New Spin, Old Pastime

Odd-balling, aquatic style.

Here in southwest Montana, fly fishing takes center stage, with spin fishing in a supporting role. With the exception of live bait, both fly and spin lend themselves to catch-and-release, which is a big reason they get the limelight. But why not eat what you catch, at least occasionally? Not only are fish a nutritious and inexpensive meal, they can be mouth-watering when cooked right. And in Montana, our fish populations can handle the harvest. So when you’re ready to branch out from the standard angling methods, try these adrenaline-filled catch-and-keep fishing pursuits—just be sure to check the regulations, as in Region 3, only nongame species may be taken with anything but a rod and line.

bow fishing, oddballing

The top of the list, and not just because it’s good practice for hunting season. This is a short-distance game, and all you need is a bow, reel, and a good fishing spot with relatively clear water. Standing up in a stable boat is the preferred method, but plenty of fish have been shot from shore, too. A variety of reels are fit for the task, with the spin caster most prized for its speed and thin line, which offers smooth shots and quick retrieves. When you spot your target, aim low—six inches or so—to compensate for light refraction, which can make the fish look higher than it is. Many bowfishers go for carp, since they often swim close to the surface. Others do their part to rid our rivers of harmful invasive species like northern pike.

spearfishing, jefferson river

Spear Fishing
Before you can call yourself a true “spearo,” you’ll have to pick an approach. Spear fishing can be done from a boat in open water, or along the shore from an access point. If you don’t have the means or training to safely scuba, a snorkeling setup will do just fine. When out in open water or at a high-traffic location, be sure to attach a brightly-colored float to a rope and strap it around your waist. That way, people will be warned of your presence. Once you’ve picked your method, it’s time to choose your weapon: Hawaiian sling, pole spear, or speargun. As with all weapons, gain familiarity and learn how to safely wield it before you go under. Common prey for spearfishers are carp and suckers.

Whether you use a bow or spear, think about how to cook your quarry after the hunt. Carp get a bad rap in the U.S., but if cooked right, they can tickle your taste buds and keep you coming back for more. Bake, roast, or smoke, then enjoy with a cold beer. Again, check the regulations before you head out, as these fishing methods can only be used at certain times, in certain places, and for certain fish. Read the rules, practice your technique, and enjoy a new spin on an old pastime.