Fishing for geniuses

Put your fishing know-how to the test with our exclusive quiz

Test your angling IQ on the biology, behaviour, gear and tactics for Canadian gamefish

3mPatrick Walsh

Time spent on the water is certainly one of the keys to fishing success—experience is the best teacher, after all—but every savvy angler also knows the importance of research and continual learning. Indeed, expanding your knowledge of all things fishing can only make you a better angler. So, what’s your angling IQ? Get yourself a pen and put on your thinking cap—it’s time to find out.

BIOLOGY & BEHAVIOUR

2mGord Pyzer1. In the spring, the biggest smallmouth bass spawn later than the smaller fish in order to take advantage of the warmest water. True or false?

 

 2. The membrane at the back of a walleye’s eye gives it the ability to:

a) distinguish colours

b) see in the dark

c) focus on distant objects

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3. Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species. True or false?

 

4. During the peak summer bite, walleye eat what percentage of their body weight each day?

a) 1%

b) 3%

c) 5%

 

5. Anglers frequently catch egg-laden walleye, bass, yellow perch, black crappies and northern pike in the summer and fall. These eggs are:

a) surplus from the spring spawn

b) being reabsorbed into the fish’s body

c) next year’s eggs

 

4Gord Pyzer6. Every modern-day world-record muskie was caught in a waterbody that also hosted:

a) white suckers

b) ciscoes, herring and whitefish

c) northern pike

 

7. Most fish rely on their super-sensitive lateral line to decide whether to strike your lure. True or false?

 

8. We’re blessed to have many of the finest walleye waters in the world. On average, how many walleye longer than 12 inches are swimming in our waters?

a) 6 per acre

b) 12 per acre

c) 18 per acre


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9. Muskies typically establish lifelong summer and winter home ranges in different parts of a lake. What triggers them to move between ranges?

a) The amount of daylight

b) Baitfish

c) The water temperature

 

For answers to this section, please see the next page…

ANSWERS: BIOLOGY & BEHAVIOUR

1. False. The biggest smallmouths generally spawn first in water temperatures as cool as 13°C. This gives their offspring a decided head start on the season. It’s also nature’s way of ensuring the genes from the biggest and fittest fish are passed on to future generations.

 

2. b) See in the dark. Ever notice how a walleye’s eyes glow when light hits them? That’s the light reflecting off the tapetum lucidum membrane at the back of the fish’s retinas, allowing it to see as well at night as we see at midday.

 

3. True. Rainbow trout and steelhead are both Oncorhynchus mykiss. Most fish are extremely variable in the way they adapt to environmental conditions, so the fully mature 12-inch rainbow trout you catch in your local stream is the same species as the 20-pound steelhead roaming the Pacific Ocean or Great Lakes.

 

4. b) 3%. When summer water temperatures are optimal, walleye generally eat 3% of their body weight daily. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s the same as a 150-pound human eating 4½ pounds of meat every day.

 

5. c) Next year's eggs. The amount of time these spring-spawning fish (walleye, perch, crappie, bass and pike) devote to their own growth is often only a few weeks—by the end of August, they’re already developing the following year’s eggs.

 

6. c) Northern pike. The biggest muskies are always caught in lakes and rivers that also host native populations of northern pike. Biologists refer to this as a sympatric relationship. Pike spawn early in the spring, so their young have a head start over all of the other species, including muskies. To compensate, muskies that share lakes with pike have evolved to spawn twice in the spring over a two-week period. But there’s only one way a female muskie can produce more eggs, and that’s to grow large.

 

7. False. Most fish, including bass, walleye, northern pike, trout, salmon, panfish and muskies, are visual hunters. The lateral line is wired to their brains and plays an important role, but only when the fish is two to three body lengths away from its prey.

 

8. a) 6 per acre. According to recent research, 50 per cent of North America’s walleye waters support population densities of fewer than six adult walleye per acre (or 14.8 fish per hectare). In a typical 500-acre walleye lake, therefore, there are less than 3,000 fish.

 

9. c) The water temperature. When the temperature settles above 15°C, muskies set up in their summer homes. When it drops below 5°C, they move into their winter hideaways. In between the two ranges, muskies tend to be nomadic.

 

Up next, test your knowledge of TACTICS...

TACTICS

3Gord Pyzer10. Early in the season, the best place to fish for trophy walleye is close to where they spawned. True or false?

 

11. When your fishing buddy is fighting a smallmouth bass, you should cast or drop your lure immediately beside it. True or false?

