BRISBANE, Australia, April 21 (UPI) -- New research out of the University of Queensland confirms what many fishermen likely already suspected -- the fish near angling hotspots are smarter.
Scientists from Queensland and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization found it was easier to trick fish into taking a baited hook in areas less frequented by anglers.
"Fish are smarter than we gave them credit for," Andrew Colefax, a student at Queensland's Center for Marine Science, said in a news release. "In high-intensity fishing areas, smaller fish that could not engulf the hook fed first with larger hook-susceptible fish hanging back and observing."
"By contrast, in nearby low-intensity fishing areas, the larger fish moved in quickly and attacked the bait," Colefax explained. "A small change in where you fish might greatly increase your catch."
The evidence is proof that fish learn from past experiences and from watching their peers reeled in by excited anglers. Every year, recreational fishermen catch more than 700,000 fish in Queensland.
Scientists are now curious to learn whether or not fish have spatial awareness of the risk of baited hooks. Do clever fish let down their guard when swimming in low-risk waters?
"It's possible that individual fish change their feeding behavior between nearby lightly fished and heavily fished sites," said marine ecologist Mick Haywood, a researcher with CSIRO.
The new research was published in the Journal of Marine Biology.