A World Wide Web fishing expedition

Anglers: Those interested in the sport can find out about gear, guides and hot spots -- and hook up with other fishermen -- online.

March 14, 2002|By Kevin Washington | Kevin Washington,SUN STAFF

Most of us learn to fish from a dad or uncle who threads a worm on a hook when we're preschoolers -- teaching us patience in the midst of anticipation of that first tug on our lines.

But for those who want to immerse themselves in pursuit of piscatorial prey without a traditional mentor -- such as 40-year-olds with an interest in learning to fly fish -- the Web is a treasure trove of information and tips for beginners and experts alike.

Like many hobbies that find their way onto the Internet, fishing has enthusiastic webmasters who are fanatical participants in the sport. But fishing enthusiasts also benefit from the efforts of state departments of natural resources, which share public information, and an entire industry of tackle dealers and fishing guides offering their wares and services online.

Many of the sites are true labors of love that require hundreds of hours' work and thousands of dollars invested in software and Web space. Some provide the basics for those who know next to nothing about fishing, while others offer gigabytes of once-secret information -- hot spots for largemouth bass, the best lures for striped bass and the most picturesque places to catch brown trout in, say, Wyoming.

About the only thing you can't do on the Web is hook a real fish (although you can try to catch the virtual variety at gaming sites).

Not surprisingly, most anglers want information about when and where they're biting, according to fishing page webmasters.

Dave Kile's Pennsylvania Fly Fishing site (www.paflyfish.com) has been guiding anglers to our northern neighbor's extensive trout waters since 1995.

"It's not for profit -- I wanted to give back to what people taught me about fishing," he says.

His site has 7,000 stream reports going back seven years, allowing people to find critical information, such as when green drakes (an insect that trout snack on) hatch on all of the state's streams.

"I really wanted to put maps and fishing spots on the Web -- bringing the two together for fishermen," says Kile, who works at Ease Technology, a software development company in Columbia. Over the years, the site has grown to hundreds of pages -- so many that Kile says he's lost track. About 10,000 visitors stop by every week, including a core group of anglers who routinely use the site's message boards to share information.

Because the Web is everywhere, many anglers who visit Kile's site and others not only find fishing partners online, but also organize roundups of anglers who meet at specific locations for fishing jamborees.

Similar gatherings are organized through the Internet's Usenet newsgroups, which serve as online bulletin boards for anglers with specialized interests in largemouth bass, fly fishing, saltwater fishing and other rod-and-reel pursuits.

Bass, the number one target of anglers in the United States, are the topic at a host of solidly run Web sites. Among the better ones are: www.bassdozer. com, a portal to many fishing Web sites; www.probass.net, with updates on professional bass fishing tournaments; and www.bassangler.com, which has a flea market and a variety of forums.

Riversmallies.com, a Web site created in 1999 to promote catch-and-release fishing, offers a comprehensive look at fishing for smallmouth bass. If you have any doubts that smallmouth bass can be caught in mid-winter, for example, head to the site's photo gallery, where you'll see pictures from only a few weeks ago.

Articles on fishing techniques and reviews of materials and equipment -- including books, lures, fishing rods and digital cameras to record your expeditions -- coexist with company-sponsored forums where anglers give advice on basic techniques applicable to any river as well as specific tricks for favorite fishing holes.

The site www.bassfishinghomepage. com got its start in the early 1990s when Jerry Lebing and Mark Kutsko first teamed up in Northern Virginia to create Web pages for Realtors -- at a time when there were only 100,000 Web sites in existence around the world. Lebing, who fishes every chance he gets, wanted to put together a hobby page, too.

Most of their real estate sites fizzled, but their bass page became one of the hottest fishing sites in the country, and they followed it with a saltwater fishing page. Both can be reached at www.angler world.com.

The sites have 225,000 to 300,000 unique viewers every month and boasts 500,000 pages of articles and information on fishing. Banner ads cover the cost of running the site, while both Lebing and Kutsko, who have technological backgrounds, work full-time jobs to support themselves.

"When I started, it was about sharing my knowledge," says Lebing. "A few of the guys got on there and said, `Why don't you give us a two-way street?'"

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