Thursday, December 29, 2016

Interesting and Fun Alternatives to Conventional Freshwater Fishing

The reasons to go fishing are many. It is a time-honored sport that can be relaxing, fun and contribute to a healthy mind and body. A rod and reel are what most think of as the primary tools, but a few alternatives to conventional methods for catching freshwater fish, namely bow fishing, cane pole and survival fishing can also bring another level of fun and excitement. Catching a fish is challenging enough even with the most sophisticated equipment and years of experience. On the other hand, it is a sport that can be done with success by a young child under adult supervision with equipment that can cost less than $25. To the angler who is experienced and thinks they would like to try an alternative, using more primitive methods can be rewarding to connect the fisherman with traditional methods, ways that were once the only means to provide fare for the table. Additionally, the target species of fish caught by these primitive methods are nongame and non-native fish, which are a threat to native game species.

Bow Fishing is done with archery equipment but using a fiberglass arrow with a barbed point, and the arrow is connected to the bow via a mechanical reel or simple spool. Done from land or by boat, during the day or night, this is an exhilarating challenge. Image left is Gus in 1976 with Gar and bow in hand. Photo description below.

Cane Pole Fishing often referred by Florida statute as the cane-pole exemption, because cane pole fishing does not require a license. The law states, “In Florida you must be a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing line - retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county. However, you must have a valid fishing license to fish by any method in a fish management area.”

Survival Fishing is simply cane pole fishing, but without the pole. Using natural or artificial bait, natural or synthetic string, this method will strip away most of the technology and just leave the fisherman verses the fish.  If successful, it will bring a sense of confidence to the angler that perhaps they could survive in the wilderness with minimal tools. Exciting!

Although Florida fishing laws are used as an example, other states have similar laws and/or exemptions so checking with the state game commission on a regular basis is important. Fishing regulations change so what may be legal this year may not be the next.

Since not all Florida fish can be taken by all methods, clarification is necessary. Florida freshwater fish are divided into game fish that have specific bag and length limits and may only be taken with pole-and-line or rod-and-reel, and nongame fish, which are all others.

See the chart for types of Florida Game Fish. Non-native fish are those that do not occur in Florida naturally; most should be harvested and never released. Florida Nongame Fish includes all freshwater fish that are NOT defined as game fish. A license is required to take nongame fish, but additional gear types are allowed (as mentioned above).

** See regulations for exemptions other than Cane Pole.

♦ See regulations for special region-specific restrictions.


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Freshwater Fishing Regulations, 2016-2017.

Photo description: The photo was taken by my Mom when I was 16 or 17 years old in Fort Worth, TX after a day of fishing on the Trinity River, downtown Fort Worth.  My buddies and I would go there regularly to shoot Carp and Gar. Although some were just thrown away (because they eat game fish), most were harvested and given to resident neighbors to the river who ate them.  We made a lot of friends when we gave away our catch. In the background is my first car, a 1967 Rambler American which I kept until 1982.

This article also appears as a University of Florida / IFAS, Brevard County Extension Fact Sheet Number 6175, by Gus Koerner 4-H Program Assistant.

1 comment:

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