 

12. What should you do when a big bass, muskie, northern pike or trout swirls at your surface lure but doesn’t bite?

a) Use a bigger lure

b) Make a faster, more erratic retrieve

c) Add scent to the lure

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13. What’s usually the best lure colour when fishing for muskies at night, as well as during dark, rainy, overcast conditions?

a) Black

b) White

c) Chartreuse

 

14. When choosing a lure to tie onto your line, what’s the most important consideration?

a) How deep it runs

b) Its size and profile

d) Its colour

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15. If you’re fishing a finesse presentation such as a shaky head or drop-shot, you should always set the hook as hard as possible. True or false?

 

16. You’ll generally catch the biggest trout in the upper, colder section of a creek, stream or river. True or false?

 

1Gord Pyzer17. Where should you place your dead bait when quick-strike rigging for northern pike in the winter?

a) High in the water column

b) Close to the bottom

c) It depends on the depth

 

18. If there’s a big fish on a spot, you typically have to catch it first, or not at all. True or false?

 

For answers to this section, please see the next page…

Answers: TACTICS

10. False. Smaller male and immature female walleye will linger around spawning areas, feasting on yellow perch and shiners. But the bigger females quickly move to deeper, colder main-lake structures to reduce the metabolic demands on their bodies and to feed on high-quality food such as herring and smelt.

 

11. True. You rarely find smallmouth bass living alone. They’re gregarious by nature, and function as a team when it comes to hunting for food. And when you hook a bass, it immediately empties its stomach so it can fight better. Its companions will then swoop beneath it to gobble up the free food, which your lure imitates.

 

12. c) Add scent to the lure. To determine whether something is edible, fish have to taste it first. But they don’t have to put it in their mouths. Fish have taste buds all over their bodies, so they often bump a topwater with their sides or slap it with their tails. Most anglers see this and think the fish has missed their bait, but it’s actually trying to determine if the lure is good enough to come back and eat. So add some scent and seal the deal.

 

13. a) Black.When it’s dark out, most muskie anglers reach for a black crankbait, jerkbait, spinnerbait or jig. And they typically dress it with a black soft-plastic or pork trailer. Black lures present a more distinct silhouette in the gloom, allowing muskies to better detect them. The same goes for largemouth bass and trout.

 

14. a) How deep it runs. Nothing is more important than picking a lure that stays at the depth the fish are at. If they’re lying close to the bottom, for example, you want a lure that will get down there and stay there.

 

15. False. When you’re using a finesse presentation that relies on lighter line and a thin wire hook, nothing guarantees a lost fish faster than setting the hook hard, as you would when flipping or pitching for bass.

 

16. False. Upper rapids, riffles and runs definitely produce good trout fishing, but the trophy-sized trout are usually caught downstream where the cold-water section of the river merges with the warmer portion. You’ll typically catch fewer trout there—and see fewer anglers—but the fish will be bigger.

 

17. c) It depends on the depth.  If you’re quick-strike rigging in water shallower than 10 feet, you should suspend your bait in the bottom half of the water column. If you’re fishing in water deeper than 10 feet, keep your bait about three feet up off the bottom.

 

18. True. Big fish tend to occupy the best locations on a spot, and only bite when they haven’t been disturbed. The clamour associated with catching a number of small fish, along with the shadow and noise from your boat, will lead a big fish to lie back and sulk. So, always make your first casts count.

 

Up next, test your knowledge of fishing GEAR...

GEAR

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19. Dodgers and flashers are exceptional trolling aids for attracting lake trout, steelhead and salmon. What’s the main difference between them?

a) Their size and shape

b) Their colour and flash

c) None of the above

 

a
20. Compressed High Impact Radar Pulse, or CHIRP, technology is revolutionizing what we see on our sonar screens. It does this by:

a) scanning 360 degrees around the boat for fish

b) sending a sequence of low- and high-frequency signals

c) providing photo-like images beneath and off to the side of the boat

 

21. Monofilament fishing line is generally preferred for:

a) topwater lures

b) slow-falling presentations

c) both a and b

 

b

22. Bass anglers typically favour high-speed baitcasting reels for:

a) jerkbait presentations

b) flipping and pitching

c) topwater presentations

 

23. The action of your fishing rod describes:

a) how much it will bend

b) how far you can cast with it

c) how easily you can set the hook

 

4Patrick Walsh24. Why do salmon anglers typically spool their reels with 20-pound-test monofilament and fluorocarbon lines, while largemouth bass anglers routinely use 40- to 65-pound braid?

a) Pound for pound, bass are much stronger than salmon

b) While braid is more sensitive, it isn’t as strong

c) Salmon frequent open water, while bass prefer thick cover

 

For answers to this section, please see the next page…

ANSWERS: GEAR

19. c) None of the above. Most anglers talk about dodgers and flashers as though they’re the same thing, but they’re actions are quite different. Dodgers sway side to side at slower trolling speeds, while flashers rotate in circles at faster speeds.

