Fishermen are gear heads.  Most of the anglers I know spend hours analyzing the features of a good fish finder and studying the differences between mono and fluorocarbon. We pride ourselves on being equipped with the best gear available. Unfortunately, some fishermen miss the most important tool in the light tackle arsenal. It isn’t the perfect rod or the most effective lure and it isn’t a bad ass boat or ultra-sensitive sonar. Good fishermen know that the most critical piece of equipment to successful fishing on the Chesapeake Bay is a good network of fishing buddies.

There’s nothing more important than friends on the water.  The information you receive from fishing buddies can keep you updated on productive areas to fish and tune you in to prevailing patterns. They can keep you informed during times when you aren’t able to fish. For example, due to work restrictions and time spent on conservation efforts, I haven’t fished too much over the past couple of weeks, but thanks to my network of fishing buddies I have very good information about the most productive areas and depths to fish.  My friends have kept me in the loop so when I go out tomorrow morning, I’m pretty sure I can find fish. When I get back, I’ll return the favor by letting them know how I did.  That’s how it works.

The difficult part of developing a good fishing network is forming relationships with competent fishermen who are frequently on the water.  It takes time and patience and frankly, some people will never get it.  On the other hand, I’ve only fished the Chesapeake Bay region for six years and I have a great network. I’m proof that it can be done.  Here are some DOs and DON’Ts for putting together a good network.  Most of these were learned by trial and error.

Networking Tip #1:  Ask – There isn’t a single new light-tackle fisherman who I wouldn’t help if they asked me. That’s how I got my network started, so I’m eager to help others.  When I was new, I looked up the most successful fishermen and asked them where and how they are fishing.  Notice I said, light-tackle fishermen. I don’t often share information with trollers because I don’t like to fish around running boat engines, but if someone wants to cast and asks me to help, I’ll do it whenever possible.

Networking Tip #2: Check back in – If you ask for help and receive it, always report back.  If someone gives you information, they expect feedback. If another fisherman is kind enough to tell you about successful areas and patterns, it’s only common courtesy to let them know how you do.  We’ve all had bad fishing trips; so don’t sweat it if you’re unsuccessful.  In fact, non-productive reports are often more useful than successful ones.

Networking Tip #3: Reach out with info – Have you had a good day, found some nice fish, and want to develop a good network?  This is the time to share.  Reach out to the people you want to fish with and share the details of your success with them.  Give away some good intelligence and you’ve given yourself a head start toward developing an effective network.  The guys you share with will report back and provide information for you the next time they go out.  You win both ways.

Networking Tip #4:  Keep it on the down low – So, you got some good intelligence from another fisherman and you had a heck of a day.  You want to tell people about it, right?  No problem, that’s what fishermen do.  However, if you sign on to the Internet and reveal exactly where you are fishing or give away someone’s top-secret technique, you can bet you won’t get information again.  Not only that, the person you offended is going to tell everyone he knows that you aren’t trustworthy, so your chances of building your own network just flew out the window.  There’s nothing wrong with Internet fishing reports.  I love them.  Post your reports and pictures of the fish you caught whenever and wherever you want, but don’t burn the spots where you caught them.  That also includes being careful about backgrounds in pictures.  Prove yourself trustworthy by keeping your information tight and you’re a lot more likely to get feedback the next time you need it.

Networking Tip #5:  Give room – If you’ve exchanged information with someone, there’s a good chance you and he might both show up at the same fishing place. When that happens, give way to the guy who told you where the fish are.  This is especially important if the fish are feeding in a tight area such as a specific point, rip, or ledge. Remember, you won’t always be competing for the same spot. Give way to the guy who was on the fish first. It’s more important to preserve your network.

Networking Tip #6:  Be Honest – I’ve had fishermen call me with reports that I know were fabricated.  One of the advantages to having a good network is that you get a pretty good idea of prevailing patterns.  If someone relays something that just doesn’t fit, the first thing I do is consider the source.  Do I know this guy can catch fish?  Does the information come third party?  Is it a “friend-of-a-friend-said” kind of thing? That can still be useful, but if the information doesn’t fit the pattern, I’ll be a lot less likely to believe it.  I’ll also be reluctant to believe you next time you report in.  There’s nothing wrong with a third-party report as long as you identify it as such. Just be honest. We all know guys who make up reports and exaggerate.  I know some guys who catch one decent fish and make you think they caught a hundred. The same guy shows me a picture of a 28” fish and tells me it’s a 35”. I won’t share with people like that. Don’t say you caught fish somewhere when it was really miles away, and don’t over-exaggerate. If you had a good day share it, and if you had a bad day say it. The best fishing networks are those in which everyone shares honestly.

