I drove from Arkansas to Tennessee recently, following the back roads and taking in the beauty of spring. It was the warmest day so far this year, with 82 degrees for a high. The nice weather brought out bank fishermen by the hundreds.
It’s a phenomenon I notice every year. When the Bradford pears and plum trees start blooming, anglers young and old, male and female, gather at the water’s edge. I saw them sitting on the shores of farm ponds, creeks, lakes and rivers. Some used 5-gallon buckets for seats. Others sat in lawn chairs or just plopped down on the ground. Most were fishing with cane poles (remember good old-fashioned cane poles?). All seemed relaxed and enjoying their time outdoors.
Occasionally, I stopped to visit. “Whatcha fishin’ for?” I’d ask. Everyone answered the same: “Whatever’s biting.” On stringers and in fish baskets, I saw a potpourri of fish: crappie, largemouths, bluegills, catfish, white bass and even a few buffalo and carp.
Bank fishing is the reason many of us love fishing. It’s the simplest, most cost-effective way to have a maximum amount of fun. It’s recreation in its purest form—no muss, no fuss: just you, some simple tackle, the water, a warm day and fish.
Fishing from a quiet shore clears the mind and soothes the soul. It’s also a great way to introduce kids to the joys of fishing. And the fish you catch will make many delectable meals.
Recapture that feeling. Leave your boat at home. Go bank fishing again. These recipes for success will give you some options to consider this spring.
A Recipe for Sunfish
Find a farm pond full of bream. A pond with clean banks. Ask around. There’s sure to be one nearby.
Visit the owner. Inquire: “Could I bring some kids here to fish?” Sooner or later, the answer will be yes.
Now pick some kids. Your own children, maybe. Or a neighbor’s. A youngster from your church, perhaps. Or a friend’s child. Maybe a grandchild or a niece or nephew.
Tell them your plans. “We’re going fishing this Saturday.” Then start getting ready.
First, get some cane poles and rig them up—you and the kids. Simpler is better. A piece of line the length of the pole. A cork. A split shot. A bream hook.
You need bait, too. Crickets are great. Not too messy. Sometimes the kids will bait their own hooks. Worms are better, messy or not. Fresh-dug worms. Worms dug by giggling kids.
Load ‘em up—kids and bait and poles. Some drinks, too. And a few snacks. And a lifejacket for each child. Might want a basket for the fish.
Drive to the pond. Stop by and howdy with the owner. Introduce the kids. Say thank you—you and the kids.
Don’t plan to fish yourself. You’re here to help. Bait some hooks. Show ‘em how it’s done. Teach them how to swing the bait out. Duck if you must. Show them where to place it. By that stump. Near that rock. Over there by that tree.
Now, ready for action. A bobber shoots out of sight. A child squeals. A bream comes flying through the air. Grab it. Take it off the hook. Admire it with the child. Make a big deal of it. Then, add the fish to the basket or a stringer.
Catch another and another and another. Have fun. Laugh. Praise. Smile.
Be proud. You’ve done a good thing. Another child’s become a fisherman on the bank of a pond.
A Recipe for Catfish
Catfish are tailor-made for bank fishermen. This recipe will get you on them.
Find a good catfish hole. A small park lake is great. Or that little reservoir at the edge of town. Rivers are good, too. The best have clean banks. And a place you can build a campfire. Died-in-the-wool catfishers fish at night and sit by campfires.
You can fish with a cane pole. Or a spincast outfit. Or your favorite bass tackle. Cats don’t care. Carry plenty of hooks and sinkers. Chances are, you’ll lose a few.
Catfish eat everything. Crayfish. Minnows. Night crawlers. Catalpa worms. Stinkbait. Smelly cheese. Even dog food and Ivory soap. Let’s make it easy though. Stop at the market. Buy some cheap hot dogs. Catfish love them.
Now you’re there. Help your fishing buddy build the fire. A fishing buddy is a prerequisite for catfishing. Someone to chew the fat with. Someone to share the fun.
You brought folding chairs, right? And a lantern? Set those up. Then cut some forked sticks to prop your rods on. Poke ‘em in the dirt on the bank’s edge.
Rig your poles. Just a sinker and a hook. Slice a hot dog into little pieces. Thread one on. Toss it out. Let it sink. Prop your rig on a forked stick. Chew the fat. Roast some wieners.
With luck, the catfish will bite. They usually do. Your rod will bounce. You’ll set the hook. You’ll savor the fight. Again and again and again.
Nature’s music makes it special. Whip-poor-wills serenade you. Frogs sing. A barred owl takes the stage. Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you?
A Recipe for Trout
A cold stream is the primary ingredient in this recipe. Take your pick. America has lots of good trout waters.
Certainly we prefer a scenic stream. One with a cuff of trees to shade us. One where there’s plentiful wildlife to watch. One with lots of trout.
Rainbows. Brookies. Browns. Cutthroats. Species doesn’t matter. All are sure to please.
Many bank-fishing trout anglers prefer a solitary experience. Sit and ponder. Get rid of brain-clutter. Savor the moment—alone.
Some want company. A good friend. Family. Doesn’t matter. More is better. Share the fun.
You can fly fish for trout. Catch them on spinners or jigs or spoons. Bank fishermen, however, tend to be bait fishermen.
Worms are great enticements for trout. Night crawlers. Red wigglers. Alabama jumpers. Doesn’t matter. Trout love them all. Use a No. 10 to 6 bait-holder hook. Thread the worm on. Leave both ends dangling. Use very little weight. Cast upstream. Drift the bait down. A great setup for nabbing hungry trout.
Try waxworms, too. Trout relish these little grubs. Buy them at trout docks. Put three or four on a hook. Then squish a miniature marshmallow on your line just above the hook. The marshmallow serves as a float. The waxworms are now buoyant. Trout can see them. And you’ll catch the trout.
A Final Recipe
Take one clean shoreline on one pretty pond, lake or stream. Add one angler or several. Warm them in the sun or beside a campfire. Throw in a few plump fish. Season with a blue sky or star-lit heavens. Stir with a light breeze. Brew as long as possible.
The result will be unforgettable. Try it and see.