Recalling a youthful time of fishing!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2003

As an outdoor writer, I need at least one good weekend so that I can report some good fishing. I know lots of anglers feel the same way, but this weather has forced me to remember my youth in New Jersey where there was little fishing to be had from early December until late March. I used to consider my birthday on March 16 as my opening of the annual fishing season. Of course, nowadays lots of New Jersey guys fish throughout the winter on headboats for ling, hake, cod, pollack and tautogs.

Even Jerseyites tell me that this is a tough winter. One friend, a farmer, tells me that there have been only two days since Christmas that the mercury got above freezing. He said heating his greenhouses in breaking the bank.

Here in Virginia, we have just about every sort of weather one could conjure up to get between fishermen and the fish. Now, we have high water and it is getting higher. Perhaps the main casualty of the high water is the shad fishery in North Carolina. This is the time of the year when Weldon, North Carolina becomes the epicenter of local fishing. This is a great place to catch early shad and later it is equally fine as a spot to catch stripers. Unfortunately, the water is too high for fishing there right now. How soon these waters will be fishable depends upon the current rain events and anything else coming our way.

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Carp is a fish that has always interested me. I realize that many anglers consider a carp to be a trash fish for various reasons, but this feeling is not universal. Actually, carp fishing is a growing sport across the United States. It has been a popular for of fishing in Europe for years. Actually, catching a big carp is so important to some British anglers that they will spend a winter night sitting by a pond waiting for bites that are few and far apart. Then, when they catch a carp they treat it with a level of respect we show no fish and take great pains to release it unharmed.

Some British anglers have special carp fishing chairs that are like recliners that are built with tent tops to keep out the weather. On the several rods an angler uses are electronic fish bite alarms that will wake him up should he have a bite. Even the nasty weather we are experiencing right now would not be a deterrent to a dedicated British carp fisherman. Of course, high water is another thing entirely.

Incidentally, probably the most famous carp venue in Britain, if not the world, is a small, weed filled pond called Redmire Pool. This pond, smaller than most local farm ponds, has a world wide reputation for large carp and dedicated anglers dream of an opportunity to fish these waters. More recently, an artificial lake in Rumania has produced much larger carp and is fast becoming the world’s greatest carp venue.

Some folks sometimes confuse British match fishing with carp fishing. Actually the British Match Fishing compares somewhat to the competitive surf fishing contests held at Hatteras. In both contests the anglers pick lots for fishing locations with are designated with pegs.

In the British contests, the contestants pre-bait the water in the hopes of attracting fish within reach of his hook. Anglers also chum throughout the contest. Most of the fish caught are what we would call rough fish, mainly British versions of roach minnows, carp-suckers, and other bottom fish. The catch is held alive in huge holding bags and the total catch is weighed at the end of the contest. If carp are caught they are certainly welcome, but they are not the target of the catch. This fishing, incidentally, is totally bank fishing.

There is an American version of match fishing which enjoys a bit of interest in some areas on the country, mainly Chicago. In the American version of the sport the catch includes sunfish, crappie, bullheads, roach minnows and anything else that bites, within, of course, the limits of the fishing regulations. The beauty of this type of fishing is that it requires no boats or very expensive equipment to compete.

The British match fishing rods are interesting. They are usually very long. Rods as long as 15 feet and longer are used. These are usually rods, not poles, The difference between a rod and a pole is a rod has guides and is used with a reel. A pole, on the other hand, is used with the line tied to the end in the manner of our cane poles or telescoping glass or graphite poles.

I bought a couple of match rods about 12 feet long. I picked up one in Britain and I bought the other from Cabelas. I have fitted both with cheap spinning reels and I really enjoy using them for crappie and other panfish.

You know, as we grow older and more experienced as anglers, we often forget how much fun it is to fish from the bank with worms and minnows, not knowing what kind of fish will bite next. Bait fishing with match tackle brings back the thrills of the old days.

Since this is a rainy day column I’ll exercise my right to ramble a little and to share with you some thoughts concerning fishing. To me, one of the neat things about fishing is not knowing what fish will bite next. While I enjoy fishing for bass with bass lures and trout with flies I have a real soft spot for soaking worms and minnows. Bait fishing gives me more time to enjoy my surroundings and to relax. Any fishing that takes me off the waters before the ducks make their sunset flight isn’t for me, although I have deep respect for others who prefer to fish in different ways.

Late winter and spring are prime times for bait fishing. I have found it to be extremely effective to fish the down wind end of the lake. It seems that the wind blows the goodies down the lake and the fish are smart enough to know that. I have caught lots of fish following this philosophy.

Acadumbics & Other Stuff

One of my lifelong regrets has been a lack of a college degree. I started out life with a high degree of respect for folks in the Universities of our land, but I am getting over it. Recently, Virginia Tech hosted a Animal Liberation Front (ALF) terrorist. At another school a PETA supported ALF member, Rodney Coronado, recently confessed to his part in seven arsons….One thing vital to Montana’s ranchers is the certificate that their herds are brucellosis-free. Wild bison coming out of Yellowstone Park and mixing with cattle threaten that certification. The reason the bison are coming out of Yellowstone is they are attempting to carry too many on the park. To protect their herds Montana is in the process of declaring a hunting season for bison. This, undoubtedly, will cause a lot of anguish. The solution is to keep the bison off the ranges. The angler should be directed to the Park Service not the ranchers. Herds of bison are welcome on other lands, including some Indian Reservations If the excess animals we caught and moved the problem may go away – at least for a while.

…In California east, otherwise known as Maryland, a man who skinned deer in his backyard was challenged by a neighbor (a veterinarian no less) because the activity was not considered to be an allowable pastime. The complaint to the community board was defeated, mainly because many other residents were hunters…In Virginia this year the limit on gray trout will be 12 inches with a 7 fish creel limit. Flounder season opens March 29 with a 17-1/2 inch minimum size limit and an 8 fish daily creel limit….Because of high water most boat ramps on the state’s rivers are closed by flood conditions….Be careful boating right after the water goes down. Lots of debris will be floating out there.

Jack Randolph is a resident of Virginia and regular columnist for the News-Herald.