Saturday, March 28, 2015

Survival Fishing: 6: Preserving and Pan-Dressing


To preserve your catch, you must keep it either alive or cool. If the water itself is cool, you can put your fish on a stringer (either a chain with clips, or just a polypropylene rope with a threading tool), or you could use a wire basket.

Check your catch often, wherever you are keeping them. Any dead fish should be transferred to an ice-filled cooler if you have one. Dead fish spoil rapidly, especially if they are left in water.

Larger fish should be killed as soon as they are caught. Use a heavy stick to strike the fish across the back of the head, because their flesh can bruise if they are left to flop around in a boat. Gut the fish as quickly as possible, and put the fish on ice if you have any. In any case, fish should generally be cooked not long after they are caught.


Most panfish are too small to be filleted, and in any case filleting tends to waste meat. Besides that, the flavor and the nutritional value of most kinds of fish are improved if they are cooked with the skin and bones. The scales, fins, and guts need to be removed.

Scaling of fish is normally done with a plastic or metal scaler, but a dull knife or a spoon can be used. Wet the fish, hold the fish by its tail, and scrape off the scales by working from tail to head. Scaling should be done outdoors, because scales can make quite a mess. Or you can do the job in the sink, but you will need to be careful.

Slice along one side of the dorsal fin, make another cut on the other side, and then pull out the fin.

Cut along both sides of the anal fin, and remove it by pulling it toward the tail.

Generally the head and tail are removed, but this tends to waste some meat, and the flesh close to the tail is often considered the tastiest.

The fish can then be cooked by any means desired. Boiling or steaming, though, is often the most practical, and the liquid can be saved as a soup.


Bullheads should be killed with a hammer before cleaning them. For skinning you need a sharp filleting knife and a set of skinning pliers, or perhaps just ordinary wide-jawed pliers. Be sure to avoid the sharp pectoral and dorsal spines throughout the cleaning process.

Make a cut through the skin behind the pectoral fin on one side of the fish, and then over the top of the head and down to the other pectoral fin.

Split the skin down the back, going from head to tail, and cutting close to one side of the dorsal fin.

Split the skin on the other side of the dorsal fin, and connect this cut to the one you just made.

Hold the fish around the head with one hand, and with your other hand grip the skin on one side tightly with pliers and pull the toward the tail. The skin on that side should come off in 1 or 2 pieces. Do the same on the other side.

Cut the flesh off with your filleting knife. If you cut around the rib cage, you can avoid all the bones. Also cut away and discard all dark red flesh along the lateral line, because the meat here tends to concentrate toxins, and in any case it may have an unpleasant taste.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Survival Fishing: 5: Catching Fish

Common names for fishes can be vague and confusing. The word ''sunfish,'' for example, is applied to so many fishes that it is somewhat meaningless. As used below, though, the word ''sunfish'' applies to species in the genus Lepomis. The scientific (basically Latin) names for fish are more precise and definitely worth learning.

The usual common names, and the corresponding scientific names, of a few important species for ''survival fishing'' in northeastern North America are as follows (and see the illustrations at the end of this section):

Common Carp – Cyprinus carpio
White Sucker – Catostomus commersoni
Brown Bullhead – Ictalurus nebulosus
Black Crappie -- Pomoxis nigromaculatus
White Crappie – Pomoxis annularis
Rock Bass – Ambloplites rupetris
Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmonides
Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus
Pumpkinseed – Lepomis gibbosus
Yellow Perch – Perca flavescens


Carp are bottom feeders, found in lakes, streams, ponds, and rivers, preferably warm water. They grow to more than 70 pounds and are tough fighters. They feed on everything from insects to crustaceans and mollusks. The best fishing method is bottom fishing with dough balls, worms, canned corn, cheese, cereal balls, or pieces of boiled potato. Fishing with treble hooks often works best to keep the bait from falling off during casting.

To prepare carp for cooking, skin them rather than scaling them. Then take large pinches of the flesh, tearing it from the bones. The muddy flavor is eliminated by avoiding the skin and the large bones.


