"Can't I just fish with a cork and a worm or minnow," Marjorie asked. Obviously, she did not understand the finer points of fishing. One must fill a boat with tackle to be prepared for whatever the fish prefer.
Trying not to be condescending I explained how current knowledge and technology has improved the odds of catching fish; that lures are better, hooks are sharper, rods and reels cast farther, how electronics help find fish, and new bass boats speed anglers to hot spots.
Noting how poorly our current piscatorial pursuit was progressing she responded, "But I remember when I was little, how my dad took me fishing, we just used a worm and a cork and we always caught fish, we even caught our worms the night before. It was fun!"
Ouch! I loved my father-in-law but the comparison to his rudimentary fishing skills was both unsettling and enlightening.
So, what is wrong with fishing with a cork and a minnow for crappie, a red wiggler to catch bluegill, or a nightcrawler to catch a catfish? Nothing of course – it is a great way to catch fish and have fun doing it.
Obviously, I had been depriving my bride of 50 years the opportunity to catch a "mess of fish." I became so enamored with technology and the process that she was not enjoying her fishing experience.
Since we have lakefront property with a dock, the fix was not difficult. Improving our dockside fish habitat would bring more bluegill, catfish, and crappie to the area making cork or bobber fishing more productive and fun.
Improving the habitat is doable because most fish love submerged brush, an abundant commodity in the lake area. However, not all brush is created equal. Cedars, with their horizontal limbs, make great cover for minnows and their predators, and since it is a hardwood, it lasts longer than other types of trees.
Small sycamore trees work well because they have horizontal limbs and are heavy, needing less weight to keep them submerged. However, they do not last as long as cedar. Christmas trees create good cover after the needles dry and fall off the limbs. Their downside is a relatively short life of three to four years after being submerged.
There are alternatives to submerging tree material. We chose plastic attractors that look like cones, bushes, and porcupines because they work just as well and last indefinitely. All are "some assembly required," with various models available at Osage Outdoors in Laurie and other lake area retailers or by mail order.
Check out the Honey Hole Tree and Shrub on the internet at www.pondking.com, the Porcupine attractor at www.porcupinefishattractor.com, or the MossBack Fish Attractor at www.mossbackrack.com. Each does a credible job of attracting fish to make fishing with a bobber more fun.
Of course, feeding the fish will also help keep them nearby. Fish feeders made by Moultrie and Pond King are available from Bass Pro Shops or www.basspro.com. We use fish food purchased from a local feed store.
Another proven attractor is a submersible night light. There are several available at local retailers, some are powered by a 12-volt battery, others like the AlumiGlow (see www.fishinglightsetc.com/Docklights.html) plug into an outlet on the dock.
Bluegill, crappie, catfish soon discover the food and cover, making it easy to catch them with a cork. Slip bobbers (corks) are the easiest to use because of the unique way they slide on the line. Anglers should purchase two or three and read the directions on how to rig them.
Bluegill are the easiest to catch but require light tackle, no more than 6- or 8-pound test monofilament line and small No. 6 or 8 long-shanked hooks. For bait, we try pieces of red wiggler, bacon, or one-inch-long Berkley Gulp Crickets.
Crappies prefer minnows or jigs. Lively minnows, 2- or 3-inches long, hooked through the nose with a TTI-Blakemore Mr. Crappie No. 2 or No. 1 in Code Red color is an excellent rig. If minnows are not available, try small jigs tipped with soft plastics and a Berkley Crappie Nibble. A limber rod spooled with 8- to 12-pound-test monofilament line rounds out the tackle.
For bluegill or crappie, we set the slip bobber's depth to suspend the bait three or four inches above the submerged attractor.
Catfish also hang around the dock looking for an easy meal. Try fishing on the bottom without a bobber or use a slip style with the bait set two or three inches above the bottom. Great bait choices include nightcrawlers, chicken liver, shrimp, or a hot dog chunk.
Novice anglers should use some caution when handling catfish, their barbs can cause a painful puncture in the hand. YouTube has numerous clips on how to handle catfish.
You were right Marjorie, it is fun catching a mess of fish with a cork baited with a worm or minnow, and now you can do it from the comfort of our dock!
Can I fish too?