How to Read a Fishing Report

By Andy Whitcomb

Feb 06, 2017

Fishing reports can be a great source of information, if you know what to look for and how to use them. Here’s why:

When I’m not fishing, chances are, I’m reading or at least thinking about fishing. Fishing reports come from a variety of sources from stories exchanged at the bait store, to state releases gathered by conservation officers.  There can be some great information provided. When learning how to read a fishing report, try to use the pieces of information in it to anticipate general conditions for your next outing.

A quick search on the internet will provide many online fishing reports. This website has a nifty tool where you can just click on a state for a listing of a variety of local fishing reports. Don’t rely on just one report though. And make sure you check the dates. Fishing reports are time sensitive information. By the time you read it, conditions have already changed.

State fishing and wildlife department fishing reports are broken down by counties or regions such as Northwest, Southeast, etc.  Within each region will be a listing of specific bodies of water. Here you can check on the activity of your favorite lake or stretch of river. Each body of water will have a listing of species that are being caught, a rating of the bite (slow, fair, or good) as well as a hot bait or lure pattern. Additionally, fishing reports may contain information on stream or river flow rate (and if it is rising or dropping), ice conditions (for ice fishing safety or open water for launching boats), or depths that fish are biting (watch for trends if this changes).

Finally, the best method for how to read a fishing report may be with a grain of salt. Not all of that information may be scientifically repeatable. As a wise man once said, “trust but verify.” Once you have gathered tidbits of consistent information from multiple sources and think you are ready to launch the boat, double check that your boat registration is up to date.
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.