Like carp, white suckers are bottom feeders. Although they are common, they are very wary fish, but they can be caught on 4- to 6-pound mono with a size-8 hook, and a worm hooked several times to hide it. Add a sinker 4 inches above the hook. Let the worm drift along the bottom with the current.


Slow-moving rivers or shallow lakes or ponds are the best places to find bullheads. The best time for catching them is late spring and summer, after the water temperature has reached at least 60 degrees F. Bullheads may feed at any time, but they become more active in the evening, when they head for the shallows to look for insect larvae, snails, worms, fish eggs, and small fish. Bullheads also eat various aquatic plants. They rely largely on smell and taste to find food, which is why they can easily find food after dark. As summer approaches and the water warms, the flesh of bullheads may develop a muddy taste.

Attach a long-shank hook, size 6 or 8, either single or treble, to a 6-pound mono line. The long hook is useful in removing the barb from a bullhead's mouth. Hook on 2 or more worms, and add a sinker about 12 inches above the bait. Attach a small sinker, and fish the worms on the bottom. Or add a bobber, and dangle the bait slightly above the bottom.

Be careful when handling bullheads, because their pectoral spines can inflict a painful wound. Always grab a bullhead by the belly, with your fingers holding down the pectoral and dorsal fins.


Crappies and rock bass are fond of worms and small minnows, and insect larvae can also be effective. Crappie anglers rely heavily on minnows and lures that resemble them. Large fish will take a minnow up to 3 inches in length, but in most cases a 1 1/2- to 2-inch minnow works best.

Lure choice depends on the depth of the fish. In shallow water, you can use small spinnerbaits, minnow plugs, or spoons. Jigs (or jig-and-minnow combinations) and small deep-diving plugs are best in water more than 10 feet. In general, try a slow, erratic retrieve.

With live bait, set a bobber so the bait floats just above the weeds, and let the bobber drift. A strong wind, however, might lift the bait too far above the weeds, and you must then add more weight, or you can lower the bait by readjusting the bobber.

When the shallows warm up in spring, minnows move into bays and shorelines, and the crappies and rock bass are not far behind. Most shore anglers then use bobbers and minnows, or jig-minnow combinations.

Large fish move out to deeper cover later in summer, often hanging around mid-lake rock piles, sunken islands, or submerged brush. During the day, they may swim in deep water away from cover.


Largemouth bass, found in rivers and lakes throughout North America, take live baits such as minnows, worms, and insects, though crayfish are their favorite food. Jumbo grasshoppers may work well in summer, with a long-shank size 4 or 6 hook and a small bobber, but anglers rarely use other insects. Largemouth bass will also strike artificial baits, including crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, spoons, and soft plastics. In fact, soft plastics take more bass than any other type of artificial lure.

The most important consideration in lure selection is cover type. In snag-free water, lures with open hooks are better because they hook more of the fish that bite. If you're fishing in dense weeds or brush, though, you need a lure that won't snag readily, such as a weedless jig or spinnerbait. As will be discussed in Section 7, ''Advanced Techniques,'' a Texas rig or a Carolina rig can also prevent snagging, with the point of the hook buried in the lure.

Spring and fall are the best seasons to go after largemouth bass. They are most active when the water temperature is between 68 and 75 degrees F. Look along shorelines, rock piles, and weed beds. In the summer months, look in water 12 to 15 feet deep, near weed beds or lily pads.


The simplest of tackle is all that is needed to catch sunfish. Preferred baits are worms and crickets. Artificial lures include very small spinners, or very small feather or fur jigs. A jig should be 1/64 ounce with a size 10 hook, or 1/32 ounce with a size 8 hook.

Use 2- to 6-pound mono. Add a light bobber, at least a foot above the hook, perhaps even 4 feet. You might add enough of a split-shot sinker that the bobber barely floats, or even avoid sinkers completely. Don't use a swivel on the hook end of the line, because you need to avoid even this tiny weight near the hook.

