Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catch-m-all's Guide to Fishing with Kids

We love to fish and we have families, so that means sometimes we have to fish with kids.  This blog post can be used a as your guide to fishing with small kids.

Get Over Your Ego
The first and the hardest thing for a die hard angler to do is leave your ego at home.  Don't plan on catching any fish yourself.  We know this is hard but if you want to have a good time, check your pole at the door. The goal here is to instill a love of fishing on your kids, so make this about them. Get them fun fishing poles, and neat looking gear. Involve them with choosing hooks, bobbers and bait. Even better, have them dig worms in the yard before you go.

Zoe fights a fish while Colin and Nick watch

Choose the Right Spot
Pick a spot where lots of fish live. We usually choose really small ponds or rivers and make sure we pick a spot where we can see the fish. Another thing to look for is other things to do at the spot. Is there a playground near by? If you are canoeing is there a really cool sandbar or beach to play at?  We fish a lot with 4 year olds who have the attention span of a gnat so there have to be other things to do. We are fans of fishing with kids in weird spots, like neighborhood construction ponds, you'll be surprised how many fish live in tiny waters.

Pack Snacks
If you are a dad taking your kids fishing, pack snacks that mom won't approve of! If you're a mom pack what dad would pack. Hungry kids can ruin your trip, so have snack handy at all times. When your kid gets grumpy, shove some junk food in his mouth and you've increased your fishing time by half and hour!

Snack time!
Take Lots of Pictures
The little fish you catch might not seem like a big deal, but a few snapshots hanging on the wall will encourage your kids to ask to go with you again. So take a lot of pictures and make a big deal about your kids, show them how proud you are.

Colin shows off his pumpkinseed.

Make a Big Deal about Small Fish
Give up on catching a salmon or large bass, go for a large volume of small fish. That means small hooks, and bait. It also means your kid will be catching a lot of fish. Kid love this!  Pumpkinseed sunfish, golden shiners and fallfish are beautiful and always make kids smile.  Once in while you'll see a large fish hit tiny bait, so that will stoke the fishing fire for you.

Zoe caught this brookie in a construction pond in Conway

Teach them Stewardship
For the most part fishing with kids for us is a catch and release experience. Show your kids how to be gentle with the fish, how to properly release it and thank the fish for letting you catch it. Don't leave worm containers or garbage on the shore and if you see garbage pick it up. Be a good example and your kids will follow.

Quit While You're Ahead
You have to stop fishing when the fishing is good and the kids are in good moods. This is the hardest part, but ending the trip on a positive note will make your trip memorable and your kids will remember all the fun they've had. So learn to recognize when your trip is over and get while the gettin's good.

Sammy is too tired to enjoy her catch of the day
Happy Fishing!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Trout the broke Clay's Ankle, fish number 22 Brook Trout

We headed out to Lowerfalls in Albany on the Swift River in search of what is arguably one of the prettiest and most sought after fish in the state, the Brook Trout. Clay knew a good spot and while rock hopping to the falls he severely sprained his ankle and broke his fishing pole.
Clay's ankle

Trip ended at the hospital. They told him the ankle is broken, the second opinion said it was sprained. So no fish.

A week later our friend Nick, a blogger we met through our blog, joined us on our quest. His blog is terrific, he lives in MA and writes a blog called Southern NE Outdoor and Nature Site please take some time to read his blog. He is an avid angler and an all around great guy.

He came to NH for a few days of fishing and was excited to become part of this epic angling quest. So we were happy to have him join us.
Our first stop was Lower Falls, Clay was still having trouble walking but was determined to catch the trout that nearly broke his ankle.
Nick fly fishing the pool below the falls

We fished like maniacs, throwing all kinds of lures, fly fishing and even using worms, but we saw no sign of fish. We bumped into a guy who caught and kept 10 fish the day before, maybe they were all fished out.
Nick comes back empty handed

We headed up to fish Falls Pond a trout pond a few miles upstream. Once again we tried fly fishing, float bubbles, all kinds of lures but the fish weren't biting. Finally Clay decided to use powerbait, not the usual go to technique, but we were on a mission. Within a minute of throwing the line out we had our brookie.

Falls Pond

Nick still hadn't caught a fish, since we were his host, we had to get him on fish, we took him to Pequawket pond a sure thing, but nothing. Clay caught a nice bass, but Nick was still skunked. We decided to call it quits.

As nick was pulling away Clay had an idea and flagged him down. There is a tiny construction pond in Clay's neighborhood that is full of little fish, so we went minnow fishing. Nick was all in.

Within a couple of seconds of minnow fishing we noticed that this tiny pond was full of brook trout! Tiny wild brookies, we easily caught 20 brookies and a bunch of golden shiners in under 40 minutes.

Nick was very happy with his catch of the day
We had a great time and Nick got to go home with a new story and some new friends, we hope to fish with Nick again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Little fish, Big Trouble Fish number 21, The Lake Chub

We headed to Pequawket pond to fish with Colin (4), his dad Nick and Zoe (4).
Nick and Colin show off their Pumpkinseed

After canoeing around a bit we ended up at a little sandbar where Zoe and Colin splashed around and swam while the "Grownups" tried to catch a few fish, we had limited success including a nice smallmouth, but since it was not yet June 15th we could not include that in the quest. Black bass fishing is limited to catch and release between May 15 and June 15 to allow for spawning.
Zoe battles a 2.5lbs Smallmouth!
Zoe's fish

We made our way back to our dock we noticed a school of minnows swimming around, so we tied on some tiny hooks and chopped worms into little pieces and caught this little fish.

