Monday, September 10, 2012

How To Safely Handle Needlefish

The Potomac is brackish up here. Thus we have some fish from the salt in our waters. One of those is the needlefish. I loathe this fish for several reasons:
  1. They will chase and eat flies
  2. They get foul hooked all the time
  3. They are smelly
  4. They have a nasty coating of slime
  5. They will bite the shite out of you if  you handle them
  6. They are the smelliest, most foul fish I have ever encountered.
 These fish are recognized by their slender body and long beak like jaw. They are a turquoise silver color and swim just under the surface.

Lets go back to the Kent Narrows days with Bob Scoville, he landed a big needlefish. He tried to take the hook out and the thing latched onto his arm

He wrassled that thing into submission and got a picture with it

Good for bob. I miss him. We had good times together (stories coming up in a podcast in a few weeks).

These fish usually show up in our waters just after the shad. They will take Clouser minnows. The problem with them is they can bend their body in half. They are unpredictable and they will bend back to bite you when  you grip them.

This is the first one to bite me. It took a squirrel tail nymph in the Tidal Basin
 I took its pic
 And it bit me
 Here are some in Oahu. I thankfully lost the ones I hooked. Then I hooked a huge trumpet fish and I thought it was a needlefish. I let it throw the hook before I could land it. That would have been a cool picture.

Here is a big one Nick K. caught at Chain Bridge. After he caught half a dozen of them, I enforced my 'no removing needlefish from client flies' rule. If you touch them, the stink does not come off. I can use all of my wife's fancy hand soaps and lotions and I can still smell the slime.
 There are certain guys on the river that will take them from you 'we eat them  whole, fry them and eat the whole thing.'

I foul hooked one yesterday at Gravelly Point. I was having a lot of trouble taking the hook out. It was bending back and trying to bite me with its needle like teeth. The gapers over the tunnel were laughing. Then I remembered a trick my professor in college (Dr. Werner Weiland) showed us with snakes.

He captured a 5' black rat snake on an outting one day. He grabbed the tail and threw the snake between his legs. The head was behind him.  He closed his thighs over the snake and it chilled out.

I figured why not try this on needlefish. I closed my waders over the body with the head and beak behind me. It could not bite me. I had the back and tail sticking out in front of me. I was able to take the Clouser in my hemostats and pull back on the fly. The fly came out, I opened my legs and dropped that fish back in. It was gone.

So next time you hook into one of these nasty creatures, be sure to try my method. Let me know how it works.


when there's nothing else to catch, I change my gear to catch needle fish (plenty here in UAE)... at first yep it's hard to hold them and they stink!.. but later I found the following steps to be effective on me..

To remove the smell from your hands:
1. grab your favorite soap
2. get a lemon and cut in half
3. wash your hands with your favorite soap
4. before you rinse, grab the lemon and rub it on your hands while squeezing.
5. rinse
6. repeat steps #3 to 5 until the smell is gone.. (i usually do it 2-3 times)
7. get your wife's favorite hand lotion.. :)

To remove the hook:
1. grab the line and raise it in front of you (but not too near with your eyes / face.. don't let it stay on the ground or it can gain momentum to jump!)
2. get a plastic bag (you can get them for free from the supermarket.. hehe)
3. slide it inside the plastic bag upto its head or eyes.
4. while inside the plastic bag, grab it with your palm at the back of its head then through the gills
4. hold it tightly.
5. with the plastic bag on and holding through their head (or neck? hehe), they can't bend much.. and they won't slide on your hands... and if they do, they're trapped and can't jump.
6. get a long-nose pliers, remove the hook.. :)

wel, that at least worked for me.. have it a try too..

and I love to cook them fried.. :)

We have fresh water ones here, called gar. I like to catch em and eat em, too.

Gotta disagree with you here. They hit hard and fast, like a rainbow, and they run like hell once hooked.

And their bony mouths make hookups a challenge, so when you do land one, it's a treat.

To each their own!

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