Most fishing columns focus on teaching you all about the how to, where to, or when to go catch fish — you know, all the things you are supposed to do when fishing. There are very few lessons out there in what not to do.
But working in a bait shop, I see people doing (or planning to do) things all the time that they really ought to not. We try to correct the issues as they come up, but I don’t get to see all of you at the shop. So today, let’s talk about some of the things you don’t want to do.
Time and time again, I see people grab a bucket of regular shrimp and a pack of 4/0 or 5/0 hooks. Think about that for a minute now. We all know you want to hide a hook as much as you can in a bait. The blindest fish in the world can see that huge hook in that little old shrimp.
Never match a hook to the fish you’re targeting — match it to the bait you’re gonna use. Consider the weight of the hook as well. You want that bait to be able to act as natural as possible. If you stick a huge hook through a small bait, it’s like sticking a sword through him. He’s not gonna act very naturally, is he?
Everybody seems to want live shrimp, but a lot of folks don’t seem to know how to keep them alive after they buy them. Day after day, people ask, “Can I just put ice in the bucket to keep the water cool?” No! Ice is fresh water, and when it melts it will kill your precious bait. Instead, take a couple sealed water bottles, freeze them, and drop one in your bait bucket. This will keep the water much cooler without killing your bait.
If your buying live bait for the next day, don’t keep it in your boiling hot garage. Buy a lid for your bucket (if it doesn’t already have one) and a battery-powered air pump and just set it in the house. The laundry room is a good choice; you might not even have to hide it from your wife. Your bait should be alive and ready to go in the morning.
By the way, in the summertime you can’t just go throw your bait bucket in the canal — the water is too hot and too fresh.
Do you fish with steel leaders? Well, stop it! Unless you’re fishing for sharks, barracuda or mackerel, you don’t need steel. Metal leaders will spook fish away from your baits.
Do you fish with no leader? If you use braid, you really need to use a leader, either monofilament or fluorocarbon. Braid has no stretch and very little abrasion resistance, and we all know there are plenty of oysters and barnacles out there. Even if you use mono line, it’s best to still use a leader that has been treated to resist abrasion.
A few more things: Don’t use squid in the Harbor. Squid don’t come into the Harbor often, so most fish don’t recognize squid as food. But if catfish are your target, squid is a good choice.
If you’re fishing for snapper, trout or other smaller fish, use light leader. So many times, I see people using 50-pound leader for snapper. Something like 15-pound will definitely make your outing much more successful. Same goes for threadfins and whitebait. They can’t swim naturally at all on heavy leader. The lighter the leader, the more natural they will look.
If you’re fishing off your dock and just catching lots of catfish, stop using a heavy weight and casting to the middle of the canal. Fish along the seawall or under the neighbors boat or dock with little or no weight. The fish you’re after are ambush predators and will hide to catch prey.
These are some of the more common mistakes I see all the time. If you have any questions about how you’re rigged for the fish you’re targeting, come see us at Fishin’ Frank’s and we will be glad to help you out. We might crack a little joke at you, but it’s all in good fun. Feel free to crack back.
And remember, get your kids hooked on fishing they won’t be able to afford drugs.
Capt. Steve “Pegleg” Phillips owns and operates Southern Charm Charters, with his wife Heather as occasional first mate. If you’re wondering why his friends call him Pegleg, stop in at Fishin’ Frank’s and meet him. For charter info, contact him at 678-787-4750 or through his Facebook page at https://bit.ly/2vesgVn.