Retirement number crunching with River King Dave Bureau

You meet people throughout life that you hope you end up like someday.  In my day job, I’ve been able to meet a lot of people over the years planning their financial futures.  They often want to know what money they need to save or if they have already saved enough to live the life they want when they are done working.  They want to know if they’ve reached “their number” or need someone to run the numbers to affirm their decision to stop working, buy a lake house, or maybe gift to their grandchildrens’ education funds.

Seeing this enough times has served as inspiration for starting this blog.  Rather than waiting until I’m done working to experience and then write about the fishing, travel, and nature experiences I’ve always wanted to do, I attempt to squeeze in 5 hours a week to get a preview of that retirement dream now without neglecting the key responsibilities of today.  Through this blog I get to meet and profile people in the world of fishing I find interesting.  Dave Bureau is no exception, basically living today the retirement I someday dream about.  He picked a great name for his Instagram (@river_king) and we’ve followed each other the past few months.  Dave is not fishing the Seychelles, Iceland, or Patagonia every year but he’s got access to a dozen plus species in his backyard that provide plenty of variety.   Plus he’s not just getting numbers but also hauling in the big movers from Catfish, Drum, and Buffalo, to Stripers, Bass, and Bluegill, on to Brook, Brown, and Rainbow trout.

What I love about Dave and his retirement is that he’s a numbers guy through and through.  The numbers involved in his plan for retirement however are all about the fish to catch.  4,000 being the goal for this year alone, he’s had some challenges you’ll learn about in this piece but he’s still moving towards that goal (if not this year, he may be “burdened” with trying again next).  It’s an admirable feat to shoot for and is what has been missing in many people I’ve met over the years.  Even if you have the time and money, you need to have a passion once you are work-life independent to drive you out of bed each day and keep you active.  Dave’s story should not only inspire you but also give you a few tips to try on your own waterways!

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started fishing? I’m a husband, Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Vietnam Vet, Marine Corp helicopter pilot, Dawg Fan and retired High School Science Teacher with a fishing addiction.
Of all the things I’ve done, fishing has always been the one constant throughout my life. No one in my family ever fished, and I really don’t know where this passion came from, but I can’t ever remember not fishing. Also, I wasn’t very good at it for my first 50 years. I just struggled along, and accidentally caught fish. I drifted into tournament fishing, and I can confirm that dragging a Carolina Rig for 5 bass a day is really boring. I remember one particular episode that was a tipping point in my fishing. During a tournament, my partner and I stumbled onto a school of big stripers feeding up a river, and we were catching 20 pounders, one after the other. When I heard the boat motor start and my partner told me to break off the fish I had on because he was tired of wasting his time. That was the end of bassing for me, and the beginning of my multi-species fishing.
I sold my bass boat, bought a 16 foot aluminum jon boat and started fishing rivers and catching fish. I went after anything that would tug on my line ….. gar, bream, Skipjack, mudfish, catfish, hybrids, trout, white bass, yellow bass, drum, stripers… it didn’t make any difference, if it was swimming in a river that fish was on my list. I quickly understood that fish are not hard to catch, but you have to be there when they are, so catching than becomes a timing issue. This is where a Fishing Log comes into play. I record notes on every trip I make which includes the weather and water conditions, the lures, and the fish caught. Over time, patterns begin to emerge, and I learned when to be at certain locations to catch. Over the years, this resulted in a 12 month Fishing Calendar to keep me on biting fish all year around. Each of these specific species and timing events, I call a program.

