Fish intellegence; Just how smart are they?

RedRidingHood

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Time and time again, I go to my local and have conversations with the locals and one topic always eventually get brought up; Fish intelligence. These people will argue down to their last dying breath that fish are incredibly clever, much more intelligent than we seem to think they are. Being polite, non argumentative and someone who's always open to hear others opinions I kind of go along with what their saying openly with a 'Yea, Yes, Yea' but in the back of my mind I can't help but laugh to myself at some of the stuff people say.

Now, I'm not saying fish are incredibly stupid by any means (I am really), But I find people seem to confuse intelligence with instinct a lot. A lot of people will argue that if fish are stupid, Why do they always try run you into snags, lillypads and reed beds and such? Well to me, That's just pure instant and not intelligence at all. If species didn't have basic instincts and knowledge as simple as running/swimming to cover to evade predators, Those species would probably be driven to extinction quite quickly.

I go to the same pond, Week in week out and I use the same method time and time again, And I catch the same fish over and over again. If fish are so intelligent why do they fall for the same methods over and over again? Why aren't they able to comprehend that a big blob of unnatural food, such as pellets or groundbait just randomly sitting in the middle of an all natural pond attached to a big heavy weight is probably a gift from god and not a trap extremely similar to that of what they were caught by just yesterday?

Why aren't they able to comprehend that a big, unnatural pink, red, blue, bubble float with a big juicy dog biscuit or piece of bread bobbing around 6 inches away from it is probably not a great idea?

I notice this is a big marketing ploy for brands with sponsors saying lines such as; 'Fish aren't stupid you know, But if you buy this product or this bait, It'll continue to trick them into thinking X Y or Z.' to get people to purchase their products; A really good example of this (And I'm not discrediting them) are Washters which are sold to the public under the impression that Carp are able to recognise the difference of newly thrown in bait which they'll ignore because they see it as a trick, And Washters which have a 'Washed out' look which the carp will recognise as a bait that's obviously been sitting on the bottom for quite some time thus deemed 'safe' for consumption. Again, I'm not discrediting them but this does sound like overthought nonsense to me which gives fish in general way more credit than they deserve. Not to mention that after using both the 'Washter' and the 'Wafter' on several venues I've never noticed a difference between the two. It's entirely possible I just haven't fished venues with these 120 IQ Carp though.

Being a forum crammed with people who cherish fish, I do hope this doesn't start a shitstorm.

What's your opinion on this subject?
 

Yorkieboy70

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Every animal on this planet including humans have an inquisitive nature. Some animals have paws to check things out, humans have hands, how many people know something is hot but still touch it ? We know that chillies are hot but a lot of us will still try them to see how hot they are. Fish can only check something out with their mouths, sure they know that sometimes they will get caught, think they also know that there are many many free offerings. Once hooked most fish will obviously try to get away, they know there way around the waters they live in and will head for any place of protection they can. Overall fish are probably quite intelligent just there weakness allows them to be caught.
 

smiffy

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A lot of it is down to reflex rather than intelligence. Doing something without thinking. Instinct comes into the same bracket.
 

Ken the Pacman

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anthropomorphism the application of human traits to dumb animals is a dangerous road to follow, it starts with giving fish pet names and gets worse from there.
In my youth I used to have a big pond in my mothers garden containing a mixture of wild and shop bought fish and I would catch them on a hook and line with any bait you wanted and it was common to catch the same fish over and over again the same day, I could unhook them and watch after I had returned them sulk on the bottom but in a few minutes they were taking free offerings as if nothing had happened.
On the subject of washed out baits one of the firms sells a washed out liquid to glug them in ....whats that then H2o :unsure:
 

tipitinmick

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anthropomorphism the application of human traits to dumb animals is a dangerous road to follow, it starts with giving fish pet names and gets worse from there.
In my youth I used to have a big pond in my mothers garden containing a mixture of wild and shop bought fish and I would catch them on a hook and line with any bait you wanted and it was common to catch the same fish over and over again the same day, I could unhook them and watch after I had returned them sulk on the bottom but in a few minutes they were taking free offerings as if nothing had happened.
On the subject of washed out baits one of the firms sells a washed out liquid to glug them in ....whats that then H2o :unsure:
The kings clothes all over again pal. ?
 

Sam Vimes

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Fish aren't overly intelligent and they are largely instinct driven eating and breeding machines. However, where food is plentiful, they are invariably a much trickier angling proposition. Fish waters with low stocks, and/or plenty of natural food, and they are much harder to catch. Only when their need to eat is greater than their instinctive wariness do they become easy to catch. This situation is commonplace on densely stocked waters but can also occur on low stocked waters at certain times. The types of water an individual fishes will largely inform their opinions on whether fish are stupid and easy to catch or not.

When it comes to specific indications of intelligence and learning, they are usually just an indication of born of survival instinct and natural wariness. I know plenty of anglers that have witnessed entire beds of loosefeed cleared leaving just solitary hookbaits untouched. This isn't likely to happen on densely stocked waters. Some suggest this kind of thing as being evidence of intelligence. I'm not convinced that it's anything other than evidence of instinct.
However, having seen video evidence of fish doing unusual things to rid themselves of a picked up rig, I do tend to believe that they can indeed learn and are at least a bit more intelligent than we often think. However, I'm equally convinced that some fish learn that being caught is a price worth paying for a free meal. More than the odd low stocked water holds a resident mug fish that gets caught with alarming regularity. These fish are often amongst the biggest fish in their year class for the waters concerned.

