Would You Choose More Fish or One Big?

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depends on what I"m fishing for.


FW I only target large.  I have almost no desire to catch quantity of largemouth and smallmouth bass that are under 15"  Early season it's fun only after a long winter.  I like the little guys to grow up healthy.  I can turn off my computer and in 3 hours have 30 fish if I wanted to...But haven't done something like that in 15 years.  I think it's bad for the fishery.  I'll often not set the hook if it doesn't feel like a good fish.  Like bergalls when toggin.


Same goes for trout. Have one successful trip steelheading and jersey stockies become an afterthought.  J blair literally broke me when he introduced me to his secret river that holds trout that run over 3 feet.  Luckily I found a special spot that has fish that fight like steelies to feed the need.


For Bass and blues.  I'm ok with quality fish but do my best to avoid the stripers with diapers.

I try to size my gear appropriately without being undergunned.


Offshore tuna.....I love tuna under 100lbs.  When they get over that especially after a long gets painful :)

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Truly I'm just happy to get a chance to wet a line but obviously the answer is big fish are a thrill to catch - and release safely, any day for me at least.


Something I've noticed over the years is that opportunities for Big fish sort of appear & you have to be ready when they do. 


This phenomenon occurs as a bi-product of hunting. The more time you spend hunting & the better dialed in you get, the chances go up.


I think the most important things are 1 -Being able to hunt.  2 - Having forests to hunt in & 3. Having game to hunt for.  


As a case in point, I had a lucky opportunity to get a weekend day off from work &  to myself in late April this year - wanted to go trout fishing on the Upper Delaware river. 


Time of year was typical fairly high, cold water, snow still on the ground in areas..etc. 


It wasn't a case of me thinking about getting a big fish,  instead I was just trying to think about spots where fish hold in higher water situations & being they are wild Rainbows - what food sources were available that time of year & how would they be delivered.  


My experience of living on the river for years & fishing it regularly told me that my chances were slimmer than slim of even catching a fish. 


I broke out a 12'6" Z-Axis 5 wt Switch rod, loaded up a small box with my custom tied high water Delaware Black Stonefly Nymphs & Streamers, filled another box with Baetis Nymphs & Baetis Bunny Duns & loaded a bag with wading gear & packed a nice lunch, complete with bottle of Malbec, a wool blanket & a camping chair. Then I threw the Fat Tire bike on the truck rack and made the drive up to the upper main stem.


It was a 70 degree, sunny, picture perfect day. I loaded the gear on the bike & started out along the train tracks, looking for long tail-outs with nice seams & slack water because that's exactly where all of the fish set up & feed that time of year. 


I rumbled along for miles & thundered down into a perfect spot. The Rapids were angrily turbid upstream & I was fishing in a nice calm pool that had a 100 yard seam between the shallow, slower water & the raging current.


The remote chance was there to catch a fish, size unknown. During the summer, in that section of river, big fish come up out of the rapids into the tails of pools, near dark & into the night, & they will eat smaller fish & nymphs with reckless abandon.


But it wasn't summer & I couldn't really be picky because this was the only shot I had been given thanks to the amount of hours I work. 


The laws of early & late season fishing dictate that you fish during the afternoon hours when the water temp will be closer to optimal,  which for a Wild Rainbow can be 61 degrees. 


Side note - it isn't really the temperature that dictates what optimal is it's more about the level of aeration in the water. Extremely well aerated water will stretch that optimal temperature as high as 70 degrees. 


But in the early spring water is nowhere near 61 degrees so what that basically means is at whatever point in during the day when the water is the warmest it will be closest to 61 degrees and hence the best time to fish because the fish will be most active and more willing to exert some effort in order to take in some calories at that time of day.


So as a hunter, I had stacked the deck in my favor as best I could. 


I decided to go with the Stonefly nymphs tied with some nice peacock herl and nice peacock sword fiber tails & shiny black bead heads. I wasn't sure if it was really the right choice because I had half a mind to just tie on a streamer and use a Teeny 130 full sinking head fly line. 


But, I wanted to dunk some big 'ol nymphs & that was that!


I set up with a floating Spey line & looked up at the beautiful sky and really felt appreciative just to have the opportunity to be out there for the day in such a remote & amazing place. All alone. Just me & the Black Bears & the Bald Eagles and the Deer. My, my, the Deer. On the way in I saw a herd of Deer running up ahead of me, they were running along the train tracks because I had spooked them. 


At first, I thought they were seagulls flapping their white wings, because their bodies were pretty much invisible to me at such a distance. All I saw what their tails flapping as they ran, with occasional glimpses of their white undertails. 


