Fifteen years ago I decided to start keeping a fishing logbook. As I look back on it today I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve been and the number and variety of fish that have been caught over that time. It is something that I often refer to because I’m always looking for an edge on the fish, but more importantly for me it has become a way to remember people, events and treasured moments. In essence, each entry is a snapshot of a day spent on the water.
There are plenty of different ways to approach this idea. You can be very scientific and record things like wind direction, water depth, water temperature, moon phase, barometer reading and GPS coordinates. I suspect that is the approach of many who keep a logbook. I even suspect that some will take their journal information and start a database in their computer. To me all of those things are fine and probably make the most sense if your only purpose is to catch fish. What I’ve discovered over the years is that the other parts of fishing trips are more important to me. It is just as significant to remember who you went with and what made the trip memorable. That is the stuff of life. I think that as we get older it becomes important to remember the past and enjoy those memories. In hindsight the most complete journal would include elements of both.
When I first began my journal it was relatively simple. I actually used a motor vehicle mileage log which certainly is not ideal but it got me started. I recorded the date, the lake, my fishing partner’s name, what we caught, the temperature, wind direction, lures and bait used and some comments. There wasn’t a great deal of room to work with so I started a coded key in a separate part of the book that I could use to identify the place where we fished. From that simple beginning it has expanded so that there is more room for writing down things that made each trip unique. If I had it to do over again I’d just use a diary style journal with plenty of space for writing.
As I thumb back through the years I see my first entry on February 26th, 1995. My partner and all time best fishing buddy, Steve Cisson and I went to a local pond (which shall remain nameless) and caught about a dozen crappie and twenty bass. It was one of those bright, warm days we sometimes get in February that lets us know that spring is near. Because of that simple entry I remember the day in living color. Without it to jog my memory it might be lost to the haze of time.
The journal is also valuable as a point of reference. If I want to know the earliest date that white bass can be caught on the Oconee or Apalachee Rivers, I just look back through the years. If I want to know when the largemouth bass will likely start bedding in certain ponds or lakes that information is at my fingertips.
My little memory book also reminds me of the monster trips. 100 bass on a sunny June day with Coach Cisson and Dennis Sitzmann or 137 shellcrackers one morning on Lake George in central Florida with my father-in-law Lamar Whidby and brother-in-law Ben Whidby. It reminds me of going with the Cisson brothers and boating stripers of 31, 21, 15, and 14 pounds over the course of a couple of hours. This journal also reminds me of the last time I went fishing with a couple buddies who have since passed away and I wouldn’t take anything for those reminders.
There are a few things that I wish I had done over the years. One is to keep a camera handy. I’ve just about always been a catch and release guy and it would be very special to have pictures to go along with journal entries. There are always opportunities to catch your fishing partner in action or in funny situations that would make the journal even more special. I also wish I had picked up souvenirs from out of town or out of state trips to add to the journal.
Of course this idea can apply to other activities as well. A hunting or camping logbook would provide just as much enjoyment. My advice is to get started today on an outdoor journal. Do it for fun, do it for information, but most of all do it for the memories.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com.