Ultimately, successful angling is all about overcoming instinctive wariness and whatever low level of learning they might acquire over time. Pick your times and locations well on low stocked waters and fish will still appear to be as thick as mince. If you want to find kamikaze fish, look for waters where stocking densities are high and/or food resources low.
 

Cobweb

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Wow! I guess I'm going to have to take a stab at trying to define intelligence. My understanding is that intelligence revolves around the creation and use of memories rather than anything else which does not involve learning. In an oversimplified way, at an instinctive level every creature has an innate need to feed to survive, procreate, identify threats and seek protection from harm, be it the elements or predators. On that basis I would struggle to find a reason for attributing intelligence to fish.
 

rudd

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Any one who lure fishes can vouch for fish intelligence!
Had many a Perch follow a lure to bank, look at me, shake its head then swim off laughing ?

In all honestly when fish have to eat they can be caught but some get vary wary indeed.
Other are just mugs and keep coming back for more.
 

Cobweb

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Perch eat each other when there's nothing else around too!
 

Cobweb

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Any one who lure fishes can vouch for fish intelligence!
Had many a Perch follow a lure to bank, look at me, shake its head then swim off laughing ?

In all honestly when fish have to eat they can be caught but some get vary wary indeed.
Other are just mugs and keep coming back for more.
Darwinism in action?
 

Northantslad

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Love this subject,as you may gather, but bear with......
I always come down over half way in favour of the fish being given some credit, the fish we catch weren't born yesterday and that metaphor has real meaning doesn't it? I am convinced that fish learn, how often do we say they have wised up to something? Example taken from the OP is the bubble float 6 inches from the hook. When people first surface fish on a venue (new venue opened or newly changed rule to allow it), you may well catch like that, however a tail of 6ft or so may be needed as the fish learn, again over time, that the one close to that object is the unsafe one. Surface fishing is a great example to have used too, as the fishes re-action can be seen, possibly why many find the underwater footage fascinating viewing for methods and tactics that we are trying to guess what is going on/has gone on. Those who surface fish grasp also the attention to presentation needed in terms of how the bait sits in the surface film, wrong height and the fish won't touch it, again, on the venue where they have seen alot of it. That isn't instinct, they have seen it before the more the tactic is used. Throw in 50 surface baits and one with a hook on it and in 10 minutes you will be left with just the one out there sometimes, the one with the hook in it, that for me is a clever fish, using sight sense to be very sensible.

Instinct seems to me, to be a more immediate reaction, taking a chance on something and hoping it was the right instinctive decision. If the fish made the right decision in the first instance of experiencing a certain situation on instinct and it lead to a positive outcome (not hooked/caught) it may then continue to make the decision in that situation now based on experiential learning, its not now the first time it has come across the situation.

Got to use two experiences as examples using the fish i attempt to understand the most, Barbel. I have experienced and also witnessed more than once, a Barbel, immediately on being hooked, shooting straight into a snag in a second, a snag that it knew was there and may be utilized before?
The other one, again, involved a snag, this time the fight was more prolonged in a snag free area of the river, once i had the fish two thirds of the way in, its energy doubled and it constantly pulled in an odd direction, turned it once, then it fought even harder again for the same area of the river, with a determination i have never felt in any Barbel i have caught, well it got there and got free.

If though the above was set in stone though, you would never ever catch that fish or any fish more than once, it experienced a negative outcome. This is where the variables that enable us to catch these fish and more than once sometimes come in:

The fish having their guard down and being in the right mood- conditions and time of day based.
How reliant they are on anglers bait to sustain their life.
Rig presentation quality.

Using the first Barbel example above, the first time the fish was hooked, it instinctively went to try and free itself in the nearby snag i would imagine, when this worked, it then did it again and perhaps has done since, may be been caught in between too. It could however have been the first time it has been hooked, but i doubt it. The only reason it keeps getting caught (out) is because the presentation of the baited rig has been sufficiently good.
Thinking about both examples, i like to think, perhaps through my Barbel tinted glasses that the reason a snaggy swim is a Barbel swim, isn't just for the cover reasons, but for the escape route it offers them, in their knowledge that themselves and their friends have to eat, and they have balanced out the risk against the sustained supply of food given to them.

When fishing successfully, we are looking to catch them with their guard down or encouraging them to lower their guard with the right feeding strategy and have achieved it. If fish were 'daft', a word i chose and not one i feel the OP was inferring, we would all bag up every time we went, but no, only the skilled angler adapting to the intelligence or at least experience of the fish, continues to catch well, which again, must be testament to the fishes levels of learning, intelligence is required in order to learn isn't it?
 

Northantslad

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Be great to do an experiment, have the 50 free offerings sat lower down in the surface film and the hooked one just touching on top.....the fish reaction would vary dependent on how much of the tactic they see; experienced fish would ignore the freebies potentially, as we have taught them that it is the one down in the film that is the dangerous one or would they always be looking for always the odd one out. :unsure:
 

RedRidingHood

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Be great to do an experiment, have the 50 free offerings sat lower down in the surface film and the hooked one just touching on top.....the fish reaction would vary dependent on how much of the tactic they see; experienced fish would ignore the freebies potentially, as we have taught them that it is the one down in the film that is the dangerous one or would they always be looking for always the odd one out. :unsure:

A real fighting reply. Great read - Thanks for your thoughts!
 
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