How to Catch More Fish with Your Dog

I’ve fished off-and-on most of my life, but for the past two years I’m fishing at least 4-5 times a month. I never put fishing and dogs together–until two years ago–simply because I have a one-track mind when I’m fishing and I felt like it would be impossible for me to enjoy a true day of fishing.

Training with my dogs is an everyday part of life. Whether it’s 1 minute, 30 minutes, or an hour, I always find ways to integrate training into everyday life. For this reason, and fact my dogs have spent most of their life in the great-outdoors with me, is probably why they’ve naturally been able to replace some of my fishing buddies. Sorry guys.

I can’t imagine taking a dog fishing that I have zero control over, though. The only time I like my heart racing on the water is when I’ve hooked a fish. Anything else that makes my heart race like that, I try and avoid. I literally fish for Zen. And we all know dogs know their ways into our little hearts.

When all said and done, it’s no easy task turning dog into a fishing buddy. It requires a lot of time and training.

Below is a list of things that will help you get the most out of a fishing trip. They are safety precautions, mostly. Being unprepared and unaware of dangers in the great outdoors are easy ways to ruin a day of fishing.

Use barbless hooks

Whether you’re boat fishing or shore fishing, dangers from your very own equipment are a hazard to both you and your dog. The most threatening thing about fishing are the hooks. Modern day fishing hooks are made of very durable materials that don’t break or bend easily, and most importantly, they’re designed to keep whatever they’ve punctured, HOOKED! The barbs on a fishing hook prevent fish from dislodging as you reel them in.

Getting hooked by a barbed hook is depressing, and almost impossible to remove without the help of a doctor. I spent my 25th birthday in an emergency room getting a treble hook removed from my hand–the doctor said my story wouldn’t have been so funny had I been drunk. Sigh… For this very reason, I’ve switched over to barbless hooks. My catch-rate didn’t drop, and I’m sure the next time I get hooked I’ll be able to pull it out without going to a comedy club (everyone was cracking jokes at the doctors!).

If you’re considering taking your dog for a day of fishing, there is a good chance your tackle box is probably already filled with barbed hooks. One can simply file or pinch the barbs on these hooks instead of buying all new equipment. The very worst kind of hooks for dogs to get hooked on are the triple threats; a treble hook. Lures like the ones below can be especially dangerous to dogs because they look like something dogs would want to put in their mouth…

ps… never remove a treble hook that has more than one point in the flesh. There is no way it’s coming out without causing a lot of damage. Find another fisherman who has experience removing hooks or go to the Dr.

However, I’m not going to leave the curious folk hanging. Here’s a great video on removing fishing hooks.

Type of water

Fishing at Castaic Lake without dogs
I perched on this rock for 4 hours. Winds were high, so I didn’t bring the dogs.

Just because a dog dislikes water, it does not mean they won’t enjoy a day out on the boat or shore. River fishing, lake fishing, and ocean fishing are completely different fishing experiences. Different dangers present themselves, but there is some overlap with the fact that dogs can drown in either body of water.

Which is why I always pack the following:

  • Brightly colored dog life jacket
  • Reflective dog collar or GlowDoggie
  • Light beacon

The above items are safety precautions for dogs that love jumping in any kind of water–day or night.

Side note: Having lived in California all my life, I know for a fact dogs swimming in the Pacific Ocean are nothing more than shark bait. Dogs can resemble a number of seal species in the water. Seals equal shark food. Just thought I’d mention that.

Respect and beware of wildlife

The water’s edge boasts a myriad of life. From aquatic plants and birds, to snakes and bears; you can always count on wildlife being not too far from a sip of water.

Fishing is different from state to state, but regardless of where you’re fishing, the water’s edge can cause a lot of distractions to an untrained dog. Dogs with strong prey drive and very little training can easily and quickly leave your side. Wild goose chases are no fun, especially when you fish for Zen!

Not only will a dog never catch whatever they’re chasing, dogs can injure themselves or get lost in the process.

Be courteous to other fisherman

The biggest thing for me when enjoying the outdoors is respect. If you’re catching and releasing like I am, then you’re probably just out sharpening your primitive skills of catching food. An untrained dog can quickly become a nuisance to all things mentioned. Running off-leash, barking their head off, and splashing in water are all OK for a dog to do, but there is a time and place for that. I’ve even seen untrained dogs chase another fisherman’s cast into the water. Allowing your dog to do this–whether it’s your cast or another fisherman’s cast–is the quickest way to ruin everyone’s day, but also put your dog in danger. Jumping in and out the water is also the easiest way to spook fish. If you take your dog to a sweet fishing spot and plan to let them do what they desire, be courteous and do it as far away from other fishermen and their lines–like another galaxy away.

If you want to learn more on outdoor etiquette, check out this informative hiking and backpacking guide with dogs.

What makes a perfect fishing dog

The perfect fishing dog is one that sits or lays calmly, just as you do waiting for a fish to bite. The less attention you can give your dog between casts, the better. If you have to split the attention from your line and your dog, you’re never going to get lost in deep thought like you’re suppose to. This has never happened to me–dogs keeping me from day dreaming–but I’ve gone fishing with very young kids and I imagine it’s the same when they wander too much.

The best fishing buddies are those ready to pack up and leave everything in a moments notice. And since dogs literally have 365 days off from the year, simply owning a dog means they’ll be waiting for you to get out on the water.

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