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See The Fish But They Aren’t Biting? Try This

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It can be so frustrating when you have finally found some fish swimming around, but after throwing the whole tackle box at them, they just won’t bite. They may even swim up to your lure to check it out then refuse. I have been there quite a few times. Here are some reasons and possible solutions to this situation.

Why The Fish You See Aren’t Biting:

One of the most common reasons is that the fish see you standing there. Another is that they have been under a lot of pressure and you need to change your tactic. Another possible reason is that they are spawning. 

If The Fish See You, Then They Probably Won’t Bite

This is a lesson my dad tried to teach me at a young age, but I didn’t really listen… It wasn’t until I developed more patience in my teens that I really put this to the test and realized the power of being a stealth angler. 

In my head I thought that if the fish saw me, then they would swim away and hide. But the fact is that oftentimes they won’t. They’ll seem to act normal, but in reality, they will be very cautious about putting something in their mouth.

Here is how you overcome this problem

Don’t make any sudden movements. Sneak up to the water’s edge slowly, and stay low. 

There are some interesting physics with how water and light interact. From underwater, fish can see through a window on the surface that is mostly vertical. This is called Snell’s Window. I’m not a physicist so I won’t get into it, but what it means is that if you stay low, the fish won’t be able to see you through that window.

It’s also a good idea to wear clothing that blends in with your background. You probably don’t need to wear camouflage, but try not to wear that bright red shirt. Stick with dull, dark colors. 

And try to keep your rod low as well. Light reflecting off a shiny rod can spook the fish. 

The second part about being stealth is your bait, bobber, or lure hitting the water. If you are fishing for bass, try to learn how to pitch using a bait caster, if you get good at this, you can set your bait in the water very gently. 

Another trick is to cast far past the fish, then slowly work your bait closer. 

If The Fish Are Highly Pressured, Then They Won’t Bite

I see far too often, people running up and down the bank chasing a school of fish throwing everything they got at them. When I was young, I too was guilty of this. It can be exciting to finally see some fish, and you feel that if you can just get the perfect cast with the right bait, the fish will bite it. 

There is the possibility that you’ll annoy the fish so much that it will take a swing at your lure, but oftentimes they’ll just leave. 

Chasing the fish like this not only ruins your chance of catching it, but ruins everyone else’s chances as well.

For one, you are breaking the stealth rule. The fish knows you are chasing it, and likely won’t eat anything until they feel totally safe. It may take as much as an hour of peace and quiet for a fish to relax and start eating again.

Here’s what you should do

Maybe you tried to be stealth but you accidentally spooked a fish. Don’t go chasing after it. Settle down, don’t make any sudden movements, and stay low. 

Give the spot at least a minute or two. If you want to change your bait or lure, now is a good time to do that.

Try using the most natural bait or lure you can. If I’m fishing for trout, I’ll use a single salmon egg, a bead-head nymph fly under a small bobber, or a small worm. With bass, you might want to use a finesse worm.

If you use a lure or finesse bait, work it slowly and naturally. If you are using bait under a bobber or on a bottom rig, then let it sit for longer that you normally would.  

Oftentimes, if a fish feels it is safe, it will return to it’s spot after a few minutes. You probably won’t be able to see the fish return because you need to stay out of sight. Remember, if you see a fish, then it can probably see you. 

Fish under pressure will always be cautious about what they eat. They may have been caught a few times, and learned not to touch certain baits or anything that looks unnatural. 

They may recognize thick leaders, oversized hooks sticking out, and bobbers on the surface as signs of danger. Downsize everything as much as possible.

If Fish Aren’t Feeding, Then They Might Not Bite

Sometimes, fish just aren’t in feeding mode. 

One instance where this is very true is with spawning trout. If you see trout in a river guarding a nest, then leave them alone. During the spawn, you’ll see big fish in shallow water. The temptation can be strong. But even if your morals don’t stop you from trying, the chance of getting that fish to bite anything is very slim. For the future of that river, just leave them alone. 

Bass and panfish on the other hand will be very aggressive while guarding their nests. Many anglers take this chance to target these fish. A lot of people have done research and video showing that bass return to their nest immediately after being released and no major harm is done. I’m not an expert about this, so I don’t have an opinion to give. Do your own research.

A lot of big predator fish mainly eat at night. You can still catch them during the day, but they probably want the lure to pass right in front of their face.

Here are some possible solutions

As far as spawning trout go, just leave them alone. You’ll just waste your time and cause stress to the fish. Fortunately if there are different species of trout in the river, they may not spawn at the same time. For example brook trout may spawn at a different time than brown trout. So leave the spawning species alone and go after actively feeding fish.  

Sometimes fish are just chilling out and not actively hunting or feeding. You can still cast lures that will trigger their aggression. A big fish may get annoyed with little fish moving into their spot so they’ll take a swing at them.

You may also trigger their instincts. If your lure hits the water near them and quickly darts past them, they may instinctively hit it.

If You Have Tried All This And Are Still Struggling

Here are just a few more tips that can sometimes help.

  • Add scent to the lure or bait
  • Use a natural bait, or close imitation to what the fish eats in that body of water
  • Practice to make your bait move through the water as naturally as possible
  • Switch through different color patterns
  • Come back at a different time of day
  • Ask your local tackle shop for help. They should know the water better than anyone
  • Give the spot a break for an hour or a day


Be stealth. Don’t let the fish see you coming, and if they do, give them a few minutes to calm down before you start casting. 

If fish aren’t feeding, you can try to trigger their instincts by giving them the perfect opportunity to attack. 

There usually isn’t some magic bait that will be irresistible. It’s more about getting that fish to believe that it is safe to eat your bait or lure. Do this by eliminating distractions. Don’t let them see you. Don’t use unnatural baits. Use thin leaders, small bobbers, appropriately sized hooks, and small sinkers.

Good luck. I hope this helps you out.

By John

Hi I'm John. I'm the author of I have been obsessed with fishing since my dad took me to catch bluegill in the creek as a little kid, over 20 years ago. I love learning and perfecting all kinds of fishing techniques. I have spent time living in different countries learning their unique traditional fishing methods, and then combining the best of all worlds to catch as many fish as possible. My hope is that this website can help you, or someone you are teaching, to have a better fishing experience early on so that you too can be hooked into this wonderful sport.

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