A few weeks ago, while on a photographic expedition to Conowingo Dam, I noticed several anglers wading on the Harford County side of the Susquehanna River.
They were casting a variety of lures with medium-weight spinning tackle. Some anglers were connecting with smallmouth bass and hickory shad while others hooked up with catfish and carp. The weather was perfect, water conditions relatively clear and at least half the anglers were catching some sort of fish.
One particular fisherman, a young man of about 25, was having a great deal of difficulty landing fish. While I watched, the angler hooked and lost nearly a dozen good-sized shad. In addition, he would lose shad darts in the process.
Determined to get a good photo, I decided to see if I could assist the angler in improving his luck. As it turned out, the fisherman's rod and reel were in excellent condition. However, the line had not been changed since the previous season. His 10-pound test monofilament broke like cotton sewing thread.
I gave the hapless angler a sample spool of fresh 10-pound test mono I received in the mail. After winding it on his spool, he resumed his fishing activities. His second cast resulted hooking a hefty 4-pound shad which he easily landed and released. I managed to get my photographs, and the fishermen enjoyed the rest of the day catching and releasing fish.
Every where you fish, you always hear stories about the big one that got away.
There are several reasons fish are lost, but in most instances, it has something to do with fishing line.
Monofilament fishing line is made of extruded nylon. Certain chemicals are added to keep it flexible, thus improving it's casting ability and preventing memory loops.
However, exposure to light causes these chemicals to evaporate, a process that takes about three months. The result is monofilament line that is weak and brittle. It breaks far below the rated breaking strength.
Most tournament fishermen change their line after every fishing trip. This is mainly because monofilament line nylon has a stretch factor of nearly 25 percent. Once the line is stretched, the breaking strength decreases substantially.
Consequently, by the time you have made three highly successful fishing trips, the line has stretched to the point where it no longer is capable of landing large fish. Now you know why the big ones get away.
Fresh monofilament line has superior knot strength. Even if you tie good fishing knots, if they're tied in old line, they'll break at a much lower point than those tied in fresh line.
To prove this, tie a simple overhand knot in your old 10-pound test line. With a sharp tug, the line will instantly pop at the knot. Now tie the same knot in fresh line and perform the same test. The line will still break at the knot, but it will take substantially more pressure.
Learn some new fishing knots. Most fishermen tie just one knot, the improved clinch. This particular knot is fine for anglers using 30-pound test line, but most of the fishing done in Harford County requires light line.
Learn to tie the Palomar or Bimini Twist, and you'll rarely loose a fish because the line broke at the knot. Instructions to tie these knots can be found in "Practical Fishing Knots" by Lefty Kreh and Mark Sossin, available in most tackle shops and many public libraries.
These knots test at 95 percent to 100 percent of the breaking strength of the line. The improved clinch knot rarely tests above 65 percent of the line strength.
So, if you're one of those anglers that hasn't changed his line since last season, before venturing to the shores of the Susquehanna River, take a trip to the nearest tackle shop. Have new line installed on your reels. You won't be grumbling any longer about the big one that got away. Instead, you'll be showing your friends photos of your trophy fish.