Micro Fishers: Why Small is the New Big in Fishing

(Last Updated On: January 24, 2017)

Micro-fish caught by Ben Cantrell: (top row) bleeding shiner, knobfin sculpin, (bottom row) plateau darter and bantam sunfish.
Courtesy of Ben Cantrell

Micro fishing is a relatively new branch in the sport of fishing. While it has enjoyed moderate success in other countries, a relatively few number of people in the United States are even aware it exists. The purpose of micro fishing is not to find fish to eat, or even to catch the largest fish possible. Instead, the goal is to catch the smallest fish and the greatest variety of species.

Some fishing enthusiasts would look at the tiny micro fishing trophies as nothing more than minnows and bait for larger prey. But they would be missing the point entirely. The enjoyment of fishing doesn’t come strictly from landing the largest fish ever caught in a particular location, at least it shouldn’t. It’s about the experience of being in nature; watching the water move and listening to the sound of waves and wind instead of office infighting or honking horns.

Micro fishing gives every person passionate about the sport of fishing a new way to enjoy the experience. Instead of focusing on the number of large fish one catches, relishing the experience of catching one of the delicate micro fish opens a whole new way of experiencing the act of fishing. Add that to collecting the widest variety of fish species possible and the act of fishing becomes something of a treasure hunt, the Pokémon Go of fishing.

The Art of the Chase

Anyone familiar with birding will easily relate to the allure of being able to check a new species off their life list. For those unfamiliar with the way a life list works, it may take a bit more convincing.

A life list is all about the art of the chase. It is a cumulative record of the fish species an individual fisher has successfully caught and identified. The way birders keep lists depends on their personal preferences. They either list the birds by the songs they have identified, the species they have photographed, or those they have simply seen and identified. The rules for birding can be particular depending on the group because it is a well-defined pastime.

Keeping a life list of the species of micro fish one catches is more straight forward. It is easy to record photographic evidence because of the nature of the sport. Simply take a picture of the fish so it can be identified and log it in your notebook, app, or favorite record keeping method.

Landing a Little One

Traditional sport fishing requires large bodies of water, specialty rods, and specific lures and gear. Micro fishing can be done absolutely anywhere and with almost any type of rod. Small bait can even be foraged for onsite. The one thing that may require additional effort to procure are the hooks necessary to catch the smallest fish. Fly fishing hooks will work for some species but for many it is necessary to order specialty hooks from retailers in Japan where the hobby has been adopted with greater levels of enthusiasm.

One of the fun things about micro fishing is the challenge and the variety. While casting seems simplistic, you simply bait a hook and drop it in the water in front of the fish you wish to hook, there are an immense number of species and locations to explore. A recent NPR report mentioned one man who had added more than one thousand species to his life list.

Several resources are available to begin compiling a wish list of species, including the North American Native Fishes Association list of freshwater fish which claims to list all that are able to spawn in freshwater. Alternatively, fishermen can use state guides to identify potential targets in their area such as this guide from Illinois . However, those who are dedicated to growing their life lists should be aware that identification of some species may be more challenging than others simply because many lists only identify those fish of interest to traditional fishing enthusiasts who are looking for size or sustenance.

Micro Fishing on Social Media

Social media is all about networking with likeminded individuals in specific niche areas. No longer do people need to feel isolated if their favorite hobby or sport hasn’t gained popularity in their local area. The broad reach of social media platforms provide a great way for those interested in this type of fishing to get together and share tips and tricks.

A quick search of Facebook turns up a number of groups posting exclusively about the topic as well as numerous public posts of people discussing their favorite hobby. This can be a great way to find experts who may be able to offer inspiration. On Instagram and Twitter you will want to look for people posting with the hashtag #microfishing to find other people sharing their tiniest catches. Reddit also has a fairly active micro fishing community where users are able to share pictures and even ask questions of other enthusiasts. Searching YouTube for micro fishing will lead to nearly 200 thousand videos of people sharing their wins and tips for the sport. Virtually every social media channel with a wildlife or fishing presence will have pockets of people who are networking and sharing information.

Micro fishing can be a great way to bring a fresh burst of excitement into your fishing practice. It will require entirely different tactics and the opportunity to explore new watering holes but it will also give you the opportunity to interact and network with a diverse and elite global community dedicated to exploring this relatively new branch of fishing. If you begin soon you may even be able to get a head start on an extra-large life list of little fish.

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