At that point my attention shifted and even though that calm, critical voice in my head said, "You know this isn't happening today for you old boy, right?" - I nodded & told me to shut up & I let myself start working the seam & focusing on mending the line & working systematically, first in close, then gradually further out. 


How many million times have I cast a fishing rod and just enjoyed the act of casting irregardless of catching any fish? I was having a lot of fun just doing my thing and not expecting anything when all the sudden ' bump, tap, tap, BUMP! "Holy S__t Care," the voice said. 


Before I knew it the Spey rod had a nice Bend in it. I got tight on the fish right away and realizing it was hooked, it accelerated out into the current and bolted down-river,  which caused my old Hardy Spring & Pawl reel to scream like a Banshee as the fish was feeling more like a freaking missile than a trout. It literally streaked out into the raging water. All I really saw was a few flashes of pearl & I followed the tip of my line with my eyes & it was moving! Fast!!


Then, this bruiser went airborne & I just started laughing out loud. It was a huge rainbow. It turned and then came towards me like a freight train I picked up as much line as I could and lifted the Spey rod, tip up, high into the air, somehow I stayed tight. If I hadn't of had that extra 3 1/2 feet of rod, the line would have absolutely went limp & I wouldn't be writing this little account. 


The pearl streak turned and headed right back out into the current and again with the trusty old Hardy screaming away.


Then the fish went Airborne again, this time shaking & flipping as it jumped. I instantly lifted the rod again as high as I could, painting the clouds with my rod tip. The fight was on. Somehow, my adversary didn't pop off the line. I had managed to stay absolutely tight & in contact all the while. 


I backed my way to ankle deep water & gave some side pressure & gradually turned the tide of the fight, which ended shortly thereafter. It was a 5 minute battle, maybe slightly longer all in. 


As I released the fish, handling it with my signature green fingerless wool gloves, I was just flat out stunned by how pearly it's sides were. It's back was bright light olive & there were hundreds of little black dots all over it. The most impressive thing about this fish was it's massive tail. The girth of it & the obvious power.


I was amazed. All Fins literally perfectly formed. A wild holdover rainbow, 32 inches long. 


Not bad!


All total I had taken about 15 casts. I was laughing to myself and shaking my head. I broke the rod down, tossed the reel in my shoulder bag went to the bike & set up the chair & decided to have lunch. 


I didn't take another cast that day. I sat for a while, thinking about life in general as I nibbled on Smoked Jalapeño Almonds & sipped some wine from my tin cup. 


The area I was in was very depressed,economically speaking.  I felt like a cowboy visitor who was just passing through with wide eyes. I needed the dose of quiet & the chance to recharge. I was humbled & reminded that the world is a tougher place for most people these days. 


I happened to catch a big fish & thankfully, my leader knots held up & it didn't pop off the hooks on account of it was hooked right in the corner of its jaw.


I rode my way out & drove home. Mission accomplished & I guess that's why they call this sport Fishing & not Catching. A lot, or as little, goes into this sport as you care to give it. 


Reason I tell this long story is to propose a suggestion. 


Instead of being concerned with catching big fish, maybe we all should focus a little bit of that energy on things that matter more.  


Also think about this.  The day will come when you get a shot.  In the meantime,  tight lines everybody & God bless.



Edited by CaryGreene

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Depends on how predatory I feel.  Some times, I fish with heavy gear in the Ditch ("loaded for bear" as it were) when I think that I have a shot at a 40 or larger.  


Other days I have a blast catching lots smaller fish on light spinning gear or fly rods.


If I HAD to pick one or the other for the rest of my life, I'd opt for a couple dozen smaller (28-34") fish on a tide, because I can keep scaling back my gear such that catching smaller fish is great fun.



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The OP example. I will take the larger fish every time. Change it to blitzing 30" to 36" fish for an hour or more vs a single 30#. I'll take the action every time.

Whenever ( rare ) I have the luxury of a blitz I will admit I start thinking about how to cull the bigger fish , once I have gotten my jollies off just catching..

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On 9/13/2018 at 8:52 PM, JoeyZac said:

I fish almost entirely for the cooler, and would rather eat a 30" (or smaller) any day over a bigger fish, so give me the five 30's, we'll keep our 1 per angler, and the rest get to live, grow up, and get caught by the rest of you in a decade or so.

Is it true that the bigger ones do not taste as good as the 29" fish? I've never knowingly ate one over 37" (gut hooked bait fishing, could not release with a belief it would live)

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