Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page

Selective fishing.

I don't need an excuse to enjoy fishing. It's something I've been obsessed with since I was a child. To be honest none of my family were fishing fanatics but it just seemed to be 'my thing'. All my four sons were exposed to angling as they grew up but only one, Richard, showed the same sort of keen interest that I had myself. This week I took one of my grandsons, Ben, to the river to try and catch a pike. In fact he landed two good ones but while we were fishing he asked me whether being hooked 'hurt' the fish. I explained that pike eat all sorts of spiky prey - sticklebacks, perch, crayfish and the like and their mouths are well adapted to deal with sharp points with a minimum of discomfort. Clearly Ben, who is seven, had been hearing or reading about 'cruelty' to fish in the media or at school. This made me think a bit.

In many parts of the world people only catch fish to eat and even in Europe, the USA, Australia etc., where SPORT fishing is popular, quite a few of us will sometimes eat what we catch. Surely few people - other than extreme vegetarians or real cranks - could argue with this! If you are going to be good at catching fish (or anything else) you need lots of practice so that you can be in the right place at the right time using the right method in a skilful manner. Sportfishing/angling is essentially just such a form of practice.

However, there are, arguably, lots of other ways to catch fish. Set lines, gill nets, trawls, seines, traps and so on. FEW OF THESE METHODS ARE SELECTIVE AND HARDLY ANY ALLOW YOU TO RETURN UNWANTED FISH. Quite often I catch exactly what I am after but even when I don't nearly all the fish are returned alive and well. Recently I have put back numerous mackerel, pollack, bass and mullet.

What do I mean by selective approaches? Well a simple case is mixed shoals of bass and mullet feeding on maggots. Put on a streamer fly or spin with a small plug and you will catch plenty of bass before you hook a single mullet. Conversely, fish a floating maggot fly and cast to groups of surface feeding mullet and you will only catch the occasional bass (sometimes not many mullet either) . Similarly if you fish where there are lots of predatory fish feeding on sandeels or sprats you may be able to select the pollack by using a redgill, the bass by fishing surface poppers, the mackerel by spinning a small Toby, the scad by fly fishing in the dark and the garfish by floatfishing with fish strip in the heat of the day. Often a bigger lure will avoid many of the smaller fish. Of course none of these methods are 100% selective and you'll only enhance the proportions of each species by these changes of tactic (sometimes the surprises teach you most). Nevertheless a gill net or trawl would be more or less indiscriminate so never let anyone tell you that hook and line fishing is 'destructive' or 'cruel'. Quite the reverse!

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com


Selective fishing.


Popping plugs tend to select bass, although mackerel will also take them.

Buoyant plug.

Plugs intended for bass catch a variety of species. When I regularly  started catching wrasse on these lures I was amazed.


Pollack feed on all sorts of small swimming creatures and  always sideswipe their prey so eels with a mid -body hook are very effective..


If you really want to catch launce a small fly is probably best but they are real predators.