Thursday, June 9, 2016

Menhaden Fishing Technique....Snag and Drag

This is one of 40 big fish landed with the snag
and drag technique. Most fish were hooked
around the lips and released.
There are lots of ways to fish menhaden, or pogies.  Most boat fishermen will find a school of bait and snag them.  They will then reel them as fast as they can and get them onto the boat and into the baitwell.  Once they have a good supply of bait, they will begin fishing them by rehooking them onto a heavy duty outfit.
From my experience at surf fishing, I always fish menhaden in a different way, and I have used this approach on the boat.  I use a spinning rod to snag the bait.  When a pogie is snagged I will simply hold it there on the snagger. The snagged bait is pulled from the school as the boat drifts, and any predators below key on that snagged and wounded bait, and they will usually go after it.
This is the way we fished menhaden on that epic day several days ago when we landed 40 big keepers, and it was super effective. There is another added bonus to fishing pogies this way. In most cases we are fishing with the reel in gear, not freespooled.  When a big striper grabs the bait, it is usually hooked immediately.  It does not have a chance to swallow the bait.  Because of that, the snagger's  hook usually finds its way into the striper's lip or the roof of its mouth, making unhooking easy and allowing for catch and release fishing.  Of those 40 fish that we landed using this method, only 2 fish were badly hooked, and we kept those to eat.
I should also warn you that you miss a good amount of fish using this method. You just don't know where the menhaden is snagged.  It could be in the head, could be in the tail.  Lots of times you feel a sharp pull from a striper, and the bait is pulled off.  Other times, the striper might be only slightly hooked in the lip and the hook pulls off on the fight.  On that day that we landed 40 stripers we lost an equal number to hook pulls on the fight.
Contrast this approach with fishing a rehooked bait and fishing it off  a casting outfit as most fishermen do.  Most fishermen will let the striper take the bait, run off line and then they will set the hook.  In this case most fish will be gut hooked, making catch and release near impossible. I also believe you will catch less fish doing it this way.
Most fishermen seem to develop their own way of fishing live menhaden.  For us, the snag and drag works great when big bass are lurking under the schools of menhaden we are snagging. You can usually see this on the fishfinder.