Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/40

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29
ANGLING

live-baiting with what was known as a gorge-hook. Now, however, what is called snap-tackle is almost invariably used in live-baiting, and the system is by some few anglers extended to the other method too. Pike are autumn and winter fish and are at their best in December. They grow to a very considerable size, fish of 20 lb being regarded as “specimens”, and an occasional thirty-pounder rewarding the zealous and fortunate. The heaviest pike caught with a rod in recent years which is sufficiently authenticated, weighed 37 lb, but heavier specimens are said to have been taken in Irish lakes. River pike up to about 10 lb in weight are excellent eating.

America has several species of pike, of which the muskelunge of the great lake region (Esox masquinongy) is the most important. It is a very fine fish, excelling Esox lucius both in size and looks. From the angler's point of view it may be considered simply as a large pike and may be caught by similar methods. It occasionally reaches the weight of 80 lb or perhaps more. The pickerel (Esox reticulatus) is the only other of the American pikes which gives any sport. It reaches a respectable size, but is as inferior to the pike as the pike is to the muskelunge.

Perch.—Next to the pikes come the perches, also predatory fishes. The European perch (Perca fluviatilis) has a place by itself in the affections of anglers. When young it is easy to catch by almost any method of fishing, and a large number of Walton's disciples have been initiated into the art with its help. Worms and small live-baits are the principal lures, but at times the fish will take small bright artificial spinning-baits well, and odd attractions such as boiled shrimps, caddis-grubs, small frogs, maggots, wasp-grubs, &c. are sometimes successful. The drop-minnow is one of the best methods of taking perch. Very occasionally, and principally in shallow pools, the fish will take an artificial fly greedily, a small salmon-fly being the best thing to use in such a case. A perch of 2 lb is a good fish, and a specimen of 4½ lb about the limit of angling expectation. There have been rare instances of perch over 5 lb, and there are legends of eight-pounders, which, however, need authentication.

Black Bass.—The yellow perch of America (Perca flavescens) is very much like its European cousin in appearance and habits, but it is not so highly esteemed by American anglers, because they are fortunate in being possessed of a better fish in the black bass, another member of the perch family. There are two kinds of black bass (Micropterus salmoides and Micropterus dolomieu), the large-mouthed and the small-mouthed. The first is more a lake and pond fish than the second, and they are seldom found in the same waters. As the black bass is a fly-taking fish and a strong fighter, it is as valuable to the angler as a trout and is highly esteemed. Bass-fiies are sui generis, but incline more to the nature of salmon-flies than trout-flies. An artificial frog cast with a fly-rod or very light spinning-rod is also a favourite lure. For the rest the fish will take almost anything in the nature of worms or small fish, like its cousin the perch. A 4 lb bass is a good fish, but five-pounders are not uncommon. Black bass have to some extent been acclimatized in France.

The ruffe or pope (Acerina vulgaris) is a little fish common in the Thames and many other slow-flowing English rivers. It is very like the perch in shape but lacks the dusky bars which distinguish the other, and is spotted with dark brown spots on a golden olive background. It is not of much use to the angler as it seldom exceeds 3 oz. in weight. It takes small worms, maggots and similar baits greedily, and is often a nuisance when the angler is expecting better fish. Allied to the perches is the pike-perch, of which two species are of some importance to the angler, one the wall-eye of eastern America (Stizostedion vitreum) and the other the zander of Central Europe (Sandrus lucioperca). The last especially is a fine fighter, occasionally reaching a weight of 20 lb. It is usually caught by spinning, but will take live-baits, worms and other things of that nature. The Danube may be described as its headquarters. It is a fish whose sporting importance will be more realized as anglers on the continent become more numerous.

Cyprinidae.—The carp family (Cyprinidae) is a large one and its members constitute the majority of English sporting fishes. In America the various kinds of chub, sucker, dace, shiner, &c. are little esteemed and are regarded as spoils for the youthful angler only, or as baits for the better fish in which the continent is so rich. In England, however, the Cyprinidae have an honoured place in the affections of all who angle “at the bottom,” while in Europe some of them have a commercial value as food-fishes. In India at least one member of the family, the mahseer, takes rank with the salmon as a “big game” fish.

Carp, Tench, Barbel, Bream.—The family as represented in England may be roughly divided into two groups, those which feed on the bottom purely and those which occasionally take flies. The first consists of carp, tench, barbel and bream. Of these carp, tench and bream are either river or pool fish, while the barbel is found only in rivers, principally in the Thames and Trent. The carp grows to a great size, 20 lb being not unknown; tench are big at 5 lb; barbel have been caught up to 14 lb or rather more; and bream occasionally reach 8 lb, while a fish of over 11 lb is on record. All these fish are capricious feeders, carp and barbel being particularly undependable. In some waters it seems to be impossible to catch the large specimens, and the angler who seeks to gain trophies in either branch of the sport needs both patience and perseverance. Tench and bream are not quite so difficult. The one fish can sometimes be caught in great quantities, and the other is generally to be enticed by the man who knows how to set about it. Two main principles have to be observed in attacking all these fish, ground-baiting and early rising. Ground-baiting consists in casting food into the water so as to attract the fish to a certain spot and to induce them to feed. Without it very little can be done with shy and large fish of these species. Early rising is necessary because they only feed freely, as a rule, from daybreak till about three hours after sun-rise. The heat of a summer or early autumn day makes them sluggish, but an hour or two in the evening is sometimes remunerative. The bait for them all should usually lie on the bottom, and it consists mainly of worms, wasp and other grubs, pastes of various kinds; and for carp, and sometimes bream, of vegetable baits such as small boiled potatoes, beans, peas, stewed wheat, pieces of banana, &c. None of these fish feed well in winter.

Roach, Rudd, Dace, Chub.—The next group of Cyprinidae consists of fish which will take a bait similar to those already mentioned and also a fly. The sizes which limit the ordinary angler's aspirations are roach about 2 lb, rudd about 2½ lb, dace about 1 lb and chub about 5 lb. There are instances of individuals heavier than this, one or two roach and many rudd of over 3 lb being on record, while dace have been caught up to 1 lb 6 oz., and chub of over 7 lb are not unknown. Roach only take a fly as a rule in very hot weather when they are near the surface, or early in the season when they are on the shallows; the others will take it freely all through the summer. Ordinary trout flies do well enough for all four species, but chub often prefer something larger, and big bushy lures called “palmers,” which represent caterpillars, are generally used for them. The fly may be used either wet or dry for all these fish, and there is little to choose between the methods as regards effectiveness. Fly-fishing for these fish is a branch of angling which might be more practised than it is, as the sport is a very fair substitute for trout fishing. Roach, chub and dace feed on bottom food and give good sport all the winter.

Gudgeon, Bleak, Minnow, &c.—The small fry of European waters, gudgeon, bleak, minnow, loach, stickleback and bullhead, are principally of value as bait for other fish, though the first-named species gives pretty sport on fine tackle and makes a succulent dish. Small red worms are the best bait for gudgeon and minnows, a maggot or small fly for bleak, and the rest are most easily caught in a small-meshed net. The loach is used principally in Ireland as a trout bait, and the other two are of small account as hook-baits, though sticklebacks are a valuable form of food for trout in lakes and pools.

Mahseer.—Among the carps of India, several of which give good sport, special mention must be made of the mahseer (Barbus mosal), a fish which rivals the salmon both in size and strength. It reaches a weight of 60 lb and sometimes more and is fished for in much the same manner as salmon, with the