Fishing is easy, so they say. The hard part is catching them. With some fish, the fight beats the catch, and nothing surges an angler’s adrenalin than a good, hard strike. The toughest-to-catch fish seem to have caught-on to fishermen’s games, but sometimes appetite gets the best of them, making them take the bait. For fishermen weary of chasing the easy stuff, this list offers a few catches certain to add to your fish-story repertoire.
Hero of The Old Man and the Sea and the classic Bogart movie, To Have and Have Not, Florida marlin probably have cost more full-fare Caribbean tourists all their gear and their boat deposits than literature can record. Marlin are, however, wonderfully photogenic; you undoubtedly will catch more through your lens than you even can imagine on your hook. Leaping twenty feet into the air and diving several hundred feet, Marlin fight hook and line not only with all their might but also with unmatched feral cunning. Most veteran Marlin fishermen agree, “Yeah, the catch is great and the huge trophy really looks nice on the wall; but really, it’s all about the fight.”
Steelheads belong to the salmon family, but they also claim rainbow trout as their cousins. Living most of their lives in the open ocean, steelhead navigate into freshwater only to spawn. Hence, steelhead are both rare and seasonal. Timing and technique, not surprisingly, make all the difference. Successful steelhead anglers, like good retailers, emphasize “location, location, location,” and they bag their best catches during the spring, fly-fishing cool, clear streams in the Pacific Northwest. Fly selection makes a critical difference, they say, “but really it’s all in the wrist. You must convince that really is a delectable morsel on the end of your line. All in the wrist.”
These days, because commercial fishermen have depleted the population, sport fishermen just cannot find many hungry swordfish left in the sea. Scarcity makes swordfish a tough catch, and the best schools live well off-shore in deeper and safer water. According to the experts, season and bait make all the difference. In late spring, when the waters have cooled, swordfish rise closer to the surface, and they have far more appetite for whatever floats their way. Bait your line with live mackerel, herring, or bonito. When you do finally hook one of those off-shore junior whales, strap in for the fight of their life, because mature swords measure up to 15 feet long and tip the scales at ¾ ton.
4. Trout (river or stream; ponds do not count)
Spin-fishing for trout has a lot more to do with finding the right spot, baiting and setting the hooks just right, and waiting long enough for an unsuspecting trout to take the bait. You may finish War and Peace and write your own novel while you wait, but you will perfect your tan and befriend the raccoons. Fly-fishing, on the other hand, takes the fight to the fish, and expert fly-fishermen know exactly how to seduce big trout with fine flies and a magician’s sleight of hand. They load trout into their buckets like they simply had called their names. For beginners, just one word: Mentor. Like all things worth knowing, the art of fly-fishing is best passed on from wise grand-daddies to their heirs.
A prime target for avid fishermen casting lines into deep blue lakes along the Canadian border, walleye make both fine trophies and some good eating. The veterans counsel just one word: Trolling. Especially in late summer and early autumn when noting in heaven or earth can beat a day on the lake, gently gliding your “crankbaited” line along the bottom in your lake’s deepest parts ought to yield handsome rewards.