As the fall bite returns, go back to basics

As we creep toward fall, cooler mornings greet us to begin the day signaling the fall bite will soon take affect.

Many anglers quit fishing during the dog days of summer and fail to regroup in the fall and miss out on some of the best fishing of the year.

Fall and tasty panfish catches go together. These fish soon will go on a feeding binge, which normally lasts into November when Old Man Winter begins hitting us with a preview of winter-like weather. This may be the time of year when you catch the biggest largemouth or smallmouth bass of your fishing career. It also signals some great steelhead fishing in streams in northern and northeast Ohio.

October can be a bonanza for anglers. Feisty bluegills, good-eating yellow perch and slab crappies, which all are scrumptious to the palate, can yield hours of fishing fun. Tail-dancing bass, especially smallies, can produce a number of pleasurable outings. And a river run by a huge steelhead could give you an outstanding battle.

Before heading back to your favorite waters, take a bit of time and go back to basics. Avoiding mistakes can lead to some memorable experiences.

Some simple basics to follow include two of the most important aspects of fishing - your line and hook (or lure). Make sure your line is good and without frays. Keep your reel spooled full of “fresh” line. It makes for easier casting and lessens the chance of you losing a fish. A good tight knot offers your best chance of keeping a fish hooked. Don’t compromise on the strength of your knot and check it (and your line) often, especially after catching a fish.

Set the hook. Even if you think you have a slight bite, try and set the hook. Why waste a possible great catch if you forgot to set the hook?

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If you are fishing this fall and using a boat, remember to wear a life jacket and practice safety.

The United States Coast Guard (U.S.CG) released it executive summary 2018 of recreational boating statistics recently. The good news is that boating accidents, deaths and injuries all decreased. Compared to 2017, the number of accidents (4,145) decreased 3.4 percent, the number of deaths (633) decreased 3.8 percent, and the number of injuries (2,511) decreased 4.5 percent. The bad news is that there are still too many.

Since 1997, the largest number of fatalities (821) took place in 1997 while the fewest (560) occurred in 2013.

Ohio had 17 boating fatalities in 2018 and during the last 5-year period, had 22 fatalities in 2014, 13 in 2015, 12 in 2016 and 20 in 2017.

Drowning remains the No. 1 cause of death. Where the cause was known, 77 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those victims with reported life jacket usage, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Alcohol use remains the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents (101), but rated sixth in contributing factors in accidents.

Falls overboard ranked fifth in primary accident types and topped that category in number of deaths (159). Falls overboard and capsizing are the two main causes of death.

In the top casualty numbers (deaths and injuries) by vessel type use, open motorboat headed the list with 311 deaths and 1,588 casualties.

Other interesting facts from the USCG summary included:

- The fatality rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 3.6 decrease decrease from the 2017 fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

- Where length was known, 8 out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.

Where instruction was known, 74 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 18 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.

There were 177 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 25 deaths and 177 injuries.

- Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

- Where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (46 percent), personal watercraft (19 percent), and cabin motorboats (15 percent).

- Where data was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (50 percent), kayaks (13.5 percent), and canoes (7 percent).

- The 11,852,969 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2018 represent a 0.91 percent decrease from last year when 11,961,568 recreational vessels were registered.

- Approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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