Jeri Allphin

Jeri Allphin holds a 2.5-pound smallmouth that took multiple lure changes and three hours of patient fishing to “finally” find the fish.

A reader asks, “Why are fish so hard to find?”

Another reader asks, “I fish so hard and still come up with very few fish. Why is it so tough to catch fish?”

These types of questions make up a significant portion of my emails, individual chats online, and the in-person conversations in which I engage almost daily. So, today’s column is meant to assist you in your decision-making process when it comes to finding and therefore catching fish.

If you have read my columns over the years, you should notice that more times than not, I use words like “target,” “focus on” or “concentrate” on specific species, or techniques most of the time. Some might say, “I am fishing for whatever bites,” and I get that, but that phrase encapsulates the exact problem so many have finding and therefore catching fish.

If you don’t try to “chase” specific species, how can you be sure you have the right baits, lures, tackle or techniques?

Allow me to share a basic blueprint of how to find fish, especially on lakes or streams of which you are not familiar:

  1. Research.
  1. Know what species are in the water you plan to fish. This can easily be found at Go to the main fishing page, find fishing reports and read about current conditions and species in your chosen water.
  2. When looking at fishing reports, note the space dedicated to each sportfish mentioned in the report. If you are heading to Lake Powell, for example, notice how much space “stripers” take up in the fishing report versus blue gills. There are some great blue gills in Lake Powell but by far, most people try for stripers, catfish, or smallmouth bass when they fish the reservoir.
  3. Go prepared for current conditions. In the summer, for example, the fish may be anywhere in the water column from very deep to very shallow, so go prepared with the right tackle for deep and shallow presentations.
  4. Talk to someone (even me) before going to be sure you have the right tackle, baits, lures and presentations to even better your odds of success.
  5. Once at your destination, begin very early in the morning or stay late into the evening to maximize the “low light” periods of the day which generally produce more active fish.
  6. Be observant. Watch what’s happening in the spot you choose. Are there insects around you or on the surface of the water? Are there fish jumping? Observations such as these will direct you to the proper lures or baits to use.
  7. Be patient! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and fish (for the most part) don’t bite just because your bait is wet. Some days or evenings the fish may bite early or late, or on rare occasions in the middle, so you must give them the opportunity to bite on THEIR schedules, not yours.

Just last Friday, my wife, Jeri, and I spent the morning on Flaming Gorge and quite frankly, the first two hours we didn’t get a single “tap” on our lines. We were targeting kokanee salmon but they wouldn’t cooperate. We switched to some trout gear and trolled for a while still with nothing. Finally, we switched to smallmouth bass gear and we both began catching fish.

Since I wanted to take a few fish home for supper, I used a tube jig that could catch rainbows almost as easily as bass, and within an hour or so, had caught 15 bass and 4 beautiful rainbows to 20 inches in length. Jeri stuck with her drop shot rig and caught some of her best smallmouths of the year.

The key to finding fish is following the seven suggestions above, and then, spending enough time on the water to have a few “ah ha!” moments that will clue you into basic fish behavior, and lead you to a healthy stringer of fish. Good Luck, and PLEASE, let me know how I can help:

Don Allphin can be reached at