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Sportfishing: The Time Factor

Time… One short four letter word with so much meaning and power. It runs our lives and the world with most of us not even being aware of its impact or presence. Just about everything we do each day revolves around time. Every decision we make and task we undertake is done so with time as a contributing factor. We go to work and finish work by the clock, we watch television by the clock, we plan our leisure time on weekends or holidays by the calendar and clock. Time is a very crucial factor in so many parts of our fishing. It’s always on the march and weekends never seem long enough to fit family, leisure, house work and fishing in. When it does we have to pray that the weather and conditions are conducive to our chosen hobby and after all of that, we have to hope that the fish are playing the same game as us.

When I was a young bloke, time was never much of a factor. I was single with no dependents and my time was my own. I could plan a fishing trip whenever I wanted and completing an apprenticeship was the only thing I needed to take into consideration. I fished hard and had some great times. I was lucky that I didn’t have a house to maintain or lawns to mow. I could head off for a long weekend and not have to worry about anything other than turning up to work at 7am on the following Tuesday. Then I discovered cars, alcohol and girls. That made a dent in my fishing time for several years I have to admit. At least back then I had a choice in what I wanted to do each weekend.

So how does time relate to our chosen hobby of fishing? Well, in many ways it interweaves completely with when, where and how we fish. Time is a huge factor in everything we do and that includes any hobby – not just fishing. Time is especially relevant to fishing because it is a contributor to, not only, our own personal time but it also effects the tides and moon phases that many of us use as a reference or factor in our fishing pursuits. Let’s look a little closer at time and the many ways it plays a part in our chosen sport.

Time Management

Everyone struggles with managing their time. Very few of us have total control of our time and we all have trouble finding time to get everything done in our busy lifestyles. Learning to manage your time is difficult. We have 168 hours in any given 7 day week. Say we have to work for 40 of those and sleep for 8 hours each night. That’s a total of 96 hours each week just working and sleeping. The time outside of that is our own to do what we want. That doesn’t mean you have 72 hours to go fishing. You many need to commute to work and back home, cook and eat meals, wash clothes, clean house, mow lawns, etc. The art of time management is getting all of those things done and making time to go fishing. Take it from me – that sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Finding time to go fishing for a few hours each weekend is easy. Finding time for a full day trip every weekend while juggling work, family, house work and other leisure/social time is hard.

I’ve got a good mate who manages to do it and make it look easy. His secret? No Wi-Fi at home and no social media accounts. He’s in his mid 60s and says he’s not interested in Facebook or Instagram and what other people, who he doesn’t even know, are doing. He has a large circle of friends that he speaks to regularly by phone or in person. He gets his news by watching the television. He spends more time fishing than just about anyone I know because he doesn’t waste hours on a stupid mobile phone scrolling through social media or YouTube videos. He doesn’t take a lot of photos of what he catches and he tells very few people.

Most of us are guilty of spending too much time on our phones and social media. We’re continually watching what other people are doing instead of doing it ourselves. Now I would rather be out fishing and catching fish than watching what someone else is doing. I don’t have a Facebook account for that very reason. I’d much rather concentrate on my own fishing than someone else’s and by spending hours each day on social media I would defeat that purpose. I do have an Instagram account but these days I purposely limit my posts and viewing time so I have more free time to go fishing, cook, exercise and spend time with my wife or be creative in my writing and photography.

My son Andrew is 30 years old and a self-employed tradie. He is a master of time management and seems to get a heap of stuff done every week despite having a fiancé and two young kids. He’s lucky that he can work on weekends and take a day off mid-week so he’s continually checking the weather and fishing reports to not only make time to go fishing, but get results when he goes. He has an Instagram account but limits what he posts and doesn’t spend hours looking at what other people are doing. You’d be surprised how much time you can free up by getting off social media and YouTube. Same as watching television. Sitting around watching Netflix all weekend is a tempting and easy option for some but you’ll never have time to do much else.

