The way you smell might be driving fish away

Anyone who hunts deer or runs a trapline knows the importance of scent, but what about fish? Can scent attract or repel fish? I’ll stick my neck out here and claim that scent can be a factor in fishing.

Just last week I was working a jig around an area I knew held fish. I could even mark them on my Humminbird sonar, but nothing bothered my jig. Then I remembered a small jar of scented bait in my tackle box and decided to see if it would help. I added a couple Crappie Nibbles to my jig and started to catch fish. I didn’t haul in any lunkers, but I didn’t get skunked. Was it the scent that helped? Maybe.

Years ago I fished Lake Barkley with a couple guides while I was producing a video on crappie fishing. Both occasionally sprayed a mist of scent on their jigs. When I asked them if scent helped, their answer was that it couldn’t hurt and you want to give yourself an advantage over the fish.

I admit to using scent a lot, especially when using nightcrawlers off my dock. The scent I use is made by Berkley and is supposed to be a special walleye attractant. It doesn’t seem to catch walleyes, but I land way too many small perch. Occasionally I pull in a humongous channel catfish that tests my tackle to the limit.

Always interested in learning more about fishing I pulled my copy of Freshwater Fishing Tips & Techniques off the shelf to see what it had to say. There was an interesting sketch on page 200 that illustrated a fish’s senses. This of course was just an average and would change with different species. I was amazed that a fish’s sight was only 50 feet, but smell could stretch out to hundreds of yards. If this is even slightly accurate scent is definitely important.

But if scent will attract fish, will it repel them? I believe it can do just that. Let’s face it; to deer and coyotes we humans stink. Maybe it is the same with fish. Just look at the scents on your boat.

Even I do not like the odor of gasoline, but we fill our tanks with the foul smelling liquid. It permeates our hands when we fill our truck’s tank on the way to our fishing hole, and then we fill the tank on our outboard. Is there anyone who has never spilled a bit of gas in the boat? Add to that the smelly stuff we rub on our bodies to protect against sunburn, and mosquitoes.

So what can we do to eliminate some of the offensive odors? A couple years ago I bought some goat milk soap that contained anise scent, and fish seem to love the scent of anise.

Don’t ask me why. I’m just a dumb fisherman trying to outwit a few fish. I used the goat milk soap for about a year, but it took too much time to get clean hands, and my bait was out of the water while I dipped and scrubbed my hands.

I have used a liquid hand cleaner to sanitize my hands and remove worm and fish slime. Lately I’ve thought about adding a couple drops of anise oil to the hand cleaner. Is this overkill? Could be, but remember what the Lake Barkley guide said about giving yourself an advantage over the fish.

To sum this up I feel scent understanding is an important facet of fishing, but it is not a miracle elixir that will have fish jumping into your boat and begging to swim in your livewell.

I’ve fallen for these super lures and scents before so I take a grain of salt with any advertising that claims to make me the best angler in the world. But I do believe that certain scents will attract fish toward my lure or bait. I also believe that some odors, such as gasoline and oil, can repulse fish.

How will this knowledge affect my fishing? First of all I will add some form of scent to my lures and bait. Then, so I don’t detract from the good scents, I will try to keep my hands free of odors that fish might find repulsive. After all, I’m just a run of the mill angler so I need to give myself an advantage over the fish.