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FISHING BY CYBERNETICS
Frank Cameron
November 29, 1954
When Leon Adams got fed up with his bad luck in striper fishing around San Francisco Bay, he installed an International Business Machines tabulator to help out. The result: ten years' data filed on IBM cards, an unbeatable system and a Fish-of-the-Week Club to help dispose of his striper surplus
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November 29, 1954

Fishing By Cybernetics

When Leon Adams got fed up with his bad luck in striper fishing around San Francisco Bay, he installed an International Business Machines tabulator to help out. The result: ten years' data filed on IBM cards, an unbeatable system and a Fish-of-the-Week Club to help dispose of his striper surplus

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There came a dawn in 1946 when Adams awoke to a day on which splendid ideas were born. The Wine Institute had installed an IBM tabulating machine to compile the results of a marketing survey. This gave Adams his cue. Here was the pot in which he could stew his fish facts, skim off such fatty nonsense as the stage of the moon and the effects of muddy water, leaving some clear conclusions.

TAKE A CARD

That very night, with the help of his teen-age sons, Jerry and Brian, Adams began transferring all his bass lore onto IBM cards.

The transfer to IBM cards took about two years. Adams divided the area into almost 100 localities, each with a coded number (e.g., the Rio Vista district was designated 0-4-5; Mission Rock in San Francisco Bay, 0-2-2, etc.). For each of these localities, he punched a card for each week of the 10-year period during which they had been studied. The cards noted date, place and other data plus Adams' own evaluation of the recorded catch (e.g., Grade 1 was no fish; Grade 5, the highest, was three or more fish per man per day).

Then one day in April 1948, Adams asked his robot where he should fish tomorrow. Out of the tabulator came the reply: localities 0-1-0 (the San Pablo Bay waters off Hamilton Field) and 0-5-6.

He chose 0-5-6, an area around Venice Island in the San Joaquin River. It supported the iron kibitzer's advice in convincing fashion by yielding seven fish (taken among three men) including a 15-pounder.

The system continued to work well. In 1948, to cite a typical year, Adams made a total of 49 trips with an average of 3 4/5 persons aboard. While a four-fifth man is often a nuisance around a boat, he and the other three caught approximately 9 7/10 bass per trip amounting to an annual total of 474 fish for the Fishfinder. Also, in one 23? month period, between January 1951 and December 1952, the Fishfinder made 98 consecutive trips without once being skunked.

THE FISH-FINDER

Meanwhile Adams unnecessarily bolstered his theoretical findings by tabulating the results of 2,000 party-boat reports which, by law, are made to the California Department of Fish and Game. Then from all sources he compiled a fish-finding calendar of the entire Bay delta, showing week by week throughout the year where fishing is poor, average and good. This is the most popular feature of his book, published last year, Striped Bass Fishing in California and Oregon .

Adams' consistent success is not strictly a triumph of either man over the machine or the machine over fish. While either the tabulator or his fish-finding calendar can tip him off to the most likely spot in any given week, once there the fish must still be caught. This means trial and error in anchorages, lures and rigs. To allow for these variations, he solicits all last-minute local advice. He also looks for such indexes as tide rips and the activities of gulls, pelicans and "sea pigeons." Then, if all else fails, he does what you or I would do and anchors a courteous distance from the nearest excited angler with the arched rod who is hauling in the fish to beat hell.

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