Creating free time is all about managing it. Mow the lawns after work so you don’t have to do them on the weekend. If you can afford it, get someone else to mow the lawns. Plan meals and housework so you are maximising your time to free up a few hours to get out and have a fish mid-week. You also need to factor in lifestyle balance here. There always needs to be a balance of work, leisure, family, exercise and sport/hobby. That ratio is different for all of us. It comes down to the individual and their requirements but the trick is to get it right and achieve that balance which is very important to our mental wellbeing. If you have a young family you need to prioritise to spend time with them. I’ve seen way too many families break up and couples divorce because fishing took priority. It can be like walking a tight rope while juggling three balloons full of water but it is always achievable if you have the right mindset and are prepared to make some sacrifices.

The next piece in the equation is just how much time you feel that you need to spend fishing. When I was a young bloke I could never fish too much and even contemplated working part time so I could spend more time fishing mid-week. It didn’t come to that because I became self-employed and managed my work so I could duck out a few afternoons a week chasing beach mulloway. These days I’m semi-retired and have a lot more time on my hands but I just don’t have the energy or inclination to go fishing 4 or 5 times a week. Once or twice a week is enough for me and I’m lucky that I can pick my days when the weather and tides suit what I want to do. It wasn’t always like that. About 10 years ago I spent way too much time fishing. My kids were older and seriously fishing with me but fishing got to the stage where it was running my life. When I wasn’t working a 9-5 job I was fishing, playing with the boat, fiddling with fishing gear, writing fishing articles, taking fishing photos and on a fishing club committee. That balance I eluded to earlier was non-existent and it got the stage where all the fun went out of it. I virtually gave fishing away for two years and took up golf. I got my handicap down to 8 and kept my sanity. I slowly got back into my fishing but ever since then I’ve been very wary of keeping that work, family, exercise, social and fishing balance in check and under control. 

It’s All in The Timing

So how do you get the most out of your fishing time when you finally start to manage it? That’s the $64,000 question I guess. I’ll offer my thoughts then toss around a few suggestions that may help.

I don’t like just going fishing and hoping for the best. I’ll make a plan based on time of year, target species, moon phase and tides. In Hervey Bay we get big tides so they are always a major contributing factor that have to be allowed for. Some species and locations require big spring tides and run in the water while others are best on smaller neap tides. Based on those tides, moon phases and weather, I’ll plan what species to target and where and at what stage of the tide. That locks in a certain period of time that I plan to fish. It may be 2 hours or it could be 6 hours but I’ll plan for that time and get other things out of the way or postponed so that time is committed to fishing. Quite often my trips are of short duration and focussed on a particular tide stage or time of day. I’ll fish hard for those few hours knowing that I’ve chosen the best circumstances to concentrate my efforts.

If I have the time I’ll do a longer trip and go searching for new ground or fish. I don’t spend a lot of time at any particular location if I don’t get results within the first half hour. If I’m not marking fish on the Lowrance side scan or getting eats I’m pretty confident things are quiet. That may change over the tide stage of 6 hours but I’m not prepared to wait and find out. I’ll move and go searching with side scan or signs of activity. Up until several years ago I’d chose a location that I’d caught fish regularly and flog it to death for hours on end. These days I fish for half an hour and if I see no signs or activity I’ll relocate. I feel like that maximises my time on the water.


Maximising your time on the water is all about planning as far as I’m concerned. If you’re happy to spend a day on the water and fish are a bonus then just go fishing but if you want to catch fish you need to have a plan and be prepared. I spend a lot of time in my shed servicing rods and reels, checking leaders and knots and making sure my lures and flies are ready to go. I don’t do that when I’m on the water because I fish hard. I consider I’m wasting my time if I need to tie a new leader or sharpen a hook before I start fishing. Worse still is spending all that time and effort to hook a good fish only to have a tackle failure. That’s wasting your time – not maximising it.

The safety factor is something that also needs to be discussed here. I’ve been as guilty as most of going fishing in atrocious conditions when I was strapped for time. When I worked 9 to 5 for thirty years I only had Saturdays and Sundays to fish. I nearly came unstuck a few times fishing in bad weather or rough seas because I had to go back to work on Monday and couldn’t fish until the next weekend. By all means manage your time and create free time to go fishing but if the conditions are dangerous be prepared to call it off. No fish or fishing trip is worth risking your life for just because you only have a one day opportunity and the seas are rough. There’s always next weekend. Spend your time wisely and get some jobs done so you can go when the conditions are safe.

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