Normally the bait should be 6 to 8 inches off the bottom. Jiggle the bobber and then let it rest. Most bites come after the bait stops moving.

Sunfish can see an angler on the bank. If you sit still for a while, they will come back to you, but any movement on your part will send them away again.

Your chances of finding heavy concentrations of fish are best early in the spawning season. In muddy water, sunfish may nest as shallow as 6 inches, but in clear lakes sunfish may nest as far as 15 feet down. Big sunfish usually nest deeper than small ones. Some anglers claim they can locate spawning sunfish by smell: the fish are said to emit a musky odor.

When fishing for spawning sunfish, set the hook as soon as you feel a bite. Males instinctively grab any object that invades the nest, and then carry it away. If you wait for them to swallow the bait, it may be too late.

Submerged trees or brush provide excellent sunfish habitat. In spring, sunfish spawn in or near timber and brush in shallow water. Later in the year, they find cover and food around trees and brush in deeper water.

Look for trees that indicate bottom type. Trees and brush near some type of structure generally hold more sunfish than a flat expanse with similar cover. A fallen tree on a point will usually attract more sunfish than a fallen tree along a straight shoreline with uniform depth. Pine trees grow mainly on sandy soil, so they may reveal the locations of spawning areas.

If you snag a branch, don't shake it violently to free the lure. Just break the line, tie on a new hook, and continue fishing.

Weeds are also good sunfish habitat. Small sunfish hide among the leaves to escape predators, and larger fish seek the shade of overhead vegetation. Sunfish also feed on aquatic insects attracted to the weeds.

The best sunfish waters have light to moderate weed growth. If a lake has dense weeds throughout, too many sunfish survive, and as a result they become stunted.

Plants with large leaves offer better cover than weeds with thin leaves. Look for sunfish in shallow weed beds in spring. Smaller fish often remain in these weedy shallows all summer, but larger fish prefer weeds near deep water. Big sunfish usually stay along the edges of weed beds.

In lakes that lack natural cover and structure, try fishing near man-made features such as docks and piers. Other features to try are bridges, submerged roadbeds, riprap banks, and anchored boats.

The biggest sunfish are found where the depth drops rapidly, or where the bottom type suddenly changes. In early morning and late afternoon, sunfish feed in shallows near shoreline breaks and creek channels, or on the tops of points and humps. In midday, they retreat to deeper water.


Yellow perch are most commonly found in clear, northern lakes with moderate weed growth. Most are caught with live bait near the bottom. Put the bait on a size 4 to 6 hook with a split-shot weight, or add the bait to a jig.

Perch foods include immature aquatic insects, crayfish, snails, small fish, and fish eggs. Adult perch do most of their feeding on or near the bottom, and are not as likely to swim as high as sunfish and crappies. Perch have poor vision at night, and therefore they feed only during the day.

Perch prefer water temperatures from the mid-60s to low 70s. But they feed throughout the year, and in winter they are commonly caught through the ice.

The fish move out of deep wintering areas and start their spawning runs in mid-April or early May. They prefer to spawn in sand, gravel, or rocky bottoms with weeds or brush. In most lakes and reservoirs, they spawn in shallow, protected bays in water 5 to 12 feet deep.
After spawning, they remain for several weeks in their spawning areas. Look for the fish then in anywhere from 15 to 35 feet of water. Some remain in these areas all summer unless the water becomes too warm. In fall, perch move into the shallows around rocky shorelines and reefs.

Common Carp – Cyprinus carpio

White Sucker – Catostomus commersoni

Brown Bullhead – Ictalurus nebulosus

Black Crappie -- Pomoxis nigromaculatus

White Crappie – Pomoxis annularis

Rock Bass – Ambloplites rupetris

Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmonides

Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus

Pumpkinseed – Lepomis gibbosus

Yellow Perch – Perca flavescens

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Survival Fishing: 4: Lures

Artificial lures include PLUGS, SPOONS, JIGS, SPINNERS, and SOFT PLASTICS.


