By James Murray, Observer contributor
What do northern pike minnows and carp have in common?
Well, for one thing, they are both considered coarse fish. By definition, coarse fish are distinguished from sport fish simply by the fact that they are freshwater fish that are not members of the salmonid family – trout, salmon, char. For another, they will both be species of special interest three week’s from now, on Sunday, June 17, at the 22nd Annual Salmon Arm Kids’ Fishing Derby which will be held at the end of the Salmon Arm wharf.
Angling for coarse fish is not all that complicated. It can be a lot of fun.
Most young anglers are more interested in quantity than quality when it comes to catching fish, and it would be an understatement to say that most kids would rather catch a bunch of coarse fish than cast all day in hopes of catching one 18-inch trout. Casting a line into most waters around here will likely produce either one or both species of coarse fish. They may not be pretty and you may not be able to eat them, but both are pretty easy to catch. Which, in the eyes of most anglers, is their only real virtue as coarse fish essentially feed on the eggs and fry of more desirable sport fish such as trout, salmon and char.
When fishing for so-called sport fish, anglers more often than not have to work their way up and down the banks of a river or stream, or make their way along the edge of the shoal or drop-off of a lake. Coarse fishing, on the other hand, requires far less moving around. Instead of going after fish, you let the fish come to you. Even the kind of a rod required is different. Rather than a fly rod, which is most commonly used for trout, or a heavy drift rod, often used for salmon, most coarse fish are caught on light to medium spinning gear.
I prefer to use a long, thin, flexible rod around 10 feet in length with a soft, flexible tip that allows me to feel each nibble and even the softest take. When fishing with light line, it also makes sense that you will be using smaller terminal tackle as well – the smaller the hook, the better. Basically, when fishing for pike minnows, all that’s required for terminal tackle are some small split shot weights, a swivel or two and a few small lures such as a Dick-nite or silver Len Thompson spoon to attract pike minnows. For carp, a bait hook, some split shot and a couple of floats will usually work just fine. Pike minnows are fairly aggressive feeders and will often strike the moment your lure or bait hits the water. Carp tend to peck at their food several times before swallowing. When a carp shows interest, you will feel a number of small rapid taps on your rod tip or notice a gentle bobbing of the float. Always wait until the fish has committed fully before setting your hook, and, try not to set the hook too hard or you may end up ripping the hook out of the fish’s mouth. Keep in mind that only a small amount of bait is required on the hook. Too much bait and you end up feeding the fish rather than catching them.
Pike minnows will strike at pretty well anything they come across. Carp on the other hand, are a little more selective and tend to feed close to the bottom so you need to make sure your bait is suspended just above the bottom. Carp can be taken on dough ball, worms and bait such as shrimp. The trick to catching coarse fish is getting your bait into their feeding zone or passing your lure through the zone. Like I said, coarse fishing is not all that complicated.
Pike minnows can be caught in streams, rivers and lakes throughout the province between the months of May and September. They can be found in relatively shallow waters of little more than a foot deep; however, most often they are found in waters at least five-feet deep. Mature pike minnow’s can often be found hiding in weed beds and near underwater structures where they can swim out and attack their prey.
One place that I know for sure where an angler can catch coarse fish such as pike minnows and carp is off the Salmon Arm wharf come Sunday morning on June 17.