Get out your text books boys and girls, it's time for an anatomy lesson! In this blog I'm going to attempt a basic overview of how fish sense their environments. Similar to us humanoids, with our 5 basic senses, fish also have the abilities of; Sight, Smell, Taste, Hearing and Touch. However what makes fish different is the glaringly obvious - the fact they live in water! Over the years, fish have adapted to understand their watery surrounding to levels well beyond our own abilities (much to our disadvantage!). If we take the time to understand the difference between how anglers perceive the lake to how the fish do, we might just improve our watercraft as anglers and increase our catch rates.
Unlike fish, humans rely heavily on sight as a primary means of sensing our environment. As long as there is light, we can pretty much see what surrounds us. Fish on the other hand reside deep under water where light isn't quite as prevalent. Add in the effects of poor water visibility (turbidity - as mentioned in a previous blog), and it soon becomes apparent that sight can't be solely relied upon by fish. In addition, species such as Carp have their eyes located on the sides of their head. This provides fantastic visibility for the fish but at a cost - depth perception! Try covering one of your eyes and reach for an object in front of you. Does it seem easier or harder compared to using both eyes? Humans have both eyes facing the same direction providing binocular vision, allowing us to perceive distances with greater accuracy.
So where am I going with this? Consider a bottom feeding species such as Carp or the much loved Tench. When feeding, they generally feed with their heads tipped down looking down on the bait. Some anglers don't like to use pop-up rigs as they think they appear as blatant traps amongst a group of freebies on the deck. Now this is just my personal opinion, but personally I don't think they can tell much difference between a bait on the deck and a pop-up fished 1-2 inches above. I used to be a big fan of highly visual hook baits but I've increasingly started matching my hook bait to the free offerings surrounding it. With poor light conditions, I personally think the odds are in my favour if I can present a none threatening bait which blends with other baits already eaten with confidence. A highly visual bait always caught me fish, but catch rates have definitely increased since matching my hook bait pop-up to my boilies.