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Ask Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is recognized as an authority on surf fishing for striped bass. He is the author of six books and hundreds of magazine articles. Frank is a member of the Outdoor Writers of America and lectures throughout the Northeast.

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  #1  
Old 04-04-2011, 11:59 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Are Fish Smart?

We know that fish have a brain but are they smart? When you cast sumpin to a fish and you know it can see it, is it not hitting because it is smart or is it because it isn't hungry? Reflect upon fish behaviour and how you view this intellegence, if in fact it is intellegence. What does your uncle think about fish smarts?
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Old 04-04-2011, 12:08 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is online now
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

We project way too many human thoughts and emotions onto fish. It's a natural thing to do, I think, but it's still wrong. If the brains of fish were really that developed, do you think they'd engage in cannibalism, that a bluefish would eat 1,000 snapper blues, vomit them up, and then eat 1,000 more?

Think about a plant on a windowsill growing toward the light: there's a reason that the plant does this, but there's no thought behind it. Fish are smarter than plants, but in attributing thought to them, we're giving them way too much credit. Just shut up and fish.
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Old 04-04-2011, 05:16 PM
Art Vrola Art Vrola is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

I agree with Chris Garrity. Take this for what it's worth. I understand that we (humans) are the only creatures on earth that were given the ability to reason. All other "living things" go with instinct. That means that fish and other non-humans may have brains, but lack the ability to think or reason.
Thus comes the misunderstood expression, "sometimes guys think with the wrong head". During those times, guys are not thinking they are like fish and are reacting instinctively.
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:41 AM
Nifty Nifty is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

They are mostly reactionary and instinctive, in my opinion. I realize I'm in the minority but I also don't believe they react to art in an intelligent way, only humans have that capacity. This is why I don't bother paying extra for natural finishes nor do I go for the whole painting blood streaks and fins on a lure. Even if a fish could ID these things like a human (which they can't) the lure would have to be still in order to see the paint job. A moving lure is a blur in most cases. I do realize they react to shapes and colors. Some fish have strong colors to intimidate predators but thats more a reaction than an intelligent response. One thing I'm convinced they do respond to is flash, especially in daylight and rough conditions. I know people disagree with me but I feel natural finishes are meant to convince fishermen rather than fish.
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Old 04-05-2011, 05:16 AM
biggestsquid biggestsquid is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

I can see that there is much prejudice against fish in this crowd!! I think we need an effort to give them their equal rights --- or eatful rights!!!

The number of fish in the ocean vs the number of hours that I try to fetch one out with a sucess ratio that is too small to calculate --- indicates to me that fish are brilliant. I'm going to test it next week to see if the drum on Hattersa have been studying all winter.

We'll let you know.
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:20 AM
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

there is intelligence and intelligence.

fish think like fish, that's all, just like other animals think in their own way.

I've read that fish only have 3 thoughts, in no particular order:
1. food, food, food
2. yikes, yikes, yikes (as in, I'm about to GET eaten, so get me out of here) and
3. sex, sex, sex

1 and 3 put them at about the same level as the average angler, I suspect, with the possible exception of 3, from what I can see

I also have read some books where fish in a lab can be trained to a certain extent, for example trained to push a bar to release food, trained to avoid certain objects... again for food. So some amount of reasoning, driven by their instinct, is evident in some fish (I read this in a book on trout, but no matter).
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:28 AM
Merlin Merlin is online now
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

Smarter then most fisherman most of the time! Do they reason -No. Do they operate on instncts -yes. Are they impulsive-yes, competive with each other-yes.

Do they read Frank's books?--some might. Little lite hearted humor here!
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:19 AM
clambellies clambellies is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nifty View Post
They are mostly reactionary and instinctive, in my opinion. I realize I'm in the minority but I also don't believe they react to art in an intelligent way, only humans have that capacity. This is why I don't bother paying extra for natural finishes nor do I go for the whole painting blood streaks and fins on a lure. Even if a fish could ID these things like a human (which they can't) the lure would have to be still in order to see the paint job. A moving lure is a blur in most cases. I do realize they react to shapes and colors. Some fish have strong colors to intimidate predators but thats more a reaction than an intelligent response. One thing I'm convinced they do respond to is flash, especially in daylight and rough conditions. I know people disagree with me but I feel natural finishes are meant to convince fishermen rather than fish.