Plugs are generally made of plastic or wood, and they look like baitfish or other creatures. They are designed to be used either on the surface or at specific depths: some dive to only a few feet, while others go far below the surface. Note the pictures at the end of this section.
Plugs can be made of various materials such as plastic, wood, and sometimes cork. Plugs are sometimes classified as surface and subsurface (shallow diving, medium diving, and deep diving). Either 2 or 3 treble hooks are attached to plugs to cover the fish's striking area.

Exactly how deep a plug will dive depends on several factors. As a rule, plugs with big lips dive deeper than those with small lips. Some manufacturers, including Bomber, Cotton Cordell, Mann's, Rapala, and Rebel, produce what are known as ''series'' plugs.



Stickbaits (e.g., Heddon Zara Spook)
Propbaits (e.g., Smithwick Devil's Horse)
Crawlers (a.k.a. Wobblers) (e.g., Arbogast Jitterbug)
Chuggers (a.k.a. Poppers) (e.g., Arbogast Hula Popper)


Crankbaits (e.g., Cotton Cordell Big O)
Vibrating Crankbaits (e.g., Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap)
Minnows (e.g., various models by Rapala)

The length of plug for a crappie might be 1 to 2 inches, whereas a plug for a largemouth bass might be between 2 and 6 inches.

Most plugs imitate baitfish, or perhaps animals such as mice, frogs, or crayfish. Other plugs attract fish merely by their action and flash. All plugs produce some sound that draws the attention of game fish.

Some plugs are designed exclusively for surface fishing. Surface plugs work especially well when fish are spawning or feeding in shallow water. But they will sometimes draw fish up from deeper water.

SURFACE PLUGS are most effective in fairly warm and calm water. They generally work best in the early morning or the evening. Surface (topwater) lures are best when you're fishing small, defined locations, such as along the edge of a weed bed, a significant drop-off, or a shallow bay. Topwaters are generally too slow to be of much use when you have to prospect for fish and cover a lot of ground. However, one type of surface lure – the buzzbait – is a notable exception.

Surface plugs fall into the following categories:

Stickbaits – These are slender floating plugs, generally cigar-shaped, without lips or propellers, and with no built-in wobbling motion. They need to be jerked or twitched to give them some action.

Propbaits Propbaits (propeller baits) are similar to stickbaits, but these lures have a little propeller at one or both ends.
Crawlers The large faceplate on a crawler makes the lure crawl across the surface when retrieved steadily. This kind of motion allows them to produce a constant plopping or gurgling sound.
Chuggers Chuggers are designed to imitate frogs, mice, little birds, insects, and other non-aquatic creatures. A lure of this type has a large indented face that catches water when the plug is jerked across the surface. The result is a chugging or popping sound. Some chuggers have a slow, swimming action when retrieved steadily. Chuggers should not be retrieved in a steady motion, but rather with a series of jerks and pauses. They are excellent for bass.

SUBSURFACE PLUGS are used at depths of 1 to 20 feet or even more. They are much more versatile than surface plugs. They work well in either calm or rough water and will catch fish at any time of day. You can select either shallow- or deep-running models, depending on the depth of the fish. With many of these plugs, the faster you reel, the deeper they dive.

Subsurface (deep-diver) plugs go down quickly and stay down there. They allow you to cover a lot of water, letting you go after fish near the bottom or at least suspended fairly deeply.

Subsurface plugs fall into these categories:

Crankbaits Some crankbaits float at rest, some some sink, and others are neutrally bouyant. All crankbaits have a lip, which makes them dive and wriggle.

Minnow plugs These are designed to imitate baitfish. Like crankbaits, minnow plugs have lips and may float, sink or be neutrally bouyant. They wobble as the move through the water.

Vibrating crankbaits Unlike other crankbaits, these thin-bodied plugs do not have lips. Most types sink, but some float on the surface when at rest. The body is thin, and the attachment eye is on top of the head. The result is that the lure wriggles rapidly.