Networking Tip #7:  Don’t be a spot burner – Did I say this already?  It’s worth saying again. Better yet, here’s an example:  There’s a guy I know who fishes frequently and is a talented fisherman, so I’d love to have him in my network. Unfortunately, he’s known for going on the Internet mailing lists and calling everyone in his cell phone contacts and providing exact locations. There’s just no way I can share information with him because I can’t trust him to keep it within my network.  Even worse, I don’t want to share too much with fishermen who fish with him. I don’t want a dozen clumsy fishermen at my spot the next time I go out. Once again, Internet fishing reports are great, but it’s not necessary to reveal critical details. When you do, you expose your productive spots to thousands of fishermen who may not share the people in your network’s sense of fishing etiquette. Don’t blow it before you ever start.

Networking Tip #8:  Get Cellphone numbers – And use them!  One of the best phone calls you’ll ever receive is one from a buddy who is on a hot bite.  Make it a point to keep up with who is fishing on the days you’re on the water.  Let your buddies know where you’ll be and find out where they are.  When you get on the fish, give ’em a call.  They’ll appreciate it more than you realize and they’ll almost always return the favor.

Networking Tip #9:  Recruit New Members – The truth is, fishermen come and go.  Situations change, and it’s not always the same group of guys out there on the water.  Look for new up-and-coming fishermen and help them when you can.  People who are new to fishing the Bay are usually willing to put time and energy into perfecting their techniques.  Help the new guys early and it will pay off in the long run because they’ll return your early favors.

Maybe you can think of a few more tips for putting together a good fishing network.  I’d love to hear your ideas.    We’re on the verge of the fall migratory season here on the Chesapeake Bay. Big fish are pouring into the Bay and we’re catching some very nice fish on light tackle. (Shhh, don’t tell the trollers.)  This is a good time to start an effective fishing network.  Good luck with the fall trophies!

Related posts:

Tips For Stepping Up Your Game
Ten Tips for Finding a Fishfinder
Seven Tips for Selecting a Jigging Rod For Stripers
Six Tips for Choosing a Top-water Rod

Posted Monday, November 12th, 2012 at 12:25 am
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Networking Tips”

  1. Daniel says:

    A lot of parallels with the music world…goes around, comes around -dk

  2. Bill M says:

    Good read. All good points. Some are easier to control than others. For guys that don’t live near the water, it’s a must to have network.

    Time to catch some big ones. Hope to see you on the water soon. Tight lines to everyone!

    Bill M

  3. Johnny O says:

    Can I get your phone #:)I have Jaime’s but he never answers so I can give him some good info:)

  4. ES Fisherman says:

    This is something I need to put some effort towards. So far my first year of light tackle around Kent Island has been really hit or miss. I definitely could have used a good network of light tackle buddies.

  5. Shawn says:

    ES Fisherman – Saw your question on TF. I’ll add something here. My biggest fish in the fall usually come from the mouths of the rivers, both the Chester and the Choptank and inside E.Bay. If past patterns hold, you’ll be more likely to find fish in or around the main channel in late November and early December. If you go out right now, check all the humps and ledges you know. As of today, it’s tough, but it could break wide open any time. If I have to predict, I’d say some fish in this area by this weekend and better by Thanksgiving. There are migratory fish south of the Target Ships and into Virginia right now.

    Got it, Johnny O.

  6. jumbo1 says:

    Good stuff Shawn…I’m with you on giving info out and the guy you gave it to never lets you know how he did..lots of good info in this post..
    I call my fishing network the “circle of trust”..everytime someone burns me the circle get’s smaller…

    JohnnyO…text me the GPS numbers to the location of where your “hot” bite is..much appreciated

  7. kayak456 says:

    hey shawn, when my new backyard custom rod comes in i would like to take you up on that offer and go fishing with you, so i can learn about jigging

  8. toms says:

    I live 2 hours from where i normally put in at Sandy Point, and my opportunities to fish are very infrequent. “intel” from a network as described in this article would be a tremendous time saver and make my few trips down to the bay a lot more productive.
    It’s simple, basic, polite communications… but the payoff could be great.

