Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 8, 2012

New angler poses intriguing question

Why do fish jump out of water?

By John Martino
Outdoors columnist

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The questions came in rapid-fire succession. “How many fish have you caught? What’s the biggest? How many fishing poles do you have? How long have you been fishing? How old are you?

I had committed to taking a friend’s 9-year-old son fishing for the first time. I could use a relaxing evening — or so I thought. In the beginning, his questions were non-stop and I was amazed how long he could actually talk without stopping to take a breath.

“Just relax and enjoy what’s going on around you,” I told him, as I baited our hooks with plump beemoth. Then the questions came again.

“What kind of worms are those? What kind of fish will we catch? Are there big ones here? Have you ever hooked a goose?”

Each inquiry came without giving a second to answer any of them.

“Why do fish jump?” he asked immediately after a small largemouth bass had broken the surface, dimpling the placid water.

His last question intrigued me. Why do fish jump? I think most of us agree that a chunk of sharp steel lodged unforgivably in the mouth and the resistance of fishing line pulled tight by someone on the other end would cause any fish to jump.

Through the years I can personally testify through experience that being impaled by a hook is not a pleasant way to spend your time. Actually, getting hooked isn’t so bad — it’s yanking it out that makes me jump.

What Jarrod meant was why do fish rocket out of the water for no apparent reason, then dash back under the surface only to do it again and again.

There is not a fisherman alive who hasn’t seen it happen and with every species of fish. From sailfish to sunfish and barracuda to bluegills, we have seen them all become airborne.

I am sure there are many reasonable explanations for this type of behavior. Stalking prey from underneath like an orca to a seal is one reason. Fish are opportunistic feeders and take a variety of prey floating on or near the surface. On the other hand, some fish may hurdle themselves into the air to keep from being dinner themselves.

Another reason fish jump could be because they are just playing. Have you ever seen how many domestic and wild animals frolic? Dogs run around playfully, cows kick and buck, sometimes for no apparent reason. Hunters have watched as young deer run around playfully kicking up their hooves. Even children run and skip around simply because it feels good.

Another reason for this jumping behavior could be because our aquatic adversaries are disrespecting us. We have all spent considerable time, either casting live bait and bobbers or chunking artificial lures churning the water to a creamy froth with no success. But at the same time fish are jumping all around. You know they are there yet refuse to hit anything in our arsenal. I personally think they are flipping us the fin. After all, they don’t have fingers.

After sitting with Jarrod for over an hour with little to show for our outing we both watched as fish surfaced everywhere. His questions slowly subsided. I think his body was becoming deprived of oxygen and he needed the break to breathe.

I firmly believe that Mother Nature is truly wonderful and sees to it that every organism above a certain point in the food chain is given enough sense of self to enjoy being what they are.

One universal expression of this joy has to be the exuberance of physical activity. This could be one reason why we stretch after waking from a long night’s sleep. It’s pleasing to feel that sweet range of motion as we extend supple muscles. Maybe it’s the harmonic intricacy of skin and ligament, tendon and bone as we discover our physical limits. The fluid range of emotions your face undergoes as we fight a trophy fish — first surprise, followed by concentration and determination, then pride.

After considering all of this it was time to answer my young fishing partner’s question and I wanted to do it with detailed, well-thought accuracy.

“Jarrod,” I finally said, “fish jump because they can!”

Public Hearing set for One-Buck Rule

Want to start a spirited discussion? Just bring up Indiana’s one-buck rule to anyone who takes to the woodlots during our fall hunting seasons. Now hunters have a chance to voice their opinion.

The one-buck rule refers to current deer hunting regulations that allow only one antlered deer to be taken per hunter per year. This does not include a buck taken in designated urban deer hunting zones. Prior to 2002, up to two bucks could be taken by a hunter each year.

The Natural Resource Commission will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on May 3 at the Plainfield Public Library located at 1120 Stafford Rd.

For those who do not want to attend the meeting, comments may be submitted online at IN.gov/nrc/2377.htm. You also may send them by mail to the Natural Resource Commission. Indiana Government Center North, 100 N. Senate Ave., Room N501, Indianapolis 46204. The deadline is May 3.

This is your opportunity to provide commission members and DNR staff your comments and opinions. The NRC is expected to vote on the rule at its May 15 meeting.

Tribune Catches

of the Week

• Bryant’s Outdoor Store: Henry Cavazos caught and released a trophy largemouth bass topping out at 6 pounds, 10 ounces, filling the tape at 23 inches long. The avid Kokomo angler hooked the fish on an artificial lure while plying the waters of a Kosciusko County lake.

• Springhill Camp Ground and Pay Pit: Bill Sharp hauled out 19 channel catfish sporting a total weight of 36 pounds, 9 ounces. Sharp encountered his success from the popular western Howard County pit using live bait.

• U.S. 31 Bait and Tackle: Craig Littrell and Don Swope pulled in 12 channel cats ranging between 2 and 6 pounds. They also brought in two blue catfish with the largest topping out at 9 pounds. The fish were taken from Mississinewa Reservoir.

Jeff Gurney and Mike Blair cleaned 28 bluegills with several of the largest stretching out at 9 inches. The pair of anglers took their catch from a Miami County pond on beemoth.

• Peoria Bait and Tackle: Eric Myers pulled in a mixed bag of three channel catfish and 12 crappies with the largest measuring 13 inches. The fish were taken from the Mississinewa River on nightcrawlers.

The Mississinewa River was also good to John Rhine after giving up two blue catfish, both exceeding 10 pounds in weight. Rhine was using shad as bait.

• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.