The photo shows the author and a son collecting fish using a seine net. Grandchildren are optional equipment when collecting.
In Newsletter No. 11 I set up the following contest:
“We are continuing the Email Contest and will give a free (including shipping) two pound bag of Simple Pet Products (www.simplepetproducts.com) #100 Grind fish food to the person who writes the most interesting email question to me. Email your question to email@example.com. Please put “email contest” in the message line. The selected email question will be published and answered in the next newsletter. I’m the sole judge of what is interesting.”
I received some very interesting emails as a result, but picked one from Charles (“Chuck”) M. Breiter of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Chuck wrote:
“I have always wanted to collect. I’m curious about what basic equipment you start with and ideas for collecting sites that would yield fish. I am up north in Wisconsin so it would be more catch and release. I know I would have to check into local permits and so forth.”
I responded by a saying:
“Collecting can be fun. When we go collecting we take a seine net (get a high quality cotton net if you can since the nylon nets often don’t open up well), a couple of long handled nets with relatively fine mesh, a couple of 10″ aquarium nets, 5-gallon buckets, Styrofoam boxes, and aquarium bags for viewing the fish. We usually take a cast net, but find it to be of limited functionality. Most states require and [sic] fishing license. Be sure to release any game fish.”
I’ll expound a bit here.
Typically, the most useful net is a good seine net. I use one even if I’m collecting alone. I’ll fasten one end in place by sticking it into the mud or wedging it between rocks along the bank and then make a half circle arc with the other end around the fastened end. But, usually I’m collecting with someone. In which case we try multiple locations in order to find what works. Unfortunately, while most things have gotten better with time, seine nets have not improved. The new nylon nets are very difficult to use. They often don’t open properly and the fish easily escape. Try to find a high-quality, old-fashioned cotton seine. They require more maintenance, such as drying after use, but you’ll be rewarded with significantly better performance.
Long handled dip nets such as game fish landing nets are also useful, especially along steep banks with overhanging vegetation where a seine net can’t be deployed.
Cast nets function best on hard, clean bottoms. I’m not very proficient with them; they do take some practice. Also, the fish that are found where they are useful are often gray or silvery fish of little ornamental use.
When collecting I usually carry along several 5-gallon buckets. They are easily acquired from Home Depot or Lowe’s or even fast food restaurants (pickle buckets). As we net up fish, they are transferred to the buckets filled partially with water from the pond, lake, stream, or bay. I like to immediately sort the fish, returning those I don’t want to their watery home quickly. Fish I want or at least want to keep for a second look are kept in the buckets. I’m careful not to crowd the fish and if that is done, you’ll not need aeration. If you are collecting for a long time, you’ll want to change water periodically.
Once I’m finished netting for the day, I once again sort through the fish and release those I don’t want. The keepers are then bagged with ¼ new water and ¾ oxygen and placed in Styrofoam boxes for transport. If the day is hot and I want to take a lot of fish, I’ll carry cold packs to place in the box to lower the temperature.
It is important to observe local fishing laws. Most states require a fishing license to collect. Also, you should be able to identify any game fish and release them immediately. In Texas, you are also obligated to kill and not release any proscribed exotics such as tilapia.
Make the collecting trip a family affair (see the photo).
Lastly, don’t be greedy. Keep only what you want and are equipped to keep in reasonable numbers.