SPOONS (e.g., Eppinger Daredevle)
Spoons are metal, spoon-shaped lures made to resemble a swimming or injured baitfish. You can jig them (jiggle them up and down), cast and reel them, or troll them behind a boat. Many anglers attach a swivel to the spoon to prevent it from twisting their line during retrieval. A spoon will not wobble properly if fished too slowly or too fast, so you must experiment to find the right speed. Spoons work best for large predators such as largemouth bass.

Because they're made from metal, spoons sink rapidly. This makes them a good choice when you want to fish at some depth, or in a heavy current. Their weight also makes them popular with shore anglers, who often need as much casting distance as possible.


A jig is simply a piece of lead with a hook molded to it, but often with a body and tail made of rubber skirts, feathers, soft plastic or animal hair. Sometimes jigs are tipped with a piece of real bait. There are many sizes, colors, and patterns to catch many kinds of fish.
Jigs can be fished slowly, so they work especially well in cold water. The rapid sink rate of most jigs makes them an excellent choice for reaching bottom. But jigs can also be effective in water only a few feet deep. Most jigs have compact bodies, so they are ideal for casting into the wind or for casting long distances.

Fish seldom hit these lures as they do a crankbait or surface lure. Instead, they inhale the lure gently, usually as it settles toward bottom. If you are not alert, you will not notice the strike.


Spinners have one or more blades that rotate on either a straight wire or a ''safety pin'' type of shaft. Nearly all spinners have tails made of rubber skirts, animal hair, soft plastic, feathers, or other materials.

A typical in-line spinner is a metal shaft with a hook on one end, an eye on the other, and a blade rigged so that it spins. Spinners create lots of flash because of their plated metal finish, as well as throbbing vibrations that attract fish from considerable distances.

Spinners spin, and so they tend to twist your line. The solution is simple: when using a spinner, always use a snap swivel.

Spinner-type lures have 4 basic designs.

– Standard spinners (e.g., Mepps Comet Decore) have a blade rotating around a straight wire shaft. Most have a weight behind the blade to make the lure heavy enough to cast.

– Weight-forward spinners resemble standard spinners, but the weight is ahead of the blade.

-- Spinnerbaits (e.g., Strike King Rocket Shad) have a shaft like an open safety pin -- a V-shaped piece of wire. They have a lead head on one arm, with a hook and a cluster of rubber fingers, and 1 or 2 spinner blades on the other arm. Spinnerbaits are generally considered bass lures, partly because of their ability to swim through weeds without getting snagged.

– Buzzbaits (e.g., Strike King Elite Buzzbait) resemble either standard spinners or spinnerbaits, but have a special kind of propeller, a bent chunk of metal that looks like the blade from a windmill. You reel it across the surface at high speed, and the metal blade makes a lot of noise as it splashes.


Soft plastics are pliable lures made into worms, grubs, lizards, crayfish, minnows, shrimp, crabs, and many other creatures that fish eat. They are available in different sizes and colors. They can be used with or without bullet sinkers, jig heads, or spinnerbaits.

Soft plastics offer several advantages over hard-bodied lures. They have lifelike texture, so fish will mouth them patiently, giving you extra time to set the hook. Many soft plastics can be rigged with the point of the hook buried inside a little, where it cannot catch on obstructions.

Soft plastics began with plastic worms. These worms are still considered excellent for bass, and they come in many lengths and colors. A plastic worm might be grabbed as it lands, as it drops, or while it is bounced along the bottom.



Stickbait (Heddon Zara Spook)

Propbait (Smithwick Devil's Horse)

Crawler (Arbogast Jitterbug)

Chugger (Arbogast Hula Popper)


Crankbait (Cotton Cordell Big O)

Vibrating Crankbait (Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap)

Minnow (Rapala)

SPOON (Eppinger Daredevle)



standard (Mepps Comet Decore)

spinnerbait (Strike King Rocket Shad)

buzzbait (Strike King Elite Buzzbait)