I suppose that there is no need to address the enthusiasts out there of the merits of micro-fishing. If you are already a fan, feel free to stop reading and go fishing instead. For anyone else who might raise a skeptical eyebrow at the suggestion of catching little fish on purpose I propose that micro-fishing is not only good fun, it is also an effective way to improve your fishing skills overall.
I will explain both of these reasons in turn, but first let’s define micro-fishing for the sake of our discussion. I will not be pedantic here because I prefer to be as inclusive as possible. As far as I am concerned micro-fishing means fishing specifically for small fish with hook and line. By “small” I mean any fish that would fit in your hand. All other aspects, like trying to catch and identify as many different species as possible, and keeping a detailed list of where and what was caught, are completely optional.
One of my basic tenets has always been that the best part of fishing is actually catching fish. Some fish are more exciting or more rewarding to catch but it is always fun to feel a fish on the end of your line. In any body of water with a natural population, there will only be a few big fish. There will be more medium sized fish, and there will be many, many more small fish. This is just the way the food chain works. From a probability standpoint there is no denying that one will enjoy more success fishing for small rather than big specimens. Because there are more fish for them to catch, micro-fishers catch more fish.
The simplicity of catching small fish also makes it easier to share with others, especially kids or novices. I cannot count the number of times I have taken people fishing “with me” only to spend the whole trip tying knots, coaching casts, and un-snagging snags. Simple handpole fishing does away with much of this. Without so many moving parts, everyone can spend more time actually fishing.
Catching lots of fish, and spending time with friends or family make micro-fishing fun and accessible, but there is more to it. Even a seasoned angler can improve their big fish skills by spending time with the minnows. I remember when I was first learning to surf on the Oregon coast I read a glib statement in a surf mag about how easy snowboarding was to learn compared to surfing. When you fall on the mountain and stand up again, you are still on the hill and you get to finish the run. When you fall on a wave, you get tumbled around, climb back on the board, paddle back to the line up and try to compete with the other, more skillful (since you are just learning) surfers for another wave. Even a successful ride is usually over in less than a minute. Surfing is hard to learn because so little time is actually spent riding waves.
Fishing is similar. You can spend a lot of time not catching fish, and it is hard to know what might be wrong – technique, location, tackle, time or tide. Catching lots of little fish gives valuable feedback in a much shorter time frame. Most fish behavior scales so understanding where small fish hide, where they hunt or how they strike gives insight into how to catch their larger cousins.
You don’t have to switch to a handpole to do some micro-fishing, either. Just down-size your hook. When the carp were scarce I used to anchor and spend an hour fishing for bluegill with tiny gurgler flies. Not only did the repetition of catching and playing fish improve my fishing instincts, but I could practice my casting, working on distance or accuracy and also experiment with different retrieves.
Next time you want to go fishing but hesitate because you don’t have time to drive to your favorite lake, grab some small tackle and hit the nearest water you can find. Any little slough or urban pond will do. Small fish are everywhere and catching them is fun and will pay dividends down the road. Micro-fishing also brings up another of my fishing tenets: even a big fish will bite a small hook. You can catch a pretty big fish on a handpole with a tiny hook. I have done it, and so can you. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to hook some fish, even if they are small.