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Fish Can Remember Their Experiences
by Jim Hendricks
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Jim Hendricks
Fish such as mako sharks can remember more than many previously believed, a scientific study suggests.

"Did he feel the steel?" That's a question some anglers ask after they miss a bite, assuming the fish will remember the less-than-natural feel of the metal hook. 

Yet, do fish really remember such experiences? I had assumed not, since I have caught a number of fish with hooks in their mouths from previous hookups.

Now scientists have proven that fish can remember, but not necessarily in the long term. 

"Canadian scientists...have demonstrated that fish can remember context and associations up to 12 days later," according to a report on Underwater Times.com. The researchers worked with African cichlids-- freshwater fish -- in an aquarium setting.

"Each fish was trained to enter a particular zone of the aquarium to receive a food reward, with each training session lasting twenty minutes," the report states. "After three training days, the fish were given a 12-day rest period. The fish were then reintroduced into their training arena and their movements recorded with motion-tracking software. It was found that the cichlids showed a distinct preference for the area associated with the food reward, suggesting that they recalled the previous training experiences." 

So does this mean a fish that is hooked with a particular bait or lure, but escapes (as in shaking the hook or catch and release) is not likely to bite the same type lure or bait again for at least 12 days?

Probably not, largely because a hooked fish does not receive the same kind of conditioned training for three consecutive days. But still, this suggests that fish can remember bad experiences, so you are not likely hook the same fish again on the same day he feels the steel.