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Fishing is a wonderful and timeless way to pass time, feed yourself and enjoy the outdoors. It has been described with such humorous sayings as, “Fishing, the most expensive free meal you will ever get,” and “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you will never see him again.” Yes, fishing can be addictive, but which would you rather get your kids hooked on? Fishing or video games?
Fishing is commonly thought of as standing on a bank or sitting in a rowboat with a simple rod and waiting for hours to possibly catch something. While that is part of it, fishing is as diverse an activity as cooking. There are many different ways to fish, and there are many types of fish you can target. You can fish in oceans, rivers, lakes and even mud puddles. That’s right—you heard me—even mud puddles. Catching frogs is a form of fishing and can be done almost anywhere you find shallow water, including mud puddles. You see, fishing isn’t just waiting for hours with a pole in your hand.
There are different kinds of nets, poles, reels, spears, baits, traps, lures and, depending on how far into the woods you go, you can even learn how to fish with electricity or dynamite. Now, before you run out to your local pond and start dropping sticks of TNT in the water, just know that not all of these forms of fishing are legal where you live. There are places where each of these is legal, but you have to read the local laws and regulations to know what you are allowed to do.
For example, cast-net fishing is growing in popularity right now and you can even buy cast nets at your local Walmart very affordably, but if you are fishing in Pennsylvania or New York, there are only a handful of places you are allowed to use a cast net. Typically with these, you also need to purchase a stamp or additional license, depending on what you plan to do with your catch. Cast-net fishing is very gratifying because with every throw of the net, you soon know if you have been successful or not. You can also net large quantities of baitfish at a time.
Another effective form of net fishing is with a sein net. Sein nets are long nets that look like a tennis court net, with sinkers tied to the bottom and floats on the top. Typically they have a pole on either end and are manned by someone on either end. The net is drawn across a stream or around a cove in a lake and the ends are brought together, slowly pulling in the bulk of the net along with any fish that have been caught in the loop. Again this is one of those forms of fishing that needs to be checked against your local laws and regulations, but for those who like to see results quickly, it is very entertaining.
If you fancy the rivers, there is also eeling. This is done by walking up-river in the dark using a flashlight in shallow water to locate and spear eels as they pass in front of your light. Lots of folks who enjoy smoked eel will fish for them this way, normally when the moon is half full or less, so that the moon doesn’t outshine the fisherman’s light. Eels can also be trapped in smaller streams.
Here on the Delaware River, many fisherman find success with different types of fishing in these tributaries that feed into the Main Stem of the river.
If you like digging around in the mud, another option is to find one of these streams with a slower flow and lots of silt at the bottom and begin sifting through it to find lampers, which are baby lamprey eels. These are excellent for bait when angling. Some fisherman use pooper scoopers from their cat’s litter box to strain the soil and pick up these tiny wriggling black lampers.
By now you are probably thinking, what about good old-fashioned fishing rods? Angling is what fisherman call fishing with a rod. This includes fly-fishing, casting, trolling, rigging and jigging and more. The majority of hobby fisherman use a rod and reel, but there are many different kinds even within this categorization. Rods are designed by length and test, which is the amount of reinforcement and flexibility the rod has. Heavy test rods are stronger and can be used with heavy equipment to haul up larger fish. Lighter rods, however, are better for smaller fish that give only subtle indications of when they strike. With a light rod, a fisherman is able to feel when their bait gets a nibble or starts to pull ever so slightly. Heavier rods give up that sensitivity in exchange for sheer power against fish that will bite more aggressively and fight harder.
Reels vary as well. If you are in a store and see a rack full of reels, you will notice that the same shape and design of a reel will also have other sizes. This is because larger reels will hold more line. When fishing with heavy line that takes up more space or in deeper water against fish that run for a long time, you need room on the reel to hold all that line.
Reels also vary in design. There are casting reels that allow the user to use their thumb to control the drag of the line. There are spinning reels that control the drag according to an adjustable knob and can be used in a number of ways. There are bait-runner reels that have special switches that allow the fish to run freely until you are ready to set the hook by hitting the switch and taking up slack line. There are reels designed especially for rigging lines straight down with the aid of downriggers. These reels are good for handling heavier line and measuring the depth of line that has been put out, but are not as good for casting. There are fly reels that function completely differently because of the different techniques that are executed in fly-fishing. With flyfishing, the rod does most of the work, and the reel is there to collect the line in between.
There are endless ways to fish, techniques to implement, and places and species to explore, but ultimately it’s the pursuit that makes it what it is. If you get hung up on fly-fishing versus casting or even using traps or spears, you aren’t going to enjoy yourself. The happiest fisherman out there is the guy who pulls in a fish he wasn’t expecting and beams a big smile while he poses with that little eight-inch bass for posterity. If you are under 16, go out and fish while it’s free. If you aren’t, invest in the license. You aren’t only supporting a healthy life-long hobby, but also the money collected for licenses goes to aid in fish conservation and protecting bodies of water for your enjoyment. Bring your kids, bring a buddy, bring your wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend—what have you—and get outside. There are a thousand ways to fish. Which one fits your bill?