Reactionary and instinctive are the two best words to describe a fish's intelligence. Take a fish like a pickerel, evolution and inborn instinct have fine tuned it to be an ambush hunter. They lurk nearly motionless in shadows and cover and when an unsuspecting bait fish passes in front of their snouts they dart a few inches and suck in their prey. They seldom move more than a foot to feed. But crank a red and white Dardevle through the water and they will launch themselves 20 feet to torpedo into the wobbling hunk of metal. Purely a reactionary attack. They don't normally feed that way, nobody has ever seen a pickerel make such a splashy assault on a bait fish. If the pickerel had intelligence or thought, he would know that the lure cant possibly be food, nothing in his world or nothing he has ever eaten moves or looks like that lure. Something about the lure's motion or water disturbance it creates overpowers his instinct and causes such a reactionary attack.
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:52 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

All these are very cogent analysis of fish behaviour. Can't find a thing about which I could disagree. Remarks about instinctive behavior are really closer to the issues than the notion of intellegence.

I think fish respond to certain stimuli. They can be trained. For instance, many catch and release areas the trout will swim up to the angler, without fighting, and wait to be released.
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Old 04-05-2011, 11:08 AM
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

One night I came accross a bass about 30 to 35 pounds sitting in a bridge shadow with it's face up against the line, holding in the lazy current. I came out with a live eel on and that had been working "ok" (better than my usual bucktails) for the past couple of weeks so when I made what I thought was a pretty perfect cast I was sure I was going to get bit. When I got the eel lined up with the bass about a couple of inches below the surface and about a foot in front of it I stopped reeling and let the eel do its thing. The current pushed the eel to the fishes head and it stopped on the things mouth and held there.
If that wasn't bad enough what happened next really took the cake. As I was googling at the scene the bass flexed its gills and blew a jet of water at the eel and it jumped out over a foot from the fish and then just drifted down past her. It would have been easier for that fish to eat the eel than make the effort that it did to not eat it. Was the fish smart? Well it sure made a good choice!

JC
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Old 04-05-2011, 11:21 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

Great story, Jason. I think what you are saying is that there is a certain amount of learned behavior with some fish that have the advantage of experience. Also, the bridge situation gave you a chance to witness this unlikely behavior. I reject the notion that fish do not think, that it is all instinct. More likely it is both.
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Old 04-07-2011, 11:53 AM
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

Because we share their environment, land animals exhibit and as a consequence prove, that they have a combination of intellegence and highly developed instinct. Mammels communicate, exhibit behavior that communicates say, by running in panic and give humans a wide birth. The young learn from the adults exhibiting the same learned traits. Now, how much of what we know and see with mammals is exhibited in fish is the issue. Fish can be scared out of shallow water; they can run from sudden flashes of light; spooked by shadows; they can become interested in the splash of your lure. Exhibit curiosity.
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Old 04-07-2011, 11:55 PM
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

I think what Frank mentions is more instinct than learned behavior. Splash of a lure? Bait=food. Flash of light, same thing. Something happened the tells them light is a bad thing, especially if it suddenly appears. I used to think about this when I got back into fishing, and Frank helped me get over it... They act from instinct, more than what we consider cognizant thought. Not to say they dont learn, as Frank mentioned about trout, but I dont think they spend a lot of time pondering these things.
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Old 04-08-2011, 05:11 AM
biggestsquid biggestsquid is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

My bride says they're probably much like us ---- alll they think about is sex!!
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Old 04-08-2011, 07:53 AM
lagoonguy lagoonguy is offline
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Default Re: Are Fish Smart?

When you ask if fish are smart; you forgot to ask, smarter than what. Certainly, they are smarter than clams and some appear to be smarter than some of us too.
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