My friend had invited me along with him and his family to the ocean. It was vacation for the family, but for him and me it was the beginning of a week of serious business. We had an obsessive hobby to pursue. As avid and long-term freshwater fisherman, we were thrilled by the thought of catching those large and exotic saltwater fish we had seen on television a billion times before. Yet little did we expect there to be such vast differences between our freshwater fishing and the saltwater fishing, which we were about to pursue. We learned through trial and much error that in order to have a successful saltwater fishing experience we had to make adjustments to all the freshwater tackle, tactics, and gear we knew.
Just as in any other sport, understanding gives rise to advantage and success. As serious fishermen, we had dedicated much thought to understanding the fish, hypothesizing their behavior. One understanding we had already gained through previous experiences was that fish readily eat the prey that is normally available. This, we concluded, was a sort of defense against fishermen and their foreign lures and was acquired through the fishesí own previous experience of eating a lure. In applying this understanding to our fishing, we performed a routine food chain analysis to find out what our lures needed to imitate. The results were that the part of the food chain just beneath our quarry consisted mostly of small fish such as anchovies and young yellowtail, smaller than those shad and bluegill normally eaten in freshwater ponds. To compensate for this difference we would have to use lures smaller than those we were used to using. Luckily we had some.
With smiles on our faces we cast our wisely selected lures into the ocean, but we then encountered our first problem of saltwater fishing. Our lures wouldnít sink. As soon as they hit the water, the ocean current would just buoy them to the surface and, soon after, down current into the line of a nearby fisherman. Improvising our rigs, we dug the heaviest weights out of our tackle boxes and clamped them onto our lures. Sure enough, we got our lures underwater and under control.
On the first casts with our modified lures, we got bites and set our hooks, but only to the dismaying result of slackened line. Upon retrieval, we found only the ends of our lines. No lures remained. The fishesí teeth had sliced through our lines leaving our lures honorably discharged from their service.
Not knowing what to expect, my friend and I had come prepared for about any possible situation. We had brought along about every freshwater fishing rig and tactic from the mid-south, despite the insignificant probability that we might ever use some of them. Among these rarely used tactics was that of using steel leaders, lengths of wire that are tied onto the end of the fishing line to ensure that toothy fish donít bite the vulnerable, regular line when they strike the lure. The only time we had ever used this tactic before was when fishing for gar, long and hideous fish that resemble alligators without legs; but sure enough, our exceptional freshwater tactic did work. It spared our lures when fish bit, and we began catching many fish.
Throughout the day we enjoyed catching countless fish with our petite, freshwater lures, yet the surrounding fishermen never modified their methods of fishing so they also could experience the same enjoyment. They patiently waited while a rod, as thick as a broomstick and as long as a car, sat in front of them, bobbing with the current. Somewhere out in the ocean was their rig, a huge, crippled baitfish swimming around in little circles, struggling, just calling for some hungry beast to engulf it. Those fishermen never caught much, but when they did it was always a monstrosity, twenty pounds or more. Word had it that just a week earlier a man had even caught a one thousand pound hammerhead shark using this method of fishing.
My friend and I couldnít see why, at the expense of all the fishing action that we were enjoying, people would sit and wait for the possibility of catching one, large fish. We couldnít fathom that a single trophy could be worth such a wait, but that evening as the sun began to set, so did the luster of all our proceeds. Our fish were small and our excitement faded evermore as, for the both of us, our actions became quite repetitive. We watched as the surrounding, more saltwater-experienced fishermen hauled in their large, exotic fish, and we began to understand. Though the fish we had been catching all day would be of bragging size in the freshwater world, they were considered wusses of the ocean world.
The next day my friend and I got our biggest freshwater rods and headed out to catch the big fish. We tried to catch baitfish by using our traditional and quite productive method of snagging, dropping our hooks and tearing them through the water, but without success. There was such a great volume of water that chance just didnít favor our hooks connecting with any baitfish, so we investigated the technique of the other fishermen. They had been using a special saltwater baitfish trap that we next went out and bought. We were soon provided with a larger supply of fresh bait than the two of us could use.
On our heaviest freshwater rods, we rigged the live baitfish and launched them into the unknown. Or so we tried. My ten-pound line, which is sufficient for most freshwater fishing, broke as I cast it. The rig lay behind me along with the baitfish flopping in the sand. My friendís twelve-pound line endured, but he soon wished that it hadnít. His rod broke.
Our fishing was put on hold as I spooled my reel with heavier line and my friend bought a broomstick rod. From then on, we caught several nice, bragging size fish, but my unfortunate friend did suffer the consequences of discovering yet another major difference of saltwater fishing. He found that bigger, saltwater fish mean stronger, saltwater fish, and those stronger, saltwater fish do pull even the newest and heaviest rods into the water much faster than weaker, freshwater fish do. He was pretty mad about losing that rod.
Last learned was the corroding effect of saltwater on metal. Before our trip was half over, every part of our fishing reels that was meant to swivel or turn had locked up. Our view of WD-40 as the most efficient of lubricants, withstanding all elements, was dissolved by the splashes of salt water. To continue fishing we were forced to disassemble our reels every day and saturate them with grease. No such a weakness of WD-40 had we ever encountered in our career of freshwater fishing.
Our reels werenít the only things being destroyed by the salt water. Our lures were as well. Their lustrous, metallic surfaces became dull and oxidized. They began a whole epidemic in our tackle boxes, spreading their gritty growths to even those lures that hadnít come into contact with salt water. To save the small remainder of healthy lures, we were forced to adopt the tedious and time-consuming, foreign culture of bathing them in freshwater and keeping them in a clean, quarantined box.
Conclusively and strongly stressed to the naive freshwater fisherman, freshwater fishing can shockingly differ from saltwater fishing. Successful freshwater fishing is allowed by simpler and more practical means, including a wider range of lure selections, limp and simple line, and the lightest of gear. It has minimal demands on fishermen and equipment. Saltwater fishing, on the other hand, surely does not.