Although traditional fishing techniques are practiced by the vast majority of anglers, there are actually a variety of methods for taking freshwater fish. Recently, alternative methods such as bowfishing, spearfishing, gigging, noodling, bush bobbing, and jug fishing have gained popularity throughout North America.
Alternative fishing methods vary considerably by region. Typically, states or provinces have specific regulations which ban or restrict all but a limited number of alternative fishing techniques.
In most U.S. states, alternative fishing is limited to non-game fish (sometimes called “rough fish”). These often include common carp, Asian carp, suckers, buffalo, gizzard shad, and similar species.
Bowfishing is probably the most well known form of alternative fishing. Anglers use specially rigged bows to shoot fish that are near the surface. In some instances, anglers actually shoot fish as they free jump. Both bowfishing techniques require considerable skill to master.
Spearfishing is sometimes practiced in freshwater environments. There are several variations in the sport of spear fishing. Some spear fishermen free dive while others use snorkeling or SCUBA equipment. Spearfishing gear often consists of mechanically propelled spearguns, although some spearfishermen use simple hand spears.
Gigging fish is a another method which is practiced in some areas. Similar to spearfishing, anglers use a multi-pronged “gig” to capture fish. Gigging is typically done from boats, or by wading in shallow areas. Another form of gigging known as darkhouse spearfishing is practiced through winter ice.
Noodling is another alternative fishing method. The sport has gotten international attention in the past decade, mostly because of its unusual nature. Noodling is a method of capturing large catfish without the use of conventional tackle. With this fishing method, the angler locates a likely catfish hiding spot, usually among large rocks, logs or other structures.
To capture the fish, the noodler reaches in a crevice with hands or feet, in effect using their bodies as bait. The angler hangs on when a catfish bites down and attempts to pull the monster fish from its lair.
Jug fishing, bush bobs and bank poles are popular in many parts of the USA. Jug fishing is done by setting a baited line which is attached to a marker or jug. Anglers typically set a series of jugs in order to catch fish for the table.
The use of bush bobs and bank poles is similar to jug fishing in most aspects. Bush bobs consist of baited lines which are simply tied to tree branches.
Bank poles are used when suitable limbs are absent. These simple devices consist of a sapling or bamboo stalk, set in the bank at roughly 45 degrees. The flexible tops of bank poles act as a shock absorber, allowing anglers to successfully catch fish that are quite large.
In response to the popularity of non-traditional fishing techniques, some states have begun keeping records for fish taken using alternative fishing methods.