Figuring out exactly what the fish are naturally feeding on and mimicking it can be the difference between a slow day and a fish fry.
For years, many people have associated some form of luck when referring to an angler’s degree of fishing success. For some reason, one day a certain bait in a certain color will blow another out of the water. The next day, results may be completely flip-flopped. Some believe this phenomenon to be a prime example of dumb luck.
I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and at least some of these mysterious outlying factors can be controlled or manipulated to an angler’s advantage. One of the most prominent of these is understanding the forage types that fish are keying on, which can easily be accomplished by dissecting the stomach of a fish during the filleting process.
The video below is a nice example of what the stomach of an average keeper walleye looks like.
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To be successful in dissecting the stomach of a fish, you must first fillet one side of the fish. Next, locate the stomach, a small off-white colored bag located near the lower front half of the fish’s rib cage. Carefully slice it open with a knife, being sure not to damage any of the contents.
Large prey inside the stomach should be obvious to the touch or can sometimes be seen through the stomach’s membrane. Contents like these can be removed by working your fingers down the center of the stomach until the item in question has been pushed out.
For extremely small prey, like what is often found in panfish or trout species, consider slicing down the stomach lengthwise and completely inverting it so that the stomach contents are on the outside.
If you haven’t already been using this technique to your advantage, give it a try the next time you keep a few fish for the table. Remember to strive for matching not only the color of what fish are eating, but also attributes like profile and action.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with any of these characteristics, as they are not always linked with one another. Sometimes fish are keying on a color, and profile isn’t important. Other times, it’s the profile that makes all the difference. And of course, sometimes fish just flat out respond to erratic, unique or subtle actions that best imitate their natural forage.
No matter the species, learning the patterns of what fish prey on will not only make you a better angler, but it’ll blow your mind too.