As part of my guide service, I run three similar programs focused on helping kids learn to fish.
The first, called SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun), puts kids separated from their military parents on the water. The second, called Fishing 101, is a fishing fundamentals “class” offered through the Fort Hood SKIESUnlimited program, which takes place on the water. The last, called “Kids Fish, Too!” is for all children.
Through my experiences with kids in these programs, I have developed a “sure-fire” method for consistently catching sunfish in shallow water from late April through late September.
At the heart of this system is a pole, which is the modern day equivalent of the old cane pole. Made of three or four telescoping fiberglass segments. These 9- to 11-foot-long “bream poles” such as the Shakespeare Wonderpole, the B’n’M Black Jewel Original BreamBuster or Lew’s Bream Stick eliminate the need for a reel.
I begin setting up this system with a length of 17-pound test monofilament tied to the tip of the rod, three feet shorter than the rod’s length. This line is terminated with a loop about an inch-and-a-half in length.
Next, a three-foot long leader of six-pound test monofilament is attached to the 17-pound test with a loop-to- loop connection.
A small float (I like the ones made of balsa wood produced by Thill), a BB-sized split shot, and a #14 or #16 hook is then placed on the six-pound test leader. The hook is tied on the terminal end, the shot is pinched on just 3 or 4 inches above the hook, and the float is clipped on at an appropriate distance above the hook and shot sufficient to keep the bait suspended off the bottom.
The shot and the float should be “float tested” before going fishing to make sure the shot is not so heavy that it pulls the float under the water.
With the equipment ready to go, bait selection is now in order. Most novices make the mistake of choosing nightcrawlers as bait. Generally speaking, nightcrawlers are simply too large to interest most sunfish. Choosing worms shorter in length and smaller in diameter will enhance success. Good choices include trout worms, red worms, green worms, red wigglers, earthworms or manure worms.
With proper bait secured, use scissors to cleanly cut one worm into quarter-inch long segments, and thread just one segment at a time onto the small #14 or #16 hook. The hook should be inserted so that he point goes into one of the cut ends of the worm segment, right down the center of that segment, and out the other cut end, thus taking on the J-shape of the bend of the hook.
Threading the bait in this manner avoids presenting loose ends or loops of worm for the sunfish to tug on, thus preventing them from “stealing the bait.”
Most any body of water containing sunfish will lend itself to the use of this system. This system may be used from the bank or from a boat. Prime locations are in the backs of quiet coves on our area reservoirs or on smaller bodies of water like golf course ponds (where fishing is permitted), farm ponds or municipal ponds. Nearby options include the small pond at Carl Levin Park in Harker Heights, Salado Creek in Salado, the many ponds on Fort Hood or the pond at the city park in Copperas Cove.
Given that sunfish are cover-loving, ambush-style feeders, placing a baited hook near things like rocks,water weeds, logs, docks, trees, etc., will provide more success than fishing along more barren stretches of bank.
Once ideal cover is located, simply place the bait in the water and keep a close eye on the float. Once asunfish pulls the float under, just lift upward and the tiny hookpoint will typically hook the fish in the upper lip. A short, scrappy fight will ensue after which the fish can be taken from the water by lifting the rod just shy of vertical.
Planning ahead for hook removal will benefit both fish and fisherman. A 6-inch pair of curved-tip hemostats (sold in most sporting goods stores) will aid tremendously in removing the hook from the small mouths of those sunfish that take the bait in more deeply.
Bluegill sunfish, green sunfish and longear sunfish all eagerly bite on well-presented, appropriately-sized baits. This week alone, such species made up a portion of the catch for a number of area youth including Logan, Adyson, and Jayden Bretz (ages 5, 7, and 8, respectively) who landed 62 fish; Lilee Oliver (age 3) and Lilli Moss (age 9) who landed 48 fish; Landon Phillips (age 8) who landed 50 fish; and Delilah and Ryan Rowell (ages 12 and 8, respectively) who landed 34 fish.
Just keep it simple for summertime sunfishing success.