Before catching fish, anglers must locate them. Much of North America is within a day’s drive of the oceans, an estuary, or some other marine environment. You can find fish nearly anywhere there is food, oxygen, and cover. If you have a boat, your choice of fishing locations gets even larger.
Where Fish Live
Not all fish can live in the same kinds of waters. Different species need different sets of environmental conditions, including:
- Hiding areas, cover, structure, and the bottom
- Dissolved oxygen
- Water temperature
- Types and amounts of food
- Tides and currents
- Water depth
Many fish species such as striped bass and grouper live or hold near structure. Structure refers to changes in the shape of the bottom caused by rocks, reefs, manmade objects, humps, ledges, and drop-offs. Structure causes fish to concentrate in certain areas. Estuaries and river mouths may have shoreline structures such as docks, logs, stump fields, brush, rock piles, grass beds, and downed trees that provide shelter, shade, and protection for fish. Islands, sand bars, rock piles, and jetties are also good places to fish. Fish inhabit certain types of cover because it provides them with protection and puts them in the best possible position to catch a meal.
Salinity and Oxygen
Some fish species like brook trout cannot live with much salt in the water, other fish, such as tuna, need salt, and some, such as striped bass, can live in salt or freshwater. Fish also need a certain amount of oxygen in the water. Species such as carp can live on less oxygen than trout. Living plants add oxygen to the water as does moving water tumbling over rocks. Decomposing plants and animals use oxygen from the water and many kinds of pollution also reduce oxygen levels. Thermal pollution may also be a problem, as warmer water cannot hold as much oxygen as cold water.