Are You Smarter Than A Fish-Grader?

The popular TV show, “Are you smarter than a fifth grader,” hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, was one of my favorite shows. Watching this show helped me realize how dumb we get as we age. Now, I do not mean stupid in the real sense of the word – meaning we become less educated; I only suggest if we do not keep up with new information, we can seem like we are out of touch. We certainly learn more as we age, but not the same stuff we knew when we were young. A different set of information, more practical. However, this got me thinking. What about fish? Do they get smarter as they age? Do I catch younger fish more often than I do the big, old fish?

We certainly already know fish aren’t mindless zombies that devour everything in front of them; however, persistent myths about fish being stupid remain. It’s about time we put the dumb fish fairy tale away in the cupboard.

Need convincing? Australian fish biologist, Culum Brown, published an exhaustive study a few years back that included the building of intricate underwater mazes. He showed how several varieties of fish could memorize and remember escape routes only a year after first encountering them. Taking into account that a lot of these fish typically live only one or two years in the wild, they mostly had a memory that “lasts a lifetime.”

How Smart are Fish?These weren’t laboratory engineered, super-genius fish. In fact, one of the first fish used in the study was trout from a river by Brown’s house.

By the way, that whole “three-second memory” in goldfish thing, total nonsense. There have been multiple studies concluding goldfish can remember things as long as five months.

Considering the intelligence of fish, it makes sense why a popular lake’s numbers of caught fish can suddenly, mid-season, taper off when people are using the same bait. Imagine hundreds of people, dropping crankbait, flipping jibs or high-frequency spinnerbaits into a relatively small area, all attempting to catch the same population of bass.

Through scientific studies, we know when the average bass is hooked, it will associate that trauma with the sound of the bait, making the chance of a subsequent bite decrease.

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As with people, there is a vast range among individual fish IQs. For example, after tagging bass at a great catch and release lake in Michigan, one study found that most of them were only caught one or two times in a whole season. However, there were also a few individual bass caught as many as a dozen times.

The fish who evade being hooked, can’t rely on the easier caught fish to take all the hooks. Where’s the sport in that? Time to switch things around and get creative. Maybe glue a worm rattle to the underbelly of a flutter spoon or combine brands of crankbait.

Don’t get upset on those slow days when nothing is biting. It could mean the fish, on that day, are smarter than you.

Have you ever been lost in the fishing and found yourself stuck with a huge question? Want a pro answer? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!


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Brent is a Sponsored Bass Angler from Murfreesboro, TN, where he is enjoying the single life of a tournament fisherman.

Brent is a Sponsored Bass Angler from Murfreesboro, TN, where he is enjoying the single life of a tournament fisherman.

Travis is a lifelong fishing enthusiast from the Gulf Coast of Texas. He specializes in salt water and coastal fishing.

Travis is a lifelong fishing enthusiast from the Gulf Coast of Texas. He specializes in salt water and coastal fishing.

Chef Bobby is a Chef and Cookbook Author. He loves to share his knowledge of cooking and handling of fish with our community.

Chef Bobby is a Chef and Cookbook Author. He loves to share his knowledge of cooking and handling of fish with our community.

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