Here's where the problems began, we had to figure out what we caught, this quest is a bigger challenge than we could have imagined. So we posted this minnow on our facebook page, on myfishfinder fish forums, and emailed pictures to fish and game biologists.

We keyed it out using the NH freshwater fish guide and Clay determined it was a black nose shiner, the forum guys decided it was a black nose dace and the Fish and Game biologists told us it was a bridle shiner.
Fish and Game made this comparison for us, notice the large eye on the Bridle Shiner

We decided to trust F&G, and read a little about the Bridle Shiner, turns out it was endangered! OH NO we thought we ate an endangered species, so we emailed F&G and offered to turn ourselves in. They decided to take another look at the fish and after comparing our pictures side by side with a bridle shiner they said the eye was too small to be a bridle shiner and told us what we had.

Lake Chub, fish number 21 Couesius plumbeus. These minnows are endangered in Massachussetts but have no status in New Hampshire so we were able to ad it to the quest. We are also very thankful to New Hampshire Fish and Game for their help with this fish ID.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beer Batter Sea Lamprey....Not too shabby!

After killing our lamprey, which was harder than we expected we opened it up and noticed that there were thousands of eggs inside. We should have got a male, but it was too late. Lamprey's can lay up to 40,000 eggs! We did not try lamprey caviar, but please go for it and let us know how it comes out.

Here is the recipe of beer batter lamprey.
Sea Lamprey
Beer (don't waste good beer here)
1 cup Flour

Mix the flour, salt, pepper & garlic together (to taste) then slowly mix in beer until the batter looks thick and smooth like pancake batter. Let that sit for 20 minutes before using. While that is resting prepare the lamprey.

 Clean the lamprey, but cutting off the head and gutting it, then chop it into 4 inch pieces. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop the lamprey in for 30 seconds.

Then immediately remove the fish from the water and wipe it off with a dry towel. Wipe hard enough to get the cooked slime off. If you did it correctly the fish should look terrible and kind of a grey color.
Now chop the fish into 1 inch medallions, and drop them into the batter. Heat a cast iron skillet with a half inch of canola oil. Now drop the lamprey in and cook until it's golden brown on both sides, roughly 3 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Even Fishways Director Helen Dalbeck ate the lamprey!

We shared this with about 20 people at the Amoskeag Fishways, food should be shared, the flavor of lamprey can best be described as tasting like lamprey... very unique, there are no bones so you can eat all parts of this fish.
Even little Sammy Groves love Lamprey!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stone Sucker of the Sea, fish number 20, Sea Lamprey

We headed down to Manchester to the Amoskeag Fishways for Sea Lamprey Appreciation Day. It was a sort of homecoming for us since we met each other years ago at this fish ladder and education center on the Merrimack River.

Back when we worked there, we started this quirky event to raise awareness about this often misunderstood fish.  The event features educational games and presentations, but the highlight are live lampreys in a touch tank!

Now about a dozen years later, we are still on a mission to help people love the sea lamprey as much as we do.  Sure, they look and act like giant leeches, but we challenge anyone to find a more fascinating creature swimming in Granite State waters. 

"I just want to be loved, is that so wrong?"
So please indulge us as we share a little information with our readers about this really cool fish.

Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are:
  • common in coastal New England and can be found on the European side too. 
  • typically anadromous like a salmon, hatching in freshwater streams, migrating to the ocean to become adults and then returning to the freshwater streams to spawn and die.
  • parasitic while in the ocean, attaching to fish and sucking their blood.Their mouths are full of teeth and their tongue is like a drill bit that bores into their prey.
  • an invasive species in the Great Lakes where they feed on lake trout. They got past Niagara Falls when people built a shipping canal to connect the ocean with the Great Lakes.Here in their native habitat they are perfect citizens of the ecosystem. 
  • about three feet long here, but much smaller in the Great Lakes
  • evolutionarily primitive with seven gill slits, no bones, and one nostril on the top of their heads.
  • wicked cool because they have a light colored "third eye" on the top of their head that can sense light.

Sea lampreys are:

  • not parasites while in New Hampshire streams on their spawning run. They do not eat at all!
  • great parents, because they build nests for their eggs by clearing out shallow stone pits using their mouths. 
  • designed perfectly because they have been on Earth in the current form since before dinosaurs! 

The Fishways has a sea lamprey touch tank! See the light "third eye" on its head?
OK, So you would not want to French one.

They have a similar smile!
Sea lampreys are:
  • not eels. Eels are have a much more modern design and are more like "normal" fish than sea lampreys.  (See our last post for more on eels). 
  • lovable. Just give them a chance. .

Clay wrangles a lamprey
Sea Lamprey's can't be caught through angling, so they must be caught in other ways, so we invoked rule number one, interesting techniques can be used besides angling and number four, we can deputize guest anglers into the quest,  The Fishways, working with USFW caught this for us in a fish elevator on the Merrimack.

We aren't sure of the rules for catching these fish if you are a regular angler, but during migration they do stick to rocks and in theory you could walk up to one and pick it up. We find they are easier to hold if you are wearing wet gloves and you put your thumb in their mouths.
Lamprey turns on Clay

Fish gives Clay a big hickey!

Clay gets even!


During the next blog entry we'll tell you how we prepared and ate a sea lamprey!