that many successful anglers have in common, and it often comes from thinking the situation through, and from acquiring lots of experience.

This article was edited and revised by our Freshwater Fishing expert, Ken Schultz.

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8 Reasons Why You Are Not Catching Fish