Thursday, May 30, 2024

Grass Pickerel on Fly

  ***I haven't shared much regarding techniques for quit a while, my recent posts being more about the fish with which I am so enamored.  I'm going to start sharing more specifically what I've learned for the various species I've caught.

We all know fish in different waters can behave differently and have different preferences.  But I think overall this will give folks who want to try for certain species more info that can hopefully get them started off on the right foot, rather than going blindly.  We can all shorten our personal learning curve by first learning from the experience of others.***

This blog post is about Grass Pickerel.

I've caught a number of Grass Pickerel on flies. They have been from different locations on a single river system near southern Missouri/northern Arkansas.  I've fished with someone when they caught Grass Pickerel from a couple other spots, and the techniques are very similar in all cases.  So, I'll give my experience with those.  

Grass Pickerel are the among the smallest members of the Pike/Mudminnow family, typically caught when between 5-8", but can reach 12".  Their lifespan is short, typically just 3-4 years.  They spawn very early in the year, like February-March.

Grass Pickerel can be caught most any time of year.  They prefer clear waters and slow moving waters in swamps, ditches and canals, naturals lakes, and near creek headwaters.  They will often be in or adjacent to shoreline weeds and cover.  In streams they will be adjacent to the faster water, not usually right in it

The catchable size fish commonly eat aquatic nymphs and small fish.  Use flies that can mimic these food items.

3 wt to 5 wt 9' fly rods will work fine for Grass Pickerel.  Although they are aggressive and fast and struggle mightily when hooked, because of their size, it would be difficult to suggest they are strong fighters.  Very cool fish, though, and I really DO enjoy catching them.  2 lb to 6 lb Fluorocarbon tippet is plenty strong for these fish.  They may have typical pike/musky blade-like teeth, but I haven't had any issues with them cutting or abrading the line noticeably.  If it ever happens to you, just realize it isn't common, and its OK for the fish to win sometimes.  Tie on a new fly and continue fishing.

I'd read these fish have a liking for the color red, but in my experience color hasn't seemed to be particularly important.  I've caught them on black, chartreuse, gold, silver, etc.  Most any nymph or small baitfish should work.  I catch most of mine on microjigs... marabou tail, chenille body.  1/80th-1/64th, and hook sizes 12 to 8.  One of the most important things seems to be to be that, like for Chain Pickerel, they seem to LOVE an erratic retrieve.  It really seems to get them fired up and they can't leave the fly alone!

When they are tucked in/under/around weedbeds, dapping the fly along the edges, holes, and pockets can get them to come out and bite.

If they are around, it usually doesn't take long to get a strike.  The strikes are quick and aggressive.  They can be hard to keep hooked, and even once lifted from the water, they thrash and can often free themselves.

Grass Pickerel are challenging and fun, and they are such an interesting fish!  I really enjoy catching them on flies. Find some fish near you, and get after them!  Good luck! 

Here's some pics of Grass Pickerel I've caught while flyfishing:

Grass Pickerel on fly

Monday, May 27, 2024

May 25, 2024

 Visited 2 different bodies of water.

At the first, I caught 4 Grass Carp, 1 Largemouth Bass, 1 Hybrid Sunfish, 1 Freshwater Drum, 2 Channel Catfish, and 4 Shortnose Gar.

Grass Carp on fly

Channel Catfish on fly

Hybrid Sunfish on fly

Freshwater Drum on fly

Darker than normal Shortnose Gar on fly

Shortnose Gar on Cicada fly

Melanistic Shortnose Gar on fly

At the second location, I caught a couple Eyetail Bowfin (both female), and a really dark Spotted Gar.
Spotted Gar on fly

Eyetail Bowfin on fly

Tiny Redeared Slider turtle

Plain-Bellied Water Snake

Monday, May 20, 2024

May 19, 2024

 Before leaving Arkansas on Sunday, I decided to try for some species I don't normally get near home.  My buddy that I fished with the previous day for Snakeheads fish with me.  He knows so many good fishing spots! :)

We stopped at 3 places.  At the first spot, I caught a Creek Chub, Green Sunfish, and Rainbow Trout, then lost a sculpin.  We relocated downstream 100 yards or so, and I caught a few more Green Sunfish, a Banded Sculpin (Flyfer!), 3 Redspotted Sunfish, 7 Grass Pickerel, and a Knobfin Sculpin.

Banded Sculpin

Banded Sculpin

Redspotted Sunfish

Grass Pickerel

Grass Pickerel

Knobfin Sculpin

As we headed to another location, we made a quick stop at a small creek, hoping for chances at some Darter species.  We didn't manage any darters, but I did get a Flyfer (fly-lifer) of a Redfin Shiner.  Also caught some Bloody Shiners.

Redfin Shiner

Bloody Shiners
At our last spot, we fished a swamp that was flooded and muddied up from recent rains.  I beached but lost a Spotted Gar, but caught a Warmouth and 2 Fliers.



Zebra Swallowtail

I ended the day by 12:30pm (to start my drive home), with 11 species, 27 fish.  I've now so far caught 51 fish species in 2024.

May 18, 2024 - Snakeheads

 Met up with my buddy in Arkansas to try to get Northern Snakehead added to my fly rod life list.  He'd already gotten one on fly rod, and a few others on spinning gear.

We fished from a canoe, and it was absolute mayhem in close quarters when a Snakehead would strike!  Like Bowfin, you really have to get a good hookset, because the roof of their mouth is solid bone and the hook can easily get spit during the battle.  We didn't lose any, but a few strikes were missed.  The cool thing is that when the fish misses, you can toss right back to it, and it will almost always strike again until it eats the fly.  

I caught 4 on a Howitzer Head popper, using 20 lb fluoro tippet, and a 9wt fly rod.

The biggest measured at least 25.5".  They were all pretty good sized!  

Also caught 4 Largemouth Bass, and a couple Central Longear Sunfish:

Black Swallowtail: