Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spring is Just Around the Corner...

Which puts me in the mood to fish.

Yes, fish.

I've come to the conclusion that the human "hunter/gatherer" instinct is alive and well inside me. I don't hunt (doesn't seem very sporting unless you give deer guns), but fishing is A-ok with me. It's a thinking sport in a lot of ways--where are the fish, what are they eating, what bait do you use, are they spawning? Is the weather right? Is there too much wind? Are you fishing in the right spot with the right equipment and the right bait for the right fish? Lots to learn, lots to think about. And that's before you even get into casting techniques and fishing styles.

I am primarily a catch and release type fisherman, but on occasion, if I'm in the mood, I will keep what I catch, clean it and eat it. I don't keep a fish I don't intend to eat, however. No trophies for me. My feeling is that if I'm going to kill an animal, I have a personal obligation to eat it. (Unless it was trying to kill me first. In which case, the sucker's goin' down).

Anyway. A lot of fishermen are into the big sport fish--largemouth bass, stripe, ocean fish, salmon and trout. Not me. My favorites are the variety of sunfish that fall under the heading "bream" (at least down here in the south) and those lovely speckled fish known as crappie.

Crappie are voracious eaters when they're in the mood. The bait of choice is either live minnows or small jigs. Use light line (4-6 lb. test) on a lightweight spinning reel and small, short rod for precision of casting and a good fight. A little splitshot weight helps it go farther without making it hard to maneuver.

Crappie can get as large as 5 lbs (but that's world record territory). Most average between a half pound to a pound. I've caught one that was close to a pound. Big, fat, pretty fish.

Bream, at least here in the south, covers a number of sunfish, including bluegills, shellcrackers, red ears, warmouths, pumpkinseeds and rock bass. These tend to get round and saucer-shaped the bigger they are, and when they're hooked, they tend to twist their bodies so that the round, flat side of their bodies drag through the water as you reel them in. On lightweight line, with lightweight tackle, they make for a very exciting fight.

Here are a few pictures of "bream":



Red Ears:


Both crappie and bream make for good eating. You can clean them and leave the bones in, fry them up and then pick the fish off the bones, or if they're large enough and fat enough, you can fillet them, take the skin off and either bake or fry the fillets. They have a delicate, non-fishy and non-muddy flavor that I really like.

I figure by mid-March, the weather down here should be good enough to go crappie fishing. Can't wait!

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