 

20. b) A sequence of low- and high-frequency signals. Unlike standard sonar units that emit only one frequency signal at a time, CHIRP units send several in a low- to high-frequency sequence. The returning echoes are interpreted individually, then combined instantaneously to provide the clearest possible image. For example, you can pick out an individual crappie in a school of fish or a walleye hugging tightly to bottom.

 

21. c) Both a) and b). Because monofilament line floats, it’s ideal for topwater presentations. It’s buoyancy also makes mono the line of choice when you want your lure, such as a stickbait, to sink slower and give the fish extra time to spot it.

 

22. b) Flipping and pitching. It’s to your advantage to use a high-speed reel when you’re pitching a jig or Texas-rigged soft-plastic into shallow shoreline cover. When a fish feels the slightest pressure or the sting of your hook, it will typically run toward the boat. That means you need a high-speed reel to quickly catch up to it and set the hook hard. And after you hook the fish, you want to be able to get it up to the surface and out of the thick cover as quickly as possible. You can only do that with a fast 7:1 to 9:1 retrieve ratio.

 

23. a) How much it will bend. The action of a fishing rod describes how it bends when you apply pressure to the tip, as a fish does when it strikes and pulls back. A fast-action rod bends in the top-third section, a medium action in the top half and a slow action all the way down to the bottom third.

 

24. c) Salmon frequent open water, while bass prefer thick cover. Salmon anglers use 20-pound-test line to successfully tackle hard-fighting 60-pound fish that frequent the open water of the ocean. Bass anglers, on the other hand, rely on the much heavier braid to cut through thick weeds and submerged branches to land fish. The strength of your line is usually a reflection of where the fish live, not their size.

 

Up next, test your knowledge of fishing TRIVA...

TRIVIA

25. What fish is caught the most in Canada?

a) Walleye

b) Trout

c) Bass

  

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26. Canada’s “smartest” fish are:

a) carp

b) catfish

c) sturgeon

 

27. Which of the following fish species is likely to live the longest?

a) Salmon

b) Lake trout

c) Muskies

 

28. Nothing repels fish more than the smell from:

a) insect repellent

b) gasoline

c) antiperspirant

 

3Patrick Walsh

29. The average five-year-old smallmouth bass in the central U.S. will be 18 inches long and weigh upwards of four pounds. How much does a five-year-old smallie weigh in a typical Canadian Shield lake?

a) One pound

b) Three pounds

c) Five pounds

 

1Patrick Walsh

30. According to the latest Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada how much money did Canadian anglers spend on durable goods related to fishing in 2010?

a) $750,000

b) $2 billion

c) More than $5 billion

 

For answers to this section, please see the next page…

ANSWERS: TRIVIA

25. a) Walleye. According to the latest Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada, anglers caught close to 45 million walleye in 2010, representing 23 per cent of the total catch. Trout (20 per cent), yellow perch (15 per cent), bass (14 per cent) and pike (11 per cent) were the other most popular species.

 

26. b) Lake trout. Lakers are Canada’s freshwater Methuselahs, capable of living well into their 50s and 60s, and possibly even their 70s and 80s in the Far North. Salmon have the shortest lifespans, typically just four to five years, depending on the species. Walleye and bass can live into their early 20s, while the maximum age for muskies is around 34.

 

27. a) Carp. Fish have very primitive brains and don’t think as we humans do, but they react to natural stimuli and avoid situations that might cause them harm. The results of several studies show that carp have superior and marvellously adapted senses of smell, taste and touch, followed closely by catfish.

 

28. a) Insect repellent. Fish rely heavily on smell and taste to determine whether something is edible, so anglers must ensure they don’t contaminate their baits and lures with negative odours. To fish, the most abhorrent odour is DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents.

 

29. a) One pound. Amazingly, that five-year-old Canadian smallmouth will weigh just one pound and measure 12 inches in length. And unlike its five-year-old American counterpart, which will have spawned multiple times, the Canadian bass will have yet to reach sexual maturity.

 

30. c) More than $5 billion.Canadians spent $5.8 billion on boats, motors, camping gear, special vehicles, real estate and other durable goods related to their recreational fishing activities. They spent another $2.5 billion on transportation, food, lodging and fishing supplies.

 

So, how do you measure up? Find out on the next page...

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WHAT'S YOUR FISHING IQ?

So, how do you measure up? Add up your correct answers to gauge your angling smarts.

0-5: Have you ever gone fishing?

6-13: You need to get on the water more

14-22: Keep trying, small fry

22-29: We’d be happy to fish with you

All 30: Congrats—you’re a top rod!

 

Fishing editor Gord Pyzer is already Canada’s smartest angler.