Sporting Life

The Insider’s Line on Rockfish 

By Dennis Doyle 

The weather’s warming and May 1 is getting ever closer, it’s time to check all of your fishing tackle. While you may think that there is plenty of time, let me assure you, there is not. Before you know it opening day will be upon us and if you’re not completely ready, you’re not ready at all. 

There are rods, reels, nets, knives, lures, hooks, sinkers, swivels, connectors, lubricants, flashlights, foul weather gear, sunglasses, footwear, hats, sun gaiters and masks, the list goes on and on and if you’ve got a boat—it’s even longer and more complex.  

An angler’s life can be a complicated one. But let me stress that there is one simple tackle item that is especially critical and often the most overlooked of them all: your fishing lines and leaders. 

Too many anglers consider monofilament and fluorocarbon in useable condition if it retains its breaking strength. They rarely notice if it’s lost its surface sheen, slickness or transparency and that can be far more important than one might think. Especially during the early trophy season. Certainly you can catch fish with your lines in their present condition and you’ve probably been successful with these lines before. But the question you should be asking yourself is, will they still fool the smartest fish, the wariest big ones that have survived season after season by getting lockjaw at the first notice of a line in the water? 

One unfortunate fact is that older lines, while they might stand up to stress, can be much more visible in the water than fresher line. Scuff marks, stretch marks, microscopic wear and even imbedded scum and dried algae are clear and obvious warning signs to older, wiser fish. You’re always aware of the size of the fish you’ve caught, of course, you’ve measured them—but you’ll never know the size of the rascals that saw your gear and turned aside. 

Years ago, after a number of seasons of carefully comparing various type lines, I discerned the definite advantages of a stealthy approach. When chumming and fishing cut baits allowed for comparing different lines in similar situations, monofilament lines in general produced the best results, measurably better than braid or other opaque options. And that is despite the uniform use of fluorocarbon leaders of 24 inches. 

Fish notice what’s around them, and though they can easily inspect the line that is nearest the bait they’re intending to eat (the leader), the smarter fish also notice any foreign objects in the general area. If there are visible lines around them, the bigger, more wary fish tend to get extra hesitant to eat and will move to areas absent these intrusive objects. 

This phenomenon is especially true at times of low tidal currents (slack tides) when the fish can easily move about. Everyone knows the bite tends to die at slack tide, fish in general don’t feed when there is no current for many reasons but one of them is their ability to easily inspect the baits. When that happens, I found that only the best (hardest to see) lines continued to produced fish. 

Those lines that still caught fish during these periods were the thinnest, freshest copolymers with fluorocarbon coatings or lines of 100 percent fluoro. Mono would only occasionally produce and braid almost never on the slack. 

While this was specifically the case with bait-fishing it was also somewhat evident, to a less certain degree, with trolling and casting situations since it is almost impossible to recreate consistently comparable situations. The advantages of fluorocarbon in all applications, however, is a reliable advantage and definitely worth the effort and expense. 

Fishfinder The yellow perch run continues to inch along though the recent warming spell should have moved things up, but so far success has been limited. White perch are reportedly queuing up for their spawn but reports of success with them are few and far between as well, mostly due to the windy weather and cold nights but things could heat up soon. Pickerel are the lone good news story with nice fish being taken on minnows under bobbers and slow rolled spinner baits close to the bottom. Paddle tail jigs are also continuing to score in this, the only game in town right now. Keep the faith, all will be well soon.