Why do we fish? For many, fishing is a form of recreation. For some, fishing is a source of sustenance. For few, fishing is a source of income. For everyone, fishing is fun! An opportunity to get outside and see what lurks beneath. For those who choose to recreate and experience fishing as a sport, there are few things in the sport of fishing that beat the fight between angler and animal. Going toe to toe with a worthy adversary that tests your ability, tests its own intestinal fortitude and puts your equipment to the ultimate test is the rush many look for while on the water. The fight is where the fun is and I for one have the utmost respect for fish that beat even the most experienced anglers.
In choosing equipment with which to fish, there are factors that come into play that should be considered – if, that is, you’re looking for the ultimate fight in the sport. And it’s known that catching fish on light tackle and ultra light tackle brings a new level to the game that tests the angler’s mettle. Even the IGFA (international Game Fish Association) has world record categories directed a those who like to angle fish on the lightest pound test line possible.
Many species are exceptionally susceptible to stress, and if you choose to fish for sport (planning on practicing catch and release) stress can be the straw that breaks the back of the camel. Stress will kill fish so targeting species that can handle stress is key. Understanding the causes of stress in fish is equally important.
Water temperature is the key element in managing stress of fish you plan on catching and releasing on light tackle. Generally a good rule of thumb is the warmer the water, the higher the possibility of stressing a fish past the point of recovery. Many anglers who target musky for example, choose to stop fishing for them when the water hits temperatures approaching the high 70’s. Warmer water (less dissolved oxygen) longer fights, lactic acid build-up and improper angler release tactics will all contribute to increased stress in fish.
Light and ultra light tackle fighting is exceptionally challenging for many. We choose to angle fish in this manner, therefore, we must also choose to be prepared for when the fight comes to an end. If fishing larger fish such as the giant northern pike Wilderness North is famous for, be sure you have the proper tools at hand to safely and quickly release the fish. Pliers, a cradle or aquarium style nets, jaw spreaders, bolt cutters and a mesh landing glove are all vital equipment to unhook and revive big fish. After a long fight, it’s also a good idea to try to minimize the air exposure of fought-out fish. Get a quick photo, and try to keep them wet!
When releasing fish angled on light line, time is on your side. Take as much time as you need to ensure that fish is ready to swim away on its own. A fish released too soon may linger on the surface (eagle food) or sink slowly to the bottom unable to right itself. A good way to ensure your fish is ready to be released, is to loosen your grip in their tail while supporting the underbelly. If the fish is able to maintain its vertical equilibrium, that’s a good sign of recovery. If they drift onto their side, they can’t swim away on their own yet. Many fish will let you know they have recovered with an explosion from your grip – that’s good.. but hang onto that fish until it shows you they are able to swim away on their own.
There is little arguing that fishing light tackle for big fish is a tonne of fun. It creates a challenge for anglers, a goal to strive toward. Imagine releasing a 30 lb pike on 6 lb test line – quite the feat! However, anglers fishing conservation minded waters do so ensuring they fish light tackle responsibly. No matter how you choose to target the giants at Wilderness North, they are there… and they are many, and catching them on ultra light tackle is incredible!