Articles, Blog

Fishing Small Lakes (1975)


Probably as long as there has been
water man has dangled a hook in it, trying in some kind of way, shape,
or fashion to catch a fish. One fisherman
will fish with success, feeling that magical tug
at the end of a line while another will go squirreling, even though he uses
identical equipment and bait. We know a lot of people
like to go fishing, and we also know quite a few
of them aren’t too successful. Maybe those who always
seem to come home with a stringer full of fish
know something the others don’t. That’s what this film is all about. Whenever a star athlete
gets in a slump, when he just can’t operate
at peak performance, he always goes back to basics. We’re going to talk about basics. Now a fisherman can have
a mountain of gear, one of everything on the market
and still not catch fish. Or he can go simply and cheaply,
have a heck of a good time and string a dinner
of mighty fine eating. Many times it’s not what kind
of fishing gear you use, it’s how you use it. When taking sunfish
out of a farm pond, there’s not a better rig
than a cane pole and the right kind of bait. Yes, sir,
the old earthworm is still one of the best baits around
for fish catching. When it’s put on the hook correctly
and quietly dropped in the water, there’s not a bluegill
around that can resist it. There’s no reason to try and get
fancy when baiting up with a worm, just lace him back and forth
with the hook. Sometimes you might have
to use a couple of worms because you want to offer
a wrinkling ball of bluegill dinner, and you don’t even
have to set the table, just drop him ever so gently
into the water. You can catch channel catfish
the same way, and we’ll talk about that later. A cane pole can be used
with other types of bait, like minnows, and it can
be used with grasshoppers. During the summer season
grasshoppers are readily available and they make a good bait
for latching onto sunfish. Hook the grasshopper lightly,
just under the collar, so his movement
won’t be hampered. Remove the cork and sinker and let the hopper rest
on the water’s surface. After a few kicks he’s going
to be spotted by a sunfish and well you know
what’s going to happen. But even the best plans
don’t always work. Now if you want
more sophisticated equipment you’re probably looking
at spinning or casting gear. This fellow is using
a closed-faced reel, good beginner equipment. With any spin gear you let
the wrist do the work. You don’t need to swing
the whole arm, a flick of the wrist does it. The rod tip is brought back
overheard and flicked forward, the thumb pressure is released, and the weight of the lure
carries the line from the reel. Then you change hands with
the rod and start the retrieve. When a fish strikes
you set the hook with a sharp wrist movement and
a backwards sweep of the rod tip so that the hook will be
firmly set in the fish’s mouth. The best advice on rod and reels
is to get a good matched set. A cheap rod is often too stiff
for casting ultra-light lures and the stiffness takes a lot of
the enjoyment out of playing the catch. As in any sport, practice
brings you closer to perfection and a near perfect cast
is many times required to get a bait back into a shady
spot under bankside brush, but that’s where
bluegill hang out. Isn’t he a beauty? Bluegill are great little fish. Bluegill also can be caught by a fisherman
who quietly walks the bank. Stay in the shadows
where possible and sometimes it helps to crouch down a bit
so you aren’t as easily seen. Cast toward fish using
the shallows and watch the cork. A bouncing cork
will signal a nibble. When the cork takes off
it’s time to set the hook. It’s a good thing bluegill
don’t grow to 20 pounds, you’d never land one of them. An ultra-light spin rod
and a matched open faced reel is the ultimate in communication
between fisherman and fish. It requires a real ability
to land a big fish on such a rig, but man, that’s where the fun is. Light spinning gear really works well
with the many styles of small lures. Such baits are excellent
for bluegill fishing. Of course, you’ll sometimes
latch onto a largemouth bass and with this light gear
you’ll really have your hands full. It could well be that
you’ll wind up with a broken line and a lost lure,
but well that’s part of fishing. Bass lures are of many kinds,
some look like fish and some
would get stomped on if seen crawling
across the kitchen floor. Some run deep,
some float on the surface, and some work at middle depth. What have you to remember is to offer the bait
as it would naturally appear. But if you really want to catch
bass you’d probably be better off using a casting rod that’s
stronger down toward the handle. Such a rod is called a bass rod and it’s built
to really horse an old bass around, one who’s determined he’s
headed for the weeds and brush. Surface baits like this one
should be worked slowly, like a frog or a wounded minnow. Take it easy,
fishing shouldn’t be a race. But a fisherman should remember
that a small lake or pond has a small bass population
and the population balance between predators and prey
can be easily upset if too many bass are removed. Take out a lot of bluegill
for each bass that you creel. Release the small bass
to fight another day. This may be
elementary fish management, but it can assure
good future fishing. We’ve talked
about bass and bluegill, but there’s ordinarily
a third fish inhabitant of the watery world
of ponds and small lakes, that’s the channel catfish. Like the bass,
the channel is a predator, but he’s not a very efficient
one and therefore he does most of his feeding
off the lake’s bottom. He can be caught
on about any type of gear, and while fishermen will defend
their individual technique, a good rig would consist of
a stout rod, a six or eight pound test line
on a closed or open faced reel, a sliding sinker,
a small split shot, and a number 1 or 2 sized hook. First the sliding sinker
is put on the line making sure that it slides freely. Next a small split shot is clamped about six inches
from the line’s end. The shot simply prevents
the sliding sinker from following the hook
while allowing the fish to freely take out line without
dragging the weight along. There are several good knots you
could use for tying on hooks, but the clinch knot
is one of the best and about the easiest to tie. It’s also a good idea to trim
any excess line from the knot. Once he’s rigged up, a fisherman has
to search out the best fishing location. One of the best spots
for channel catfish is an a long point of land
running into the main lake. A wind blowing toward
the fisherman is preferred because the wave action stirs small
particles of food from the bottom and thereby setting the table
for old whiskers. Catfish are not gourmets; they will eat anything
from baloney to tomatoes. Chicken livers, aged shrimp, and
stink baits are good, but probably one of the best baits is
the heart, liver, and lungs from winter killed game like rabbits,
quail, dove, and water fowl. Such baits can be saved from hunting
trips and frozen for later use. Or you could use the dependable
old earthworm. One of the best things about cat
fishing is that it’s so relaxing. There’s nothing strenuous about it. Bait up the hook and cast
the bait as far as possible. Let the bait settle to the bottom. Reel the line in until it is snug,
then release the line tension. Prop the rod up
with an old tree limb or stick and sit back and relax. Some fishermen prefer to pull
a few feet of line off the reel so the biting fish
will not feel the line. Let the biting fish nibble away
and pull out a few feet of line, then pick up the rod and set the hook
with a hefty swing of the rod tip. Don’t rush your strike. Although channel catfish
can reproduce in farm ponds, their young are usually eaten
by the bass and bluegills, so generally speaking there
will only be a few channels in each small impoundment. Handle the fish by their mouths
so they won’t be injured, and you won’t get a painful puncture
from the horned pectoral fins. If you want to stretch
your future fishing pleasure, keep the larger fish
and release the smaller ones. Don’t keep any
unless you intend to eat them. Well we’ve talked a bit about
methods of catching bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. We’ve made experts of no one;
that wasn’t intended. Besides, we’re not experts ourselves
when it comes to fish catching. But one of the nice things
about fishing is that there’s always
more to be learned and there’s a lot of enjoyment
to be had in doing it. A guy never solved world
problems while he’s fishing, but he’s not contributing
to them either. And crazy as it is,
there’s something very magical about the tug
on the end of a fishing line. So if you need any excuse, tell them you’re heading out
to a learning situation and let’s go fishing!

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