    Thanks again Shawn – for steering me in the right direction!

  9. Johnny O says:

    There you go Jamie getting all serious, Jim must be rubbing off on you:) You definitely don’t need my info! Which leads to the point you quoted and I question, if you only are able to fish a little you will NEVER (or almost never)be able to GIVE any info which is kind of my case. This weekend was rare but I have been getting out about every week but more like 2 weeks.I do agree with the article in general though and try to have a network but you and Jaime and the guys you fish with ARE the network for light tackle. I don’t know anyone I talk to that fish like you guys do, if there is no intel either one of you as well as myself is willing to put 70 miles on the boat to find em and there just aren’t many of those guys around. J

  10. Cleve J. says:

    You are right about burning fishing spots. Many years ago we had a small internet mailing list of maybe a hundred people who shared information. We could talk about exact spots then. That was then but now there are hundreds of lazy people who just sit around waiting for someone to tell them where to fish. You still have a few of the older generation who want to put it all out there and a few kids who don’t know any better. Everyone else has learned the hard way. If I tell somebody where I like to fish then show up and find 50 boats there playing radios and running engines then it’s my own fault. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  11. Cleve J. says:

    I haven’t fished with Shawn or any of his buddies but I exchange information with them occasionally and see themn out ther.I agree with Johnny O that they ARE the network, althoughthere are some other guys around that are way under the radar. In my opinion, you have to give and prove your trustworthy before you really get into theinformation stream.

  12. Cleve J. says:

    Check back in is big for me too. All it takes is a text message or a short email but better to call.

  13. jumbo1 says:

    JohnnyO…you would be surprised I need all of the info I can get..(Grin)

    There are alot of good fisherman out there…but as Shawn pointed out they prolly got burned giving out info…so know they keep it to themselves…no doubt in my mind that fish stocks are way down…networking is more important than ever…
    Cleve is right on it..I have guys (Shawn does as well) who only want info, they never seem to have any to give back…sorry doesn’t work that way..

    Trollers can’t be of much help they basically drive aimlessly in circles hoping for a “fish”..
    And don’t follow people around…I can guarantee that’s not going to help either..

  14. Capt Jimmy Tilghman says:

    I heard that Jumbo 1’s inner circle is so tight that it can’t be penetrated with a titanium stick pin using a 50 lb sledge hammer.
    Or maybe that was something else…
    Oil might help.
    Jimmy

  15. Fishermohn says:

    Good Afternoon Shawn or anybody that would be willing to help. I’m fairly new to fishing the Chesapeake, especially light tackle. I was told to buy your book, which I did, and took a lot of notes from it. I’ve been trying my best to get out and practice what I’ve read in the book. At least once a week, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week for the past 2 months now. I was wondering if anybody would be willing to help out a new Chesapeake Angler, and teach/help me out, or be willing to allow me to join one of their networks.

  16. KLG says:

    Interesting article, wheres all dem babyrockfish swimmin at? dAddY sAyz leAvEm alOne.

    Anybody heard from Superdink lately?

  17. Steve F says:

    Circle of Trust is what it’s all about. I have not fished with Shawn but I have fished with Jamie a couple of times and I would never “Burn” a spot that is one of his “GO TO” places. Yes I to have a network of guys I talk to on a weekly basis and we do share Intel between us. I have been burned too many times to give out any Intel that guys want to keep to themselves and I appreciate that. Hell when I do go with Jamie I have no idea where he’s even fishing at, he puts a blind fold on me and when he finds fish he puts me in the front of the boat so I can’t see his chart plotter. Good read Shawn and one of these days I’m going to be just as good as you, Jamie, Rich and Phill. All by the way, can you call and tell me where the fish are in E-Bay, Phill and I put 40 miles on the boat Saturday and only came up with dinks.