Every species of fish is different in its requirements. They seek cold and warm water refuges at different times, they feed at certain times, they inhabit different environments, and they spawn at different times. In particular, it is the spawning activity that I key in on, because fish are most vulnerable when they swim up rivers in mass and create target rich environments behind dams and Shoals for the angler. The striped fish do it in the Spring, and the salmon and trout do it in the Fall. Many spawning areas are famous and common knowledge. Others have to be sought out through word of mouth, fishing boards, and magazine articles. I always say the best tool I have for catching fish is my I-Phone because I’m always using it to read fishing articles, check fishing boards and look at U-Tube videos, which are all great sources of fishing locations and techniques.
All fisheries are not created equal. Many are great for only 2 months of the year. Others are great year around. Also, fisheries come and fisheries go. I try to put my self on great fisheries year around, but most of the programs I currently fish weren’t on my itinerary five years ago. Floods wash hybrids over dams and create new fisheries, drought reduces river flows and destroys the spawn, invasive species move in and kill or create new opportunities, dams that provide cold water for trout have problems and the cold water is lost and the fishery is destroyed, and on and on. So part of my fishing strategy every year is researching new programs to replace old ones that are failing. It’s extremely difficult to show up at an unknown fishery and catch. Timing is critical along with baits, and fish locations. It is so true that 90% of the fish occupy only 10% of the water. For example, I have a program that is only available for two weeks in April, the fish are stacked behind a discharge manifold on the river bottom spawning, and they are keyed in on green jigs, it’s 100+,3 pound fish a day and it’s been happening like clockwork for the last 7 years. It’s a very tiny area that I found just by accident, and I feel fortunate it has lasted this long. Secrecy is important in fishing.

Can you elaborate on the numbers caught goal for this year and what’s with the counter?

Every year, I try to challenge myself to keep my fishing interesting to me. Last year my goal was a big Brown Trout, and I caught one that was 29” and 14lbs 6ozs. Before that, I decided to move from jerkbaits to jigs. Another year, it was fishing 125 days. This year, my goal is to catch 4000 fish and I’m having a tough time. All the rain this Spring really hurt my white bass and trout programs with high muddy water. Also, my summer striper program has had 3 consecutive years of poor spawning, and the the daily catch rate is way down. I was hoping to have caught about 3000 fish by now, but I’ve only touched 2300 so far. In the Fall, I spend a lot of time fishing for trophy Browns, and my catch rate per trip goes way down. So, I’m going to have to change my Fall fishing programs this year if I’m going to make 4000 fish.  Also, the numbers of fish that I catch are only relevant to me and my programs. There are people that catch a lot more fish than I do, and anglers that catch a lot less. I typically touch 3000 to 3500 fish a year, and I knew if I set a goal of 4000, that would push me to become better at catching fish, so that’s where that number comes from.

The counter that I use to keep up with my catches is essential to insure accuracy. I have several, and on days I’m catching multi-species, I’ll have one devoted to each species. I don’t trust my old brain with numbers anymore.

My goal every time I go fishing is to catch 100 fish. It happens a lot in the Spring, but it’s tough to do in the Summer and the Fall. Another goal I try to accomplish at least once a year is the 1000 pound day, which I have done several times over the years behind dams. That last time I did it, I had 631lbs on 71 drum, 283lbs on 227 Skipjack, 42lbs on 11 hybrids, 78lbs on 6 striper, and 27lbs on 3 catfish. This is fishing craziness. After 100 fish, it gets to be work…work …. work, but if you like catching, it’s memorable, and you get really good with hook sets, drag settings, and playing fish.

What are the unique fishing opportunities near you, favorite kind of fishing to do, tackle tips or tricks?

My favorite fish to catch are trout because they live in beautiful places. In particular, I have a fetish for big Brown Trout. Also, I’m not a fly fisherman. I love my spinning rods and Ci4 Striadic reels, and I feel they are the most efficient fish catching tool available to river anglers. I typically set up my rods with yellow Fireline as my main line attached to a fluorocarbon leader with Duo Snap clip to attach the bait. Fireline, like braid, gives me a feel for the bait that I don’t get with monofilament. Also, it handles well, it’s strong, it will cast a long way, and it gives excellent long distance hook sets. In addition, I like using yellow because I can frequently see bites before I feel them. Also this year, I’ve been fishing a lot without a leader because of problems with the connection between the main line and the fluorocarbon. All leader knots take a beating going through the guides and must be constantly retied before it breaks. Also, I color the yellow Fireline with a black magic marker when I don’t use a leader, and I haven’t noticed any change In catch rates, even in clear water.

That’s a quick outline of what I do. I hope it helps others that enjoy the bite as much as I do. I really feel that catching fish comes down to exposure. It sounds trite, but the more you fish, the more you catch because you have a greater chance of being on the water when the bite is happening. Also, It’s hard to get into depth on so many topics in a short article like this, so If I can answer any questions, please contact me on Instagram.

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Patrick Ritter

Patrick Ritter is the founder of River King Fishing, LLC.  Raised near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the outdoors, especially fishing, has always been a passion.