How to get hooked on fishing

During my very early days as a pre-teen fisherman my strategy was basically just to throw out some bait and hope for a fish to swim by.

I think that was the result of fishing with my dad a few times. Dad was an excellent small game hunter, but his fishing skills left a lot to be desired. His strategy was even less scientific than mine and when I asked why we were fishing in a certain spot his answer was “it’s as good a place as any.” As you might well surmise we caught very few fish.

Thankfully experience eventually taught me that there was more to fishing than throwing out a line in a place that “was as good as any.” Sooner or later I learned to fish structure like I wrote about last week, but now I have decided to take it a step further and try to target a particular species of fish. That means I will select a specific species and learn as much about them as possible, and then try out my discoveries when I get out on the lake next spring and summer.

It might surprise you that I have first chosen the scrappy little bluegill, or as many call this tough little guy the sunfish.You might wonder why I didn’t pick something more exotic like the walleye or bass, but those will come in a later column. Besides the bass is just a whopping big sunfish.

Like most anglers I can usually catch plenty of bluegills, but the ones that come easy are mostly small. I want to catch the bigger bluegills and from the reading I’m doing they tend to be in deeper water. This seems to be especially true of the red ears, or as some call them the shellcrackers.

I’m told that shellcrackers were stocked in this lake before I moved here, but not many have been caught. I cannot claim that I have ever caught one here.

The tackle I intend to use in my quest for big bluegills will consist of very light line and a small hook. Bluegills have small mouths so I will use nothing larger than a light wire #8 size Aberdeen hook. I will probably need some weight to get the bait down to the fish and a very small spilt shot should suffice.

When it comes to choosing bait there is a pretty good selection available. I can rule out big nightcrawlers and any worm I use will be a red wriggler or a garden worm. In my pre-teen years there was a manure pile at a slaughterhouse near the East Palestine City Lake. There was always a rusty old spading fork stuck in the pile and we dug out an easy supply of manure worms.

Kids were tough back then, but today’s parents would frown on such activity, and probably demand a tetanus shot of their offspring. But boy did the bluegills love those manure worms.

I think I’ll probably give leeches a try as I’ve caught a variety of fish using them on Atwood Lake. Of course, wax worms and (yuck) maggots should also work well.

I doubt I’ll use many artificial lures except jigs and they will usually be tipped with one of the live baits described above. Again I must keep the bluegill’s smaller mouth in mind so I will spend some time making jigs in weights lighter than 1/16th of an ounce. I even have a jig mold for RoadRunner style of jigs in those ultra light weights. I’ll give them a try.

When fishing this deep I plan to drop my split shot weighted line directly over the side of my boat. Tiny jigs, of course, will need no extra weight. At least that is my plan for when spring arrives.

In the meantime I plan to do a lot more research on bluegills and how to catch the big bulls. There is a lot to learn about this often forgotten species of fish, and that is too bad. Bluegills are fun to catch, put up a scrap, and are delicious breaded and fried to a crispy brown. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.