It’s the perennial question. Should you be quiet as a churchmouse while fishing. Traditional wisdom says it’s true, but does it really matter? Are fish deaf? Or can they hear a caterpillar falling in the water from 1,000 yards away?
The first question is, do fish hear at all?
The answer is yes and no.
Although fish do not have ears, they do have an inner ear system. Combined with a visible nerve called the lateral line, this inner ear system allows fish to pick up vibrations.
In essence, fish do not hear in the conventional sense, but rather sense vibrations.
What this means, first of all, is that above the surface, you can be singing fishing or camping tunes as loud as you want or even screaming to God to let you catch the big one today, and underneath the water, the fish will hardly detect a sound.
Air is a relatively low conductor of vibrations, which means that the fish, who live in the water, can hardly tell the difference between a lowly fisherman fishing alone and a rowboat full of trombone players playing JOhn Phillip Sousa.
On the other hand, fish will sense the vibrations in the water, and if you were to pound a hammer at the bottom of your rowboat, yes, the fish would probably notice.
Fish ignore many noises
We say probably because even in the water, there are many vibrations that fish will not pay attention to.
For example, a stream with a swift current such as one where you see salmon flowing upstream and bears having a feast of salmon may be flowing so fast that hardly any other mild noise even within the water will be noticed.
And it’s also not the roar of the stream which tends to block fish from noticing.
You would think that outboard motors on a boat would be a sure thing to scare away the fish.
Studies have shown that fish, particularly Koi fish, can be trained to respond to food at great distances.
However, for the most part, many noises, even underwater are not even observed by fish.
Typically, an outboard motor for example, produces sounds in the Hertz scale of 1,000 to 5,000 hertz. Experts say that inboard motors are another matter. Inboard motors definitely produce a sound that fish can hear.
Fish, on the other hand, tend to be attuned to vibrations much less than 1,000 hertz. So in essence, even if fish detect certain vibrations, they tend to become immune to perhaps 95 percent of them.
Many fishermen have learned that when trolling in shallow waters, the two best means of not scaring the fish would be to shut off the motor and drift into the location you wish to fish, or alternatively, to keep the motor running but on low power.
Coming straight into a shallow area with a motor on high is more than likely to scare fish away temporarily.
Noise can actually attract fish
On the other hand fish can be attracted and curious about some noises. In an experiment around 2005 the Los Angeles Times reported that a researcher from The University of Scotland at Edinburgh wondered how many fish returned to ocean reefs after maturing in the depths of the ocean.
Building a set of artificial reefs in Australia, some that remained silent, and others that had hidden speakers underwater, the researcher found that he could attract many more fish by broadcasting noise than he was able to do so with the silent reefs.
So certain kinds of noises can certainly be used to attract fish.
Want proof that the Scottish researcher was correct.
Look no further than to Jack Danos, a 17-year-old inventor who appeared on the television show Shark Tank.
Jack and his father spent two years designing what they called the first duck call for fishing.
Shaped like a large hand grenade, the Tactibite Fish call is like a sophisticated sound bobber, only you don’t fish directly with the Tactibite. Instead, you throw it into the water and the fish caller sends out vibrations from it for around 15 or 20 feet.
YOu use the Tactibite fish caller as a lure and then fish with bait near it.
Exactly how to the Tactibite fish caller makes vibrations, and more importantly, how it imitates the sounds of natural bait is unknown, but since introducing it late 2016, the Tactibite has sold millions.
A more sophisticated version of the Tactibite, called the Hydrowave, actually broadcast recorded sound waves of baitfish or bass feeding on baitfish and broadcasts them through the water.
Another fishing company that uses sound is Livingston Lures. Livingston produces lures that when thrown into the water, will imitate the sounds of fish feeding and attract fish.
Whether anyone has used all three technologies at once to attract fish, or whether that is overkill remains to be seen.
Other lures do not use sound technology but produce rattling or popping sounds which have been proven by experience at least, to attract fish.
How effective are fish call technologies?
How efficient are fish call technologies? Well, depending upon who you talk to, they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, though TactiBite, which was producing their fish call by the thousands relinquished all sales to a third party and that third party no longer appears to be selling them.
And the HydroWave, though being sold and being popular, has a price tag of over $400.
Even the TactiBite, when it was available cost around $178.
Already there are fishfinders as cheap as around $40, and when future technology brings fish call technology to around $40 or less I believe that there will be a huge market for fish callers worldwide.
Back to the original question, should you be quiet while fishing?
In the meantime, going back to the original question it seems that being quiet while fishing is an old wife’s tale.
Yes if you are stoping on a metal boat, or dropping tackle boxes on the floor the fish will tend to be scared away. However, under ordinary circumstances, not a chance.
So bring your boom box or your saxophone with you if you wish. About the only things you’ll likely to scare are other fisherman.