Bait – Outdoor Skills
Before leaving the subject of bait-fishing, I have a point or two I wish to make. I have attempted to explain the frog-bait, and the manner of using it, and I shall probably never have occasion to change my belief that it is, on the whole, the most killing lure for the entire tribes of bass and pickerel. There is, however, another, which, if properly handled, is almost as good. It is as follows:
Take a bass, pickerel, or yellow perch, of one pound or less; scrape the scales clean on the under side from the caudal fin to a point just forward of the vent. Next, with a sharp knife, cut up toward the backbone, commencing just behind the vent with a slant toward the tail. Run the knife smoothly along just under the backbone, and out through the caudal fin, taking about one-third of the latter, and making a clean, white bait, with the anal and a part of the caudal by way of fins. It looks very like a white minnow in the water; but is better, in that it is more showy, and infinitely tougher. A minnow soon drags to pieces. To use it, two strong hooks are tied on a wire snell at right angles, the upper one an inch above the lower, and the upper hook is passed through the bait, leaving it to draw without turning or spinning. The casting and handling is the same as with the frog-bait, and it is very killing for bass, pickerel, and muskellunge. It is a good lure for salmon trout also; but, for him it is found better to fasten the bait with the lower hook in a way to give it a spinning motion; and this necessitates the use of a swivel, which I do not like; because, "a rope is as strong as its weakest part;" and I have more than once found that weakest part the swivel. If, however, a swivel has been tested by a dead lift of twenty to twenty-five pounds, it will do to trust.
I have spoken only of brass or copper wire for snells, and for pickerel or muskellunge of large size, nothing else is to be depended on. But for trout and bass, strong gut or gimp is safe enough. The possibilities as to size of the muskellunge and Northern pickerel no man knows. Frank Forester thinks it probable that the former attains to the weight of sixty to eighty pounds, while he only accords the pickerel a weight of seventeen or eighteen pounds. I have seen several pickerel of over forty pounds, and one that turned the scale at fifty-three. And I saw a muskellunge on Georgian Bay that was longer than the Canuck guide, who was toting the fish over his shoulder by a stick thrust in the mouth and gills. The snout reached to the top of the guide's head, while the caudal fin dragged on the ground. There was no chance for weighing the fish, but I hefted him several times, carefully, and am certain he weighed more than a bushel of wheat. Just what tackle would be proper for such a powerful fellow I am not prepared to say, having lost the largest specimens I ever hooked. My best muskellunge weighed less than twenty pounds. My largest pickerel still less.
I will close this discursive chapter by offering a bit of advice. Do not go into the woods on a fishing tour without a stock of well cleansed angle-worms. Keep them in a tin can partly filled with damp moss, and in a cool, moist place. There is no one variety of bait that the angler finds so constantly useful as the worm. Izaak Walton by no means despised worms or bait-fishing.
Sears, George Washington. Woodcraft. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1884.
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