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The Pros, Cons and Neutrals Of Outboard Sounds

Posted: February 27th, 2013 by Bill Dance

Someone once asked me what effect I thought the sounds of an outboard running have on fish. Who hasn’t pondered such a question whether they are blasting out across a huge reservoir or idling up into a small pocket? Well, when considering this one has to note that first of all sounds can be categorized as motivational or anti-motivational strike components. Outboard motors can be either anti-motivational or neutral to fish. All this is a fancy way to say basically that some sounds are good, some are bad and some are indifferent.

Obviously, outboards are no trolling motors (in so many comparisons), but especially in regards to sound made and the overall commotion they can create in the water. Still, such responses from fish to motors are related to several factors, including the size of the outboard, the depth of water, speed of the boat and how well the fish are accustomed to boat traffic.

When the water exceeds 20 feet, there are no indications from the fish that the boat/motor is present.

In waters shallower than 15 feet, fish are definitely aware of the presence of the boat, but it does not seem to influence them if the boat keeps moving. Also, if the boat moves slowly into such an area and stops, the fish normally return to normal behavior almost immediately. However, if you go blowing into shallow areas and quickly stop, you’ll have time to spool a few reels and tidy you tackle box before the fish behave normally.

Now, under conditions where fish are accustomed to excessive boat traffic, like a creek, small river or canal, fish can be stimulated by passing boats.

Passing boats create a wake, and the wave action it creates washes the shoreline which in turn flushes out forage such as crawfish, small game fish and minnows. To take advantage of this phenomenon, try fishing back along the bank where your prop-wash has splashed up on it.

I have also noticed this advantage of prop-wash a few times when fishing the Mississippi River for catfish. Of course, there is a lot of barge traffic on our nation’s largest river. And also these huge barges, loaded with a wide variety of cargo, can create quite a “stir” as they move up and down Ol’ Man River. Though, the traffic is not repetitive, as in one barge right after another, I do think this stir–the prop wash–does sometimes encourage catfish to feed more heavily. This is simply because forage floating along the bottom has been literally stirred up by the barges and can create something of a feeding frenzy below, as catfish wait for the river currents to bring them some food. I think the barge speeds the process and throws the switch, so to speak, and creates a condition that makes the catfish bite better. So certainly, there are times when the sound of an outboard, and in case of the barges–a very big diesel engine–sometimes sounds like a dinner bell to fish!

Bill Dance

Tennessee

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