North Coast Sport Fishing News

A new feature of this site will be a reprint of the "Frugal Fisherman" from the North Coast Sport Fishing News, a monthly publication. NCSF News has excellent information on all aspects of the fishing scene for the North Coast of California.


The Frugal

-By Al Gee
      I can nearly always tell the experienced angler from the rookie, just by what they carry to the fishin' hole.
      The skill of the river angler seems to be inversely proportional to the size of his tackle box.
      Generally a good rule is --- always have a free hand when you start. Walk to the river holding only your rod & reel. Those who lug a rod (or two) in one hand and a huge tackle box in the other, have obviously not had to carry out a hefty salmon or steelhead as well.
      I carry all my fishing necessities in an old, school-style, backpack. There is often room for tackle, bait, camera, lunch, and a beverage.
      To make it waterproof, which is often necessary on the north coast, just place everything in a plastic bag before putting it in the backpack.
      Another option, that may even be better, is a fishing vest. This offers the ultimate in light travel and will be best for short duration trips. But they are quite a bit more expensive than a backpack.
      Going light gives you several more advantages, besides just a free hand:
  • You may often need to cross the river, and carry a big load can be cumbersome.
  • Sometimes you may need to walk a long distance to find the fish.
  • It's easier to sneak out of the house with your gear.
Agility and quickness are necessary if you want to consistently catch salmon and steelhead on north coast rivers. It pas to go light. And besides, you really don't need that much stuff to catch fish. Make a check list and get organized prior to going out.


The Frugal

-By Al Gee
      One of the best baits for trout at Freshwater Lagoon is worms. In fact, worms are probably the most often used bait anywhere, for any kind of fish, in freshwater. Trout obviously love 'em, bass will attack 'em, catfish will suck 'em off the bottom, squawfish can't be kept away from 'em, and if trailed behind a spin-and-glow, will catch even the most lockjawed salmon or steelhead. It's something I have never completely figured out 'cause worms really don't exist too much in lakes and streams.
      Sure an occasional one will be washed down in a heavy rain. But for the most part they aren't a natural food source. The bottom line though, is they catch fish. Why they catch fish is of little concern.
Even though worms are relatively inexpensive to buy, I have still found a way that I can have a constant supply of free wrigglers by raising them in a container.
      Most any plastic bucket or container will work. The worms will need some air holes, small enough so that they don't escape, and some sort of composted or shredded organic material as bedding.
      During the winter, especially after a rain, worms will be near the ground's surface and can often be found on sidewalks, in your garden, or on your lawn. Making sure they are still alive, I'll collect these worms now and raise them in my bin until I want to use them for fishing. As long as you keep them cool, moist, and provide food they will do fine and may even reproduce.
      Raising your own worms has a couple of additional advantages as well. First, you can actually feed worms scraps from your kitchen, which usually just gets thrown away. Second, after your bin has been thoroughly "worked" by the worms, what you have left is some terrific fertilizer for your garden.
      There are several good books in the library on raising nightcrawlers if you want to know more.
      It would be my wish that all anglers raise their own worms. Mostly 'cause it would cut down on all those styrofoam containers the get left behind on the banks.


The Frugal

-By Al Gee
      This year while fishing on the Mad River it was not uncommon to hear guys reporting they had "hooked 21 fish the other day", or "we saw 18 caught". I even heard someone say they caught "38 fish in one day!"       How true are these reports? When i'm catching fish I get so ecstatic I can barely remember how to tie a knot---let alone keep track of the exact number of fish that I hooked. Besides, fishermen are well known for embellishing their stories by exaggeration.       So one day while pondering the accuracy of these fish "stories", I decided to develop a mathematical formulae that tells me exactly how many fish these guys caught. I call it he Palter Theorem. It is as follows:

(1/2A-B+C)x(2/L)=P(actual catch #)

  • A=reported catch numbers
  • B= # of beers consumed
  • C= component of credibility or the "Fib Factor" - ranges from 0-5
  • L= length of their leader -(in feet)
  • P= actual catch(legally hooked and landed adult fish)

       For example:if the guy says he caught 38 fish, then A=38; in this case he had 3 beers, so B=3; he had no credibility so C=0; we'll say his leader was 4ft. long so L=4. Plugging in these values the equation reveals:

[1/2(38)-(3)+(0)] x(2/4)=
8 actual fish caught

Still a good day of fishing!!!
      See some guys have a tendency to count the fish that got away, the foul-hook-ups, those smolt bites, and sometimes even a snag that "kinda' felt like one" as fish caught. This will sometimes lead to large discrepancies between the actual number and the number that they boast.       I prefer to use the statements, "I had a good day fishing", or " fishing was slow" instead of bringing numbers into the picture. The competitive attitude of who catches the most, and how many, has no place in the ethics of angling.


The Frugal

-By Al Gee
      One of my biggest "pet-peeves" is that so many sport caught fish have more than one commonly used name. For instance, salmon have two names used interchangeably. Chinooks are also called Kings, and Cohos are also called Silvers. It'a strange cause I can't seem to think of other animals that are so commonly referred to by more than one name.
      The use of the improper name is so widespread for some fish that the true name is rarely used. A good example is the Kelp Greenling which is most often erroneously called"Sea Trout" by local anglers. With reluctance I have even succumbed to using this misnomer in some of my columns. The Kelp Greenling is not in the least bit related to a trout, doesn't look like trout, or taste like one. I have no idea where the nick-name came from. In reality there ia s true Sea Trout, but it only exists in the Atlantic Ocean.
Another local fish that is often misnamed is the Striped Seaperch. Caught in abundance off piers, Rocky shores, and jetties this species is commonly misnamed "Rainbow Surfperch", probably due to its bright rainbow like coloration. There is actually a true rainbow Perch but it is extremely rare to find one north of Cape Mendocino.
      But, by far the most blatant disregard for the correct name of a species of fish is the rockfish. You may not realize it, but when you buy fish in the markets and restaurants called "snapper", it is actually a type of rockfish.
Many years back, the commercial fishing industry decided to generically call these fish snapper 'cause it sounds more appealing to consumers. The most commonly caught rockfish on the north coast is the Black Rockfish. I have heard this species called everything form"Sea Bass" to "Rock Bass" to "Black Snapper". There is a true Red Snapper but it doesn't exist anywhere near here. And what should you do if you catch a Black Sea Bass? I suggest release it. It is against DF&G regulations to keep any black sea-bass, anywhere in California.
      See, if you don't know the correct names of your fish how are you suppose to know if they are legal to catch? Or what if you catch a really odd fish, like the gut who caught the four foot Lancet fish off the jetty last year? The tendency among these guys, who don't know what they've caught, is to keep it and find out later.
     Instead, I encourage all anglers to carry a camera. This way a photo can be used to figure out what kind of fish it was and you can release this rare or unusual fish, which by the way, probably would not make a very good meal anyway.
      Sometimes I can tell the educated angler from the keep-anything- that-bites-and-bag-'em-up fisherman just by what names they call the fish. If they know the right names I'll tend to hang out nearby 'cause chances are they also know right where the fish are, too.