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Keeping a Fishing Log


Bill Schultz

I grew up with a Dad who ran the Madison YMCAs and hanging around the weight room I remember all those big guys writing in beat-up notebooks. They were writing down their workouts in their logs. Swimming at the University of Wisconsin in the early 70s I kept a simple log of daily workout yards on 3” by 5” cards in my wallet. After swimming it was racquetball, and a log of my matches, which continues today. So, once back into fishing in 1992, you guessed it, a fishing log.

Now into my 28th year of keeping a fishing log, I’m happy I have, mostly so I can report that as of early July, I’m just under 23,000 smallmouth bass I’ve caught and released since catching my first in May of 1994. This really isn’t that important with all that’s going on in the world, but still fun. My logs each year are simple with a few columns. The first is date and moon phase rating, next is location, boat, kayak, or waders and hours fished. The third column documents the number of smallies I caught that day. When on a river I note the number of smallies at 2- pounds and bigger. For lakes, which is mostly the big waters of Sturgeon Bay/Door County, Wisconsin, I note the number of smallies 4- pounds and bigger.

Each year I keep a running total of the number of smallies I catch and release and update my lifetime total. I also note numbers of smallies at 4 pounds or larger, in quarter pound increments. Using the BogaGrip scale, I feel my weights are very accurate. My top group is now 6.25 pounds, I’m still waiting for that 7-pound smallie.

I know that many anglers keep fishing logs. Most are probably more elaborate than mine. I talked recently with a top Musky angler who keeps track of all muskies caught, what moon phase, water temps, weather conditions and even the lures each fish was caught on. I can see this being good intelligence for future outings. However, with muskies the numbers of fish won’t be nearly as high as with the bass or walleye angler. Yet, there are anglers chasing those species who keep more elaborate logs with greater detail than I keep. That could be some serious time on the computer if that’s where your log is or writing in your notebook.

For me, the primary purpose for the log is the fun of keeping track of my smallie numbers. But, when fishing on similar dates and bodies of water from year to year, I do go back and look at how the fishing was on those days in the past. With my fishing logs and keeping track of hours fished each time on the water, I can look at how many smallies I am catching and releasing per 8 hours on the water. My yearly goal is 1,000 smallies, which I’ve hit for most of the past 15 years, with my top year 2007 at 2,049 smallies. That year I did a good deal of river fishing. On one river I fished often, I was averaging 60 smallies every outing of about four hours of fishing. Again, just a fun fact. And, as is the case on rivers, many smaller fish.

With the number of smallies I’ve caught, there have been dozens of 50+ days, even as high as 100+. When people fish with me, I always get asked how I keep track of my numbers, do I have a clicker something else? Back as a Badger swimmer, adding those yards in my head up to and over 10,000 per practice didn’t seem to be a problem, but, I’m just a little older now. Keeping count of those beautiful bronzebacks hasn’t been a problem, and probably good mental gymnastics for my older brain. Even keeping track of a second person in my boat has been easy, but, adding a third person is more challenging. I only keep track of the friend’s fish because of the rule that in my boat you can catch 50, but I need to catch 51. Just kidding!

I mentioned anglers who keep track of additional detail of their day on the water, like what the moon phases are. I use this information and for 15 years I’ve used Rick Taylor’s Astro Tables to help me pick the best time to be on the water. His Astro Tables are a staple in each issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The Astro Tables shows days rated at 1 to 100 and primary feeding periods. In my log, the number in parenthesis to the right of the date is the day’s rating. I am usually only on the water when days are rated 45 and higher. His Prime Times wall calendar goes into even more detail for each day.

The bottom-line is you should go out and fish when you can, have fun and catch and release those smallies. If you think keeping a log of any type would be fun, great, but just getting out and fishing is the most fun. I’ve enjoyed keeping my fishing logs, and it might be fun for you also.

Note: This article first appeared in the July/August 2019 Badger Sportsman Magazine