When it comes to relating where the fish are biting and, on what and how deep the water, yours truly probably has about as much experience as any outdoor journalist in the state today. For over 14 years, beginning in the early 1990s, I did a weekly report for one of the largest newspapers in the state. During the course of those years, I learned a thing or two about sharing fishing tips that I gleaned from a network of very reliable guides and experienced anglers. The reason for running my fishing tips column on Thursday was supposed to help fishermen plan their weekend trips.

In the beginning, I tried to be very specific with my reports. My goal was to get away from the “generic” fishing reports common to the day. Terms such as “Bass fair on worms in shallow water” didn’t make the cut for me. My goal was to be much more specific, something like. “No giant bass, but large numbers of slot fish have been coming on Junebug colored soft plastics fished slowly on the inside edge of shoreline grass lines.”

This was some solid information that an angler could put to good use from someone that I knew was to be a reliable source. There was always one fly in the ointment, though. Guess what it was? The weather! A pattern that had been as consistent as the Polar Star for several days suddenly went south with a wind direction change, heavy influx of runoff water or cold front.

For many years, the late Paul Hope with Texas Parks and Wildlife did the weekly state fishing report. Paul was very helpful to me when I began doing my “in-depth” report. But Mr. Hope always said that regardless how good the information we share might be, it will all change with a new wind direction. He was absolutely correct.

After I was several years into giving these weekly tips, I learned through osmosis if nothing else that I needed to be reporting current “patterns” that were producing fish of a specific species. At that point, my reports began to read something like, “The current threadfin shad hatch has dispersed into the main lake and stripers, hybrid stripers and white bass are in hot pursuit. Bring along a good pair of binoculars and watch the lake’s surface for feeding fish, then approach the school slowly and quietly, making long casts with 1 oz. chartreuse slabs. Allow the baits to flutter vertically through the schools and expect most strikes on the fall.” Now this was some information that the weekend angler could put to good use!

With the internet and fishing “chat sites” the way fishing tips was distributed to the masses was changed, and to my way of thinking, not always necessarily for the good. Print fishing reports still serve a purpose, assuming its patterns that are reported. But, more and more anglers began going to the internet for fishing updates.

I used to follow these fishing sites pretty closely but soon discovered that animosity and greed among the owners, lure manufacturers, guides and guides friends had caused what could have been a great medium for relaying information into a way to generate dollars.

For instance, a post something like, “Who is a good guide on Lake Fork?” might appear. In the response column, guides would, of course, invite folks to come book a trip. That’s free enterprise in action! Nothing wrong with getting the name out there. But following this post would often be others stating why his favorite guide is the best and why others were not so good. I also began seeing costly ads appear on these sites for lures and services that were often mentioned.

So, in today’s almost instantaneous relaying of fishing information via the internet, what IS the best way of learning where the fish are biting and, on what!

My advice it to use the printed reports as a guideline but only a guideline. They are at least a couple days old when you read them and remember how those patterns can change with the wind direction?

Go online also and look at several fishing sites that give current fishing information. It will be pretty easy to see the ones that are dollar driven and the ones that are actually about helping you catch fish.

Local radio outdoor shows are another great way to listen to guides give in-depth fishing information. Most of these shows run on Saturday mornings.

A call to a local marina that you trust can be invaluable when planning a trip assuming the staff is informed. There is usually someone at the marina that stays current on the fishing patterns, at least as to what is biting and on what baits.

This column has sparked me to share with you one of my “old school” in-depth fishing reports. This one comes from Lake Fork this week from guide Seth Vanover. But before assuming every word is intended to be followed to the letter on your next outing, remember what I said about those changes in weather patterns!

Lake Fork guide Seth Vanover (www.lakeforkcatandcrappie.com) reports the crappie have vacated the shallow water and the spawn is a done deal.

Crappie are currently stacking up around heavy cover at depths of 10-15 feet. Once you find a concentration of fish, expect good action on live minnows and jigs in a variety of colors. You will catch a good percentage of undersized fish so make sure and measure your catch, crappie up to 15 inches have been landed the past few trips. Stay on the move until you find the fish. Never spend more than about 15 minutes at an unproductive spot.

Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com.