Saturday, April 13, 2013

Shiner Lessons

As a boy growing up in Central Florida, I did quite a bit of shiner fishing, but maybe not the kind of fishing that comes to mind when you hear that term. Golden shiners weren't my bait. They were my targets. A creek within walking distance of my house had plentiful shiners up to about a foot long in it, and I'd sit there as long as my parents would let me be away any given day trying to outwit overgrown minnows.

I learned a lot through shiner fishing, and when I look back, I realize that many of those lessons have helped me be a better fisherman. I wasn't seeking to learn, necessarily. I was just trying to figure out how to catch as many fish as possible. Here are four important lessons that come quickly to mind:

Tackle Selection: I figured out over time that shiners have tiny mouths and that while I could catch some on a typical No. 10 or so panfish hook, I'd catch way more with a tiny No. 16. I used long-shank No. 16 hooks because they were easier to get out of the shiner's mouths. Related to tackle, I also learned about the importance of the right line of size. Anything bigger than about 8-pound test was tough to manage with a No. 16 light-wire hook and a breadball for bait.

Bait Care: I found nothing more effective than a tiny wad of white bread for catching shiners, and I learned pretty quickly that I needed fresh, sticky bread to make good balls that were sufficiently small and would stay on the hook. It didn't take many trips that were necessarily shortened by hard bread to teach me to carry my bait in a sandwich bag and to keep the bag sealed and out of the sun.

Presentation: You wouldn't think a shiner would be terribly fussy, but at times they really were. (Maybe I caught the same school of fish every day; I'm not sure.) When the fish were fussy, either a split shot, which made the bait sink too quickly, or a float, which made it suspend unnaturally and added resistance when the shiners picked at it, would keep the fish from taking the bait. The ONLY good presentation was to flip nothing but a breadball on a hook into the hole, let it fall naturally to the bottom and then repeat the process.

Strike Detection: Finally, I had to learn to watch my bait, which was fairly visible in the clear but dark water, as it sunk, and to resist setting the hook even when I could see that fish were batting at it. Shiners are bad to pick at the edges of bait and just knock it back and forth. When one actually would put the bait in its mouth, it would disappear for a moment, and I had to set the hook very quickly to catch the fish.

I probably could come up with a much longer list if I thought about it longer. A creek makes a very good teacher.

No comments:

Post a Comment