Planning For 2023

What are your angling goals for the year ahead?

by Craig Ritchie

The key to successful fishing trips lies in research and planning, so you get exactly the kind of experience you wanted.
December is a busy time of year for all of us. With the ice finally choking launch ramps shut it's time at last to put the boat away, get in your last licks with late-season steelhead before that too wraps up for the year, and break out the auger and portable ice hut if you haven't already done so for that first-ice bonanza.

But it's also time to start thinking about next season, and planning trips for the coming year.

I think most of us enjoy visiting the winter fishing shows and talking to the outfitters. But I doubt many people put a lot of thought into it before they leave the house. That's a mistake, and one which could cost you opportunities if it delays your booking decision and you wind up losing out on the best available weeks.

Before heading to the shows, I like to think about what it is I want to accomplish in the year ahead, and then I book my travel around that. Most of these trips fall into one of three categories.

Catch Familiar Fish in Different Situations

Most of my trips fall into this first category, where I'm targeting old favourites like bass, walleye, pike or lake trout, but looking to catch them in a different location or with different techniques than I can when fishing on my local lakes.
Chasing familiar species in different surroundings allows you to experiment with new techniques and enjoy opportunities beyond what's available at home.
I think a big part of that comes down to where we live, since no one will travel halfway across the country to do something they can already do at home. It's been a while since I've been sight fishing for big pike in shallow water - I can't do that where I live. So that's definitely on my 2023 trip planning radar, and an example of enjoying a different experience with a familiar species.

Catch New Species

Variety is the spice of life, and sometimes the opportunity to catch species I can't catch at home is a big draw.

A couple of years ago I booked an early season trip with a lodge in Tennessee that offered the chance to catch spotted bass. Now understand, at least in this particular lake spotted bass aren't normally much more than a pound or two in weight, and in that area, they're not really considered a big draw. Most people come to the lodge to catch smallmouth bass instead. But for a guy who has caught thousands of smallmouths in my life yet had never even seen a spotted bass up close, that was enough. I went down with a couple of friends, we caught a bunch of spotties and had a great time. We caught plenty of nice smallmouth too, but it was the spotted bass that we still talk about.

There can be a lot of fun in taking trips to try your hand at species you've never caught before, beyond the opportunity to learn new things.

Scratch One Off My Bucket List

I don't confine my fishing travel into just my summer holiday - the fact is I book lots of short trips right through the season. So what about that big summer getaway? That's reserved for scratching something off my bucket list.

Drive down to Florida to catch a tarpon? Done it. Head for the east coast to surf fish for stripers and bluefish? Check. Fly into the far north for Arctic char and grayling? Loved it.

If you're going to take a week out of your life to go away on a fishing trip, doing a bit of pre-planning can let you check off those bucket list experiences at the same time. It doesn't have to be stupidly expensive if you plan ahead. But planning is the key.

Planning trips to new locations is a great way to scratch items off your bucket list.
For 2023 I want to go to British Columbia to catch a giant sturgeon. It's been on my bucket list for years, and it's time to do something about that. So when I go to the winter shows, I'm not heading out blindly to just collect brochures - I've already done my research, and narrowed it down to a short list of potential outfitters I want to meet in person and speak with further. This is a more expensive trip because there are flights involved, making pre-planning research essential. That's been fun, but the real reward comes in knowing I'll be able to make the best possible decision and lock in the best time to be there while other anglers are still thinking about it.

Fishing trips are a lot of fun, but to get the most from your time and money, planning now pays big dividends - especially if it's a big trip for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Author Craig Ritchie
Craig Ritchie
About the author:
Over a near 40-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, Craig Ritchie has fished all over the globe for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The author of The Complete Guide To Getting Started In Fishing, he has written thousands of articles for magazines, websites and newspapers worldwide, appeared as a guest on several television fishing programs and won numerous awards for his writing and photography. He lives in the Great Lakes region where great fishing is as close as his own back yard.

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