Small brain ? stupid fish with dull wits

2013-05-25 00:00

WE all know that goldfish have a three-second memory, so why does it take anglers years to master the art of fishing? Surely fish should be easily hoodwinked by an angler.

Anglers spend hundreds of thousands of rands on fishing tackle every year when it is likely that a breadcrumb left over from yesterday’s lunch would work just as well.

Fishing is not an episode of Survivor, yet there we stand weekend after weekend, pitting our efforts against a creature one-tenth our size, only so that we can come back next weekend to do it all over again. We definitely aren’t managing to outwit, outplay or outlast the fish.

Fish probably make a game out of it. “Hey Gills, it’s your turn. You should have seen me last weekend. That fisherman really thought he had me but, I showed him”. I bet that they are laughing their fins off.

If you’ve ever had a fish tank, you will know that it is only a myth that fish have only a three-second memory. Fish don’t make good pets, but one thing is certain — they quickly figure out who feeds them. Though they may not greet you with the same enthusiasm as your pet Labrador, they can certainly keep time better than any dinner bell.

Research carried out on fish has shown that they are capable of remembering events long since passed. Much as we know that fish can be found in certain areas at certain times of the year, fish can be found in those areas because they know that there will be food there.

Fish come in all shapes and sizes, but the one feature they all share is their uncanny ability to remember their experiences, despite the size of their brains.

Logic tells us that if fish have memories, then surely some fish can remember being caught. This is possibly why fish will shy away from lures which have previously duped their senses. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Anglers thus have to stay one step ahead of the game and ensure that they do not fall into a comfort zone and be continuously tempted to throw the same lures.

The older — and therefore frequently the larger — fish are often the most cautious, supporting the theory that this may be how they have come to be so large while the less cautious fish are picked off at an early age. Large fish have more life experience and are thus unlikely to be as easily fooled by lures in regular use.

Researchers speculate that fish that are treated well after being caught are more likely to be caught again. This is presumably due to the fact that the experience has not been traumatic enough to have been entrenched in their memories; or that the risk is worth the reward of getting a delicious titbit to nibble on.

This all indicates that fish are aware of their surroundings and — more than that — that they are skilled students, masters of their environment.

Anglers should learn from the behaviour of their prey as well as from their own experience because though their brains may be smaller, time and again they have proven that their wits are sharper.

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