All that glitters is not gold… or is it?
“Coarse Fishing” may not be widely known here in the States, but is slowly catching on with the growing interest of pursuing non game species. When fellow anglers that I meet on the bank ask what I am fishing for, I often get odd looks when replying “carp, squawfish, suckers, shiners, etc.” I can see it in their faces, “why would anyone want to catch one of those?” That look often changes when I reveal from my keep net, a 15lb carp, or 3 to 4 good sized sucker fish caught from the river, or a baker’s dozen of golden Shiner. A “Keep net” is actually a long tubular net, which is placed into the water with one end staked down to the bank. It has aluminum rings evenly spaced to hold its shape. Think of a 10 foot “slinky” toy with outer netting. It’s used to keep fish contained and safe until the end of the fishing session, when one can photograph the days catch and then release or take home to eat. I practice the former… ahh, but I digress.
Once I made the change and began targeting “coarse fish”, my catch rate has gone up tenfold. Yes, they’re not silvery steelhead, or hulking large mouth bass, but these misfit fish have their own unique beauty, character and value.
Take for instance the lowly shiner. In the hot, dog days of summer, allot of game fish i.e trout, bass, crappie, spend their days deep in lakes or rivers, hiding under weed beds or in the comfortable temperature of the thermo cline. They hide from the bright sun, waiting for dusk or night fall to emerge from their watery haunts to feed. The shiner prefers to cruise the shallows in search of small insects, snails and worms etc. With simple tackle and inexpensive bait, one can have a productive day with fast action and multiple hook ups. Come along as we pursue these bars of gold.
June 23, 2012 (1pm)
I arrive at Camden Passage, a natural lake that is fed by Laguna Creek in the town of Elk Grove. 75 to 100 Canada geese are feeding on grass and grooming themselves along the shoreline. The pay me little attention as I make my way to the water and set up my gear for the day’s session. The bulrushes stand like ramparts, protecting the water, but I find an adequate opening that the geese and beavers have made, entering and exiting the water. Today’s bait is nothing more than a chunk of sweet French bread. Shiners are suckers for small bits of bread, and the soft inside of a French loaf is perfect.
The margins (edges) of the lake are roughly 3 to 4 feet deep, with interspersed patches of duck and silk weed. I set up an Avon float, which are traditionally designed for moving waters, but will work fine in this situation. Place the correct amount of split shot down the line so that just the top ½ inch protrudes the surface. This balances the float and will transmit the most sensitive of bites. At the business end of the line is a number 10 hook, which has a piece of bread flake pinched onto the hook shank and eye, leaving the point exposed.
My 11’ float rod allows me to gently swing the bait out to where I believe the shiners will be. It doesn’t take long for the float tip to glide under. A quick strike and I’m into my first fish, a plump shiny bar of gold.
I slip it into my keep net and re bait, hoping to add some roommates for fish number one.
By then end of 2 hours, I have caught 7 shiners and lost about half as many due to me being a little slow on hitting the lightening fast bites that these little guys give. I end the session with a couple bluegill that had a taste for bread flake, and call it a day.
Arranging the shiners for pictures before returning them to the lake, I am amazed at the brilliant gold color and tinfoil like shine they display. A few are in perfect condition, missing not a single scale, where others I assume have marks on them, possibly escaping an attack from one of the largemouth bass or cormorant that reside in the lake.
If you’re looking for a change of pace or have a youngster that you want to introduce to fishing and need some guaranteed action to keep their interest up, try the lowly shiner. A glittering bar of gold, that will make your day rich.