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Old 03-25-2005, 01:08 PM
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Default Conditioned Fish

Hello all:

Just thinking of a recent trip to the San Juan and wanted to throw a question out there. What are your thoughts on how fish may/may not become conditioned to fishing pressure only?

I know there are many other factors that often affect when, where, and how fish are biting (e.g. weather, water temp, flows, biomass, etc.). But I was wondering whether some waters -- especially those such as the San Juan that seem to get hit hardest on weekends -- seem to be conditioned to be less active, more selective, etc. during certain times (i.e. weekends vs. weekdays). So, holding other considerations constant (*geesh*, that sounded like something out of one of my stats classes, I've got to get out more ;o) ), what about the timing of human presence on fish activity?

I'm inclined to think this can and does occur. I know some of my bias comes from years of hunting (rifle/archery) and seeing how big game species are often active by week day versus weekend pressure. During that trip to the San Juan, I had a very successful day on the Friday we fished it. I turned around on Saturday, when the environmental conditions were very similar, and found the fishing to be much more difficult. They were still taking, but you had to work much harder for them.

*Sigh* maybe I'm just looking for one more excuse to add to my current repertoire to explain away slow days on the water. I've needed them.

TJ
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Old 03-25-2005, 01:29 PM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

It's an interesting question and, based on the little I know about learning theory, here are a few ideas.
1) If the fish are really becoming conditioned to a seven day cycle where fishing pressure is more on the weekends, then you would expect to see several things. First, high fishing pressure on holidays that fall on a weekday should not affect the fishing ie you should catch just as many fish on Tuesday July 4th as you do on Tuesday July 11th.
2) Weekend fishing should still be slower than mid week during the winter months when fishing pressure is lighter.
3) if the fish are really less active on weekends I would think that it is simply the presence of more people disturbing their environment, whether they are fishing or just kayaking etc.
4) If fish are capable of this type of behavior, there is probably well documented evidence of it in aquariums where the presence or absence of people and other factors like food are well controlled.

My guess, for what it's worth? The fish are not establishing a cyclical pattern they are less active simply because there is more disturbance on weekends than during the week.
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Old 03-25-2005, 10:48 PM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

I am by know means an expert on any of this, but I also find it hard to beleive that fish would develop these patterns. I, like most of you try to fish as many weekdays as possible because of the crowding factors. Something that amazes me is how fish in pressured areas become so accustomed to fisherman that they will feed within yards of humans. While the fish are generally very selective on what flies they will take, there are some opportunities for some really short casts.
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Old 03-26-2005, 08:17 AM
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Red face Re: Conditioned Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by Salmo Nella
3) if the fish are really less active on weekends I would think that it is simply the presence of more people disturbing their environment, whether they are fishing or just kayaking etc.
I appreciate the thoughts thus far. The seven day cycle may be out there and, as you pointed out Salmo, any change in feeding behavior may be due to increased pressure disturbing the feeding environment/conditions. In a way this may still represent a learned response in fish. Namely, more selective feeding.

As Royal points out, on some waters fish often hold very close to where people are standing . . . and are often the most difficult to catch. (Side note: I understand this very situation is what has lead to conditioned fisherfolks on the San Juan performing the "San Juan Shuffle." Not favorably looked upon by NM Game & Fish)

TJ
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Old 03-26-2005, 08:41 AM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

This is certainly one of the most humorous and enjoyable aspects of fly fishing the San Juan. Many times I've waded and looked behind me to see that I was being followed, like puppies, by several huge trout. I love it. The reason, of course, they follow is to gobble up any insect you may kick up. So yes... the "San Juan Shuffle" quickly became a very effective means of catching those particular fish. For those of you who may not know... the SJS is when you stand in the river, shuffle your feet (to kick up fish food), and then float your nymph through the disturbed debris. It soon became an illegal technique in NM because it was so effective on the San Juan.

Regarding your original post on conditioned fish... I can't say for sure... I would have to say that I agree with everything Salmo has stated.
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Old 03-26-2005, 09:00 AM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

TJ

If you will post or email me that photo without the faded edges... I will make you a cool signature banner.

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Old 03-27-2005, 05:04 PM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

Thanks Steve!

I'll get it to you.

TJ
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Old 03-27-2005, 06:20 PM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by thefullcreel
I would have to say that I agree with everything Salmo has stated.
That's a first. NO ONE has ever said that before. I must be losing my touch at wild speculation.
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Old 03-28-2005, 08:55 AM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by Salmo Nella
That's a first. NO ONE has ever said that before. I must be losing my touch at wild speculation.
LOL. Wild speculation? It seems you stacked the cards in favor of a believable reply Salmo. What with reference to learning theory and potential documented evidence in aquariums and all. ) I appreciate the response. I'm still not 100% unconvinced that learned behavior (e.g. shaping of seasonal feeding patterns due to what learning theory calls extinction of behavior: when the stimulus --> response association is infrequent or eliminated as may be possible during winter months versus spring/summer months) is not at work here. You bring up points to further the discussion though. Thanks!!!

TJ

P.S. Besides . . . Anyone with the name of Salmo Nella is one you better take serious! ;o)
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Old 03-28-2005, 01:03 PM
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Default Re: Conditioned Fish

The fish in the Norfolk River in Arkansas would call it "The Nofolk Shuffle". There have been many times there that I could have reached down and petted the trout near my feet.
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