Sunday 6/11/2017 is a pretty good day. In the morning I cleaned up a room in the basement so that my toddler son can nap at noon during the summer. In the afternoon I took both sons to swimming first, then I went for a run, plus other physical exercise. When I got home, it is around 5:05PM. And I decided to do some quick fishing. And I persuade my elder son to join me. We promised to return home by 6:30PM.
We went to Wildwood Nature Center (Park Ridge, IL). There were two small ponds. Both contained a lot of pan fish. We've been there once for fishing, and we caught 3 uner a short time. It was an ideal place for beginner to learn how to fish. The ponds are small, and you can cast easily from one shore to the other. Hardly any one fishes there. And probably no one kept the fish they caught. And there were abundant pan fish found there. The only problem was that the ponds had a lot of weed in them. So it is important to find a spot that there were litte weed, and you could check out fish.
We got there around 5:30PM. I had a few goals in mind, 1) I want to hook a couple, then have my 5 year old son reel them in, giving him a sense what the fishing dangling on the line felt like. It would excite a five year old. 2) In the past, I had difficulty figure out why pan fish like blue gill would spit out bait. It made the catch very difficult. I wanted to spent some time at a place like this and experiment the use of different hook size, when to pull the line, and any general fishing techniques. This place provided an important opportunity to test some of my theories on how to catch pan fish.
The idea I had about pan fish is that they are easy to hook. I use bait like night crawlers, or red worm. I use a small size hook like size 10 or smaller. I don't need a lot of bait on the hook, just enough to cover the whole hook. I need small split shot and a bobber. Once I set everything up, I can cast the line and wait. The fish will bite, and attempt to get away. That is how they get caught. The problem I had in the past is that I did all these and cast, the bobber went down a bit, then floats back to the top. What happened was that the pan fish, possibly bluegill, was testing and spitting the bait out. The most frustrating part of this is that sometimes when you drag the hook back, it was empty. Somehow the fish stole the bait. What I wanted to do during this fishing event was to find out what kind of hook would be the best for: 1) provided a hard-to-resist bait, 2) fish unable to detect the metal hook, 3) fish got hooked conveniently when I pulled the line.
The experiment I did is, I first try with a smallest hook I had, a few size 12 hooks. The ones I had is from Eagle Claw. It was a very small hook, and was pretty hard to put the bait on. When I throw the bait in I caught fish within a minute. And I tried a couple times, fish got hooked within a minute. Some escaped. It was just as I predicted, the bait worked very well but there was a problem. The hook often stuck deep inside the fish's mouth. So I suspected that with such a small hook, the fish couldn't detect the metal easily and thus eating the bait like it was real food. I guess size 12 was a very good hook, but it was unnecessarily hurting the fish. You see, if the hook stuck in the throat of the fish, pulling it out might gravely injure hurt the fish. When you tried to pull the hook out under such circumstance, it would damage the gills and the fish would eventually die. In the end, I cut the line so that I can release the fish with hook in it. It was either this or pulling the fish's gill out and killing it.
The next one I tried was a small size 10 bait/octopus hook. Again, I was able to catch fish very quickly. Night crawler truly worked wonders with pan fish. I had similar problem with the size 10 hooks. I started reeling when the bobber went under the water and being dragged by fish. I think this was my mistake, I waited a bit too late to drag the fish and they were swallowing the hooks pretty hard, which was why the hook stuck deeply in their throat. Finally, I tried another size 10 hook, a worm hook, it is very thin. This one also worked well. Again I had problem with hook stuck in their throat, and I was able to free the hook without hurting the fish too much. I used a tweezer, holding the hook. Then I push the hook down further in their throat then slowly pull it back up. That freed most of the stuck hooks. For the ones I couldn't free, I cut the line.
As part of my effort to show my son a good time on fishing, I think I succeeded. For that hour along we caught about 10 fish. For a couple occasions, I caught the fish then I asked my son to reel the fish to shore. And I took some photos of him holding the line with the caught fish. I am still hesitant to let him cast the line, or work on the baits. I guess once he is a little bigger, I will let him do the casting, and eventually move on to hook the bait himself and all that. The two ponds at Wildwood Nature Center is an ideal place for any one who begin to learn how to fish. They are not very big. It is possible to cast from one side to the other side (if you really wanted to do this), which means you can cast at desired locations. There were abundant number of fish, and they bite quickly (probably because the number of fish and not enough of food?). Because of the abundance, one can learn how to cast and hook the fish, and do experiments on how to use hooks and bait. And kids won't get bored when there is no fish caught. I am glad I found a place like this. And even though I did caught a lot of fish here, I think there are still a lot to learn about catch pan fish. It was a great fun Sunday.