James Murray tells a story for a small crowd at the ORL Salmon Arm branch on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Column: Pikeminnows put up a fun fight

It would seem that when you mention two types of coarse fish in a column and then proceed to write about only one of them, well, you more or less are obligated to write about the other. In last weeks column I wrote about carp, so this week I will talk about what is now referred to as pikeminnows.

Cast a line into pretty well any river of lake in British Columbia and you will most likely you have encounter northern pikeminnow. They are often regarded as a pest by most anglers because they feed on trout and salmon fry and eggs. However, they can grow to a very large size and have tremendous fighting power on light tackle which can provide some excellent sport fishing. There should be a fair number of pikeminnows caught at this weekend’s 22nd Annual Salmon Arm Kids’ Fishing Derby being held Sunday morning down at the end of the Salmon Arm wharf.

Northern pikeminnow can be described as scavengers. Their diet varies from small insects to large shiners. Young fish (2cm – 10cm) feed on insects until they grow larger. Fish in the middle size range feed on plankton and small fish such as trout and salmon fry and shiners. Large northern pike minnows feed pretty much on other fish. During trout and salmon spawning seasons, they will also feed on eggs that are deposited in the reeds.

The spawning period for the northern pikeminnow occur between May and July. They generally spawn in shallow gravel beds along the lake shore or river bank when they tend to gather in large numbers. Each female will spawn with more than one male and the eggs are released near the bottom to settle on the ground. The eggs will hatch in about a week. Their lifespan can be as long as up to 30 years.

Northern pikeminnow usually inhabit the shallow portions of larger rivers and streams. Look for them close to shore near structures such as rocks, logs and weed beds, as well as pylons and piers. The best time to fish for northern pikeminnows is between May and September, however, larger fish are usually caught between June and August.

Northern pikeminnow are great fun to fish on light tackle. It is best to use a rod around 6 or 7 feet long with a spinning reel that will hold a fair amount of line. There are a number of ways to catch them including spinning, float fishing and jigging. The easiest way is by float fishing with a light float properly balanced with a weight using bait such as bread, worms or roe. Drift your float near rocks or over a weeded and you will be rewarded with a strike within seconds if there are any fish nearby. Both casting a lure and bottom fishing can also be effective although there is always the risk of loosing your tackle if you happen to snag up on something.

Spinning is perhaps the most common method, especially for children. Popular lures include spoons and inline spinners. Choose your lures based on the colour of the water and the light intensity. If it is a bright sunny day and the water is fairly clear, use a silver or bright coloured lure. If it’s cloudy and overcast or the water is dirty, go for a darker lure.

If there are baitfish in the waters you are fishing then try a silver lure that matches the size of the baitfish. Keep your lure as close to the bottom as possible and be prepare for a strike when your lure gets closer to shore as that is where the fish are most often.

Jigging is also a popular method but again you risk the chance of snagging the bottom. Worms are the most effective bait. With young anglers you can attach a running float to their line with a stopper on top. This will keep the bait suspended just above the bottom and still allow them to jig their bait up and down as the float slides along the line.

The trick is to convince most young anglers to avoid ‘winching’ their fish in by constantly reeling. Instead, allow the fish to fight the rod by pumping it back using the reel to retrieve line as while lowering the rod between each pump.

Any way they catch northern pike minnows, kids will have fun … and you never know, some of them just might turn out to be prize winners at the derby on Sunday morning.

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