You’re used to fishing on your lonesome, but a friend has been begging you for months to go fishing with them. Once you two are on the boat, they begin carrying out a conversation at full volume. You’re concerned your friend could scare away the fish with their voice. Is this true or just a myth?
Your voice cannot scare the fish away, so there’s no need to be ultra-quiet when fishing. Conversations happening above the water’s surface cannot penetrate the water well enough for fish to hear, especially fish lingering at lower depths.
In today’s article, we’ll talk further about which sounds will spook fish versus those that won’t so you can fish with confidence. Make sure you keep reading, as there’s lots of great information to come!
Is Talking Okay When Fishing or Will I Scare the Fish Away?
Some anglers don’t like talking when fishing because it breaks their concentration. Others refrain from chatting as they fear their voices will travel into the water and reach the fish. They then assume that the fish will hightail it, leading to a day of disappointing fishing.
That’s not what happens though. To explain what does transpire, we must talk about how sound travels, especially in water.
When you open your mouth and speak, your voice releases vibrations in the form of sound. The sound moves in waves, which is why they’re appropriately called sound waves.
The sound waves vibrate any nearby objects. Then those objects vibrate, causing other objects in the vicinity to do the same. These vibrations allow the sound to travel.
Sound can move very quickly, which is why the idiom “at the speed of sound” is so popular. Per second, sound will travel at 332 meters, which is slower than light but still incredibly quick. In the water, sound can move even faster compared to sound moving through the air.
Water pressure and temperature dictate how far the sound waves will travel once they reach the water. The deeper the water, the higher the pressure, although water temperature might not decrease by much.
In deep water, the sound waves will travel slower, and the waves will refract deeper. If the sound reaches the thermocline layer, which is the transitory layer in the ocean that separates warm and cooler water, then the sound can’t get any slower.
The reason is that as sound travels further and further, it gets weaker and weaker.
So what does this tell us? Deep water will prevent sound from traveling quickly, and by the time it reaches that point, the sound wave is weak. Thus, your voice shouldn’t bother the fish. If they hear you, the sound would be unlikely to scare them.
Can I Have a Loud Conversation When Fishing?
Okay, but perhaps your buddy always talks loudly as we mentioned in the intro. It’s one thing if you two are in a crowded bar or restaurant, but out in the lake or river where conditions are mostly quiet, there’s no need for such a high volume when having a conversation. Yet they do it anyway.
Is your friend’s volume liable to scare the fish away? Again, nope!
The volume of a sound, or how loud it is, is measurable using decibels. The decibels technically measure the intensity or energy of a pressure wave.
The standard pressure of water is different than air’s standard pressure due to the higher density of water. Decibel levels from the air to the water don’t convert well either.
When you consider that volume doesn’t make sound waves travel any faster, then you can see once more why the tone of your conversation does not affect the fish in the water.
This means your friend can talk loudly, and in addition, you can laugh, scream, and shout and the fish should usually remain unperturbed.
That’s not to say that local wildlife in the area such as squirrels, birds, or deer wouldn’t be upset by your loud sounds!
Can I Play Music on My Fishing Boat or Will That Scare the Fish?
You love hearing the chirping of the birds and the song of the insects, but sometimes you want to listen to some actual songs too. Nowadays, you don’t even have to bring a portable radio with you on your fishing adventures. You can stream music from your phone.
If you’re having a rocking time on your boat, is the music going to get under the water’s surface and cause the fish to scatter?
No more than a conversation would, even a loud conversation. Your smartphone doesn’t have the greatest volume, so if you cranked it, the sound shouldn’t be terrifying to fish.
Let’s say you’re a little more old-school and you did indeed bring a portable radio for your day of fishing. Turning up the volume wouldn’t be enough to scare the fish either, as you know from the last section that sound waves don’t increase in speed just because they’re louder.
What scares fish most are vibrations close to the water. You’d have to bring a professional sound system with a subwoofer and a bass booster on your boat for the music to elicit any reaction from the fish.
You’re not going to do that in a million, bazillion years. Thus, this is a non-issue.
Okay, one more question as it pertains to music. What if you’re having a pre-fishing party by the shoreline and the tunes are pumping loud? Perhaps you did bring a subwoofer or a bass booster. Would an activity like this jolt the fish into hiding?
Possibly, but it depends. Sound can’t travel infinitely, and its ability to travel slows the further the distance away from the source of the sound. Thus, if your party is several feet back from the water, you probably wouldn’t have to worry about the sound reaching the fish.
If you’re partying right on the shoreline, like right on the edge, then you could perturb the fish. Even then, it would depend on how deep the fish are in the water. Those fish towards the surface would certainly feel the vibrations from your music, but those deeper in the water may not.
Will My Boat’s Motor Spook the Fish?
To reiterate, the sounds that will spook fish are those that cause vibrations very close to the water. These are typically booming sounds such as your subwoofer, but what about the trolling motor of your boat?
Most motors will scare fish, but not all. It’s the propeller sounds that are scariest to fish, so even if your engine is a loud two-stroke outboard, by reducing throttle, you might not cause the fish to scatter.
It’s also recommended that once you choose a gear, you stick with it. Changing gears–especially for louder engines–only adds more noise to the equation.
That’s not all. The following boat sounds can also scare fish.
Does your boat have any attached hatches? If the water currents cause the hatch to lift from the side of the boat and then slam into it repeatedly, this could explain why you’re not catching any fish today.
The most egregious offense is if the hatch and your boat are made of fiberglass. Anglers have said that the fiberglass on fiberglass impact is so loud underwater that to fish, it almost sounds like a gun is going off. No wonder the fish don’t stick around!
All boats have a chine, or the angled hull cross-section designed to break up the waves. Some boats even feature a reverse chine on the hull’s underside edges that enhances the smoothness of your boating experience.
When water hits the chine, especially a reverse chine, fish don’t particularly like the sound. They will exit the area.
Here’s an interesting one. Your boat probably releases direct current or DC current, but not to the point where you notice it. The fish do notice though, and how they react seemingly varies by species.
Supposedly, some fish are drawn in by the current, which explains why there are fish tools out there that use magnets and electrical currents to help you catch more fish. Most fish though are probably going to be repelled by the current, FYI!
The next time you go fishing with your buddies, there’s no need to be as quiet as a church mouse. Unless it’s a very loud motor, a booming subwoofer, or a boat hatch hitting the side of your fiberglass boat, noise can’t travel to the water easily. A conversation–even a loud one–is certainly not enough to scare the fish away!