  18. jumbo1 says:

    Steve I sure wish I knew…tough fishing right now…hopefully the bigguns will show and it will be game on..wish I knew how to post pics..I would post the pic of the guy with brown paper bag on his head..(grin)

  19. powerplay says:

    Yes johnny o i am rubbing off on jamie. Also do not run up on someone who is light tackle jigging. Very inconsiderate and always pay your fair share for the trip when being a ho.

  20. Steve F says:

    Jimmy I’m glad Jamie’s rubbing off on you becasue God knows you need all the help you can get. 🙂 Can’t wait to get a ride on your boat but it’s hard to find days that 0-5 kts with 1/2 foot chop LingMAO.

  21. Nb1214 says:

    You wont make any friend when you only run and forget to gun! Those optimax’s send the fish deep from miles away!

  22. Johnny O says:

    Shawn, sorry for the negativity I brought to this article! You are a class guy and it won’t happen for me again.I have spoken to you in person and know your heart is in to be helpful!! Johnny O

  23. Hard Ripples says:

    Nice article and so very true. My favorite time of the year.

  24. ES Fisherman says:

    I saw you headed to shipping creek earlier today when I was on my way home from college. I was going to stop and introduce myself but my brother called and said he needed to be picked up. Did you end up finding any fish this evening?

    • Shawn says:

      No. Ran 60 miles and found nothing at all. Water temps in the Bay dropped suddenly after Hurricane Sandy and sent our resident mid and upper bay stripers packing south to areas near the Virginia state line. At the same time, the storm surge to our north brought very warm waters in from the Gulf Stream. That’s holding the migratory fish way up the coast.

      Not a good time to fish the mid and upper bay right now. If you can get south to the Upper Neck region of Virginia, go. That’s where are fish are.

      Unless temperatures drop drastically over the next couple of weeks, I think we’ll still get a fall migratory run. Lots of bait still and right where it’s supposed to be. I’m betting it’s gonna happen.

      • ES Fisherman says:

        Dang that’s disappointing. I was planning on going this weekend but might just hold off until next week. I can’t take another trip with nothing but dinks haha.

      • Paul S. says:

        Just got back from the Northern Neck (cut channel)and I can tell you they isn’t tons of fish down there either. There are some but not what you would think.

  25. Roger T says:

    Good read Shawn,definitely something I need to build, improve on.
    It’s Tough to be consistent,lots of water to cover with so little time.

  26. Capt. Jerry Hodnicky says:

    Well Shawn I’m tossing my hat into the ring and pledging
    to become the newest member of the inner circle of striper tactical info. But not without comming to the table with my recent foray of search, tag and release. Today Monday Dec 3, 2012 I launched my 17′ Boston Whaler Montauk at Sandy Point. Departure 0930 after the morning fog and a late start, I proceeded to troll Manns Streach 30s along he 40 ft curve and channel edges. Plenty of cloud like readings and ocassional horseshoe marks on the machine no takers, zero, 2 hrs wasted or not. Tide picking up and plan “B” goes into effect. BKDs Hotrodded with garlic red dye. Both me and my buddy steve an accomplished angler a local boy born and raised in the Bay area. (Western Shore) fired at both rock piles and the cross bar uprights along both sides of the main channel one nice hit and lost it,10″ BKD single hook. Two hrs and we are ready to hit the local Crab Shack. When we spot a pile of birds working at mid span we cruise over in a big arch and drift into area quietly. Casting jigging our hearts out no takers no swirls or pops but the birds are diving and fighting for the baits. Well the BKDs weren’t workin but the PBJs were after 1/2 a drift and no hits we noticed a half eaten Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches being dropped offthe bridge by the crew working on top of the span. They were having a blast feeding the gulls with flat calm water and good visibility we thought we were into a Shawn Reap’em and keep em oppertunity. After the discovery of the falling PBJs we headed for the barn for a cold and frosty. Defeated today but not out of the game. Take this valuable info and work your magic I’ll be standing buy if you take pity on our souls and let us into the circle of striper info.

    Thanks
    Capt. Jerry and Steve

  27. woody {tacklemake} says:

    Shawn my friend I’m heading for Hendersonville TENN on Dec 15.So if you get to go home give me a call at 443-962-3731 and we will go fishing…………..woody

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