I’ve joked about this affliction many times, it is a disorder that can be effectively treated but never cured, by fishing. It comes with having “The Fishing Gene”, not necessarily an uncle, father or friend of the family named Gene, but a certain combination of Cytosine, Guanine, Thymine and Adenine and in some circumstances Uracil (during replication), the base pairs that comprise the endless sequences on the beautifully complex yet basically simple structure of the DNA molecule in every cell, that controls pretty much everything we as humans along with every living thing on planet earth have been, are and will ever become.
Stuff we’ve all read or heard about in biology class at some point in time.
In the same way it is with food everyone does not like or eat the same things but some how manage to take in what is required to feed the six trillion or so cells in a human body and what ever the count may be in other organisms.
I am what might be called a generalist. I simply enjoy fishing for and obviously catching many species. From my point of view, every fish has its own unique value as either a food, game or prey species. Granted a school striper or fluke is neither terribly fun nor challenging to do battle with on heavy off shore tuna, shark or even deep cod fishing tackle. Depending on ones focus and intent, simply getting the fish what ever it is to shore, into the boat or waiting net may be enough.
For others who enjoy not only the catching and cooking of that catch the knowledge required to locate a given species get them to strike a bait or lure, the back ground where they are found combined with what ever kind of fight they put up against a modern rod, reel and line makes the entire experience, perhaps minus being stuck in traffic some where along the way, beat up by heavy surf or ocean waves does something in the long run to make the challenge and effort to be successful worth what ever it takes.
Personally, I have been fortunate to have friends who had big ocean going boats that wanted some one along who could tie a know, use a gaff, bait, swab the blood off the decks and do battle with what ever happened to get hooked. I personally enjoy epic or uneventful battles with game species in fresh and saltwater and have had some challenging catches where I lost the battle with large carp, which are a hard pulling species that will give anyone a run for their money on light tackle.
Most of the time, when freshwater fishing we are targeting predatory species, but I always have what we refer to as “dink” rod, some sort of very light or ultra light “wand” along with appropriate jigs or bait, especially when the goal is to catch some frying material for supper. To me some of the finest eating freshwater species that can be caught year round in most areas are perch (yellows preferably over whites), sunfish (bluegills and pumpkinseeds) and their cousin which has a larger papery mouth a split between the sunfish and bass, calico bass or “crappie” as most of the country calls them. All are terrific frying material that I love to fillet, dip in a mixture of whipped egg and milk, and rolled in corn meal, flour, breadcrumbs or Bisquick, which is my personal favorite. My mom would put Ritz crackers and some parmesan cheese in a blender and dip the sunfish and perch I brought home to add a different and enjoyable taste to the delicate, white meat fillets pretty much all of the freshwater pan fish provide.
Some anglers get their fresh fish by boring holes through the ice and either jigging or setting “tilts” or “tip-ups” baited with something appropriate for the species they are after which can range from minnows for the predatory species to pieces of night crawler or garden worms for the sunfish and perch.
Effective, but not my cup of tea. For some reason, regardless of the size of the target species I simply enjoy the act of casting and working lures or small baited jigs, which are my personal favorite. An appropriately weighted jig, with a small strip of plastic and topped with a piece of worm is my favorite, not so secret weapon tied to a light rod ---- even through the ice.
Often over the years not wanting to do the work of boring holes and just before “frying time” after most anglers have left a simple scouting trip around the holes to look for scales and blood often “tips off” a hot spot that I will drop a baited jig down into for a few minutes in a given area, which is often enough to produce enough fish pan fish for supper, especially if some veggies are cooked on the side.
This winter has been an odd one, starting off cold but mixed with enough rains and warm spells so far to possibly open some places enough for a small boat or shore access. Venturing out on ice under such fickle conditions is not recommended because ice cold water is unforgiving and can paralyze and kill quickly without help if an person happens to break through in a place they can’t scramble out and dry off fairly rapidly.
However, some time in the not too distant future, possibly the end of this month or early next, there will be some places in the coves and back waters on the states larger rivers where perch concentrate to spawn that can be fished safely from shore or a small boat.
For years right around the first open water in places as noted above my buddy and I would scout, with light gear, a pail and some worms or meal worms for bait and cast to any open water even as ice is melting but not completely gone from these areas. Of if the ice has melted launch a boat and fish protected coves and backwaters for its bounty of pan fish, catching an occasional pike, pickerel, bass or even striper in the process.
For many years we would practice catch and release fishing on the then large over wintering population of mostly small stripers in the upper Thames River. There are similar places up and down the coast in protected harbors and often near or around warm water discharges from power plants and other such places.
We haven’t done any scouting quite yet due to the icing, bone-chilling cold, heavy rains which are often followed by high winds. None of which are enjoyable during the dead of winter when at times we had to quit because ice was freezing in the guides of our fishing rods making it difficult to cast or retrieve baits or hooked fish.
The Thames winter striper fishery has shrunk to a fraction of what it once was, so we haven’t been harassing that population for a few years, though there are other fish able concentrations in large coastal rivers and harbors throughout the area, none of which will be specified minimize pressure on this “recovering” population of game fish.
As soon as its practical, we will be packing up the light tackle, tracking down some night crawlers, bringing a box of small jigs and lures to one of our favorite back waters along the Connecticut River to see if we can catch enough yellow or white perch for a small fish fry. One problem however can be the reason we didn’t make a test run a couple weeks ago, heavy flooding rains that turn large rivers into muddy flowages which always slows “catching” of any cold water dead of winter fishery.
I hope to get out with my dink rod some time within the next few weeks and the next column with some luck and persistence may have some worth while information and possibly a photo of me or my partner smiling with a big fat yellow perch with a tiny chartreuse jig embedded in its upper jaw.