Fishing after fifty: What tackle is the right tackle?

It all depends on the fish — sort of

As we Baby Boomers approach retirement, or are already retired, we meet our “senior years” in various stages of health and mobility. Health, mobility, joints — are all contributing factors in our decisions regarding activities, hobbies, and to a high degree, quality of life. Many of us are in fine shape and ability, own boats from which to fish, or are perfectly capable of shore fishing and scurrying up and down slippery grades to get to and from a stream to spend a few hours happily untangling hooks and lures from the scrub brush along the banks.

And, to some extent, mobility will also help determine what species we would like to fish for. Other considerations are: do we want to keep and eat the fish we catch, or do we prefer catch and release? If we want to eat them, what types do we like to eat? All fish is not the same. Trout tastes different from salmon; both taste different than whitefish; walleye tastes different than pike; bass tastes different than perch; nobody wants to eat a carp or a bullhead (black catfish). That’s not a bad thing, because they are the least healthy fish to eat anyway.

For most who just want to enjoy fishing and are happy with catch and release, panfishing is probably satisfactory and enjoyable. It’s also a lot less work than battling a three- to five-pound pike through a weed bed.

Rather than bore you with explaining all the different types of fishing rods, reels, hooks and the like, that are available for you to choose from, we’ll just discuss suggestions of what will work best for what we want to do.

My own rule of thumb (and I’ll get lots of comments and feedback for this), is a 6 1/2-to-7-foot long, medium heavy fishing rod, and a reasonably priced reel, strung with 8-pound test, monofilament line. There are all kinds of newfangled fishing lines on the market today: monofilament, flourocarbon, braid, wire – the list is complicated. But let’s keep it simple.

Monofilament was first marketed by the DuPont Company in 1939; it’s what our grandparents used, it’s what our parents used, and it’s good enough for our purposes. Most of us aren’t fishing in tournaments, after all, so we don’t need the top-of-the-line equipment.

My personal reasons for my choice here are for simplicity. It will work for catching panfish or pike.

According to the experts, fishing tackle should match the fish you want to catch. For example, if you want go for sunfish, the average rock bass is around 5 to 6 inches and rarely weighs a pound.

Everything is determined by numbers. Fishing line should be 4-6 pound test; hooks should be size 6 to 10, and so on.

The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends 2-6 pound test line, but most experienced Yooper anglers will disagree, instead preferring a much stronger line. I would not fish a line that light, myself, but that is based on my personal experiences. More than once, I have been reeling in a sunfish and had it grabbed by a large bass or a pike as I was reeling it in. Those are a kind of two-for one deal, because in most cases, you get the pike, along with the initial sunfish — unless you’re using a 4-pound test. Pike can reach some very impressive sizes, and therefore require heavy line.

I’ve read online forums in which some anglers recommend using line as heavy as 30 pounds; my desire is to reel in a fish, not hoist an anchor. Fishing from shore, the largest pike I ever caught a 41 inches. I was using a 10-pound test line with a medium-heavy fishing rod and whatever Shimano reel I happened to be using at the time.

An added consideration when choosing a fishing rig is that no matter what you are fishing for, another species is likely to take your bait. The Sturgeon River is like that. I’ve fished for smallmouth bass in the Sturgeon with a 6-pound test line and hooked a walleye. I’ve fished for pike in that river, using dead smelt on a bobber, rigged with a treble hook, and caught a carp. Again, this was a disappointment, because nobody wants to catch a carp. Or a bullhead.


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