If the boat isn’t ready, try fishing from the bank

Published 12:48 pm Monday, April 6, 2015

FRED BONNER | CONTRIBUTED These two local anglers have taken a nice catfish while using the most simple of all tackle, a cane pole with line and hook baited with earthworms. No fishing license is required for anglers who meet these requirements.

These two local anglers have taken a nice catfish while using the most simple of all tackle, a cane pole with line and hook baited with earthworms.

If the boat is not ready to be launched this season and the urge to just “wet a hook” is simply more than you can stand, try fishing from one of the many roadsides near bridges (where permitted). A surprising number of fish are taken with simple tackle by this easy method of angling.

As an eight-year-old growing up in the Aurora area of Beaufort County, we kids used to make what would now be called “ultra light” fishing poles from local reeds. We managed to buy some tiny fish hooks from the fishing gear section of Mr. “Willy” Bryan’s general store on Main Street in Aurora. Fishing line was some sewing thread and a bobber — anything that would float. Worms were usually gathered from a pile of rotting Irish potatoes near the old train station.

With this homemade fishing gear, we fished the numerous storm water drainage ditches that crisscrossed the Aurora area. There was usually a “deep hole” washed out near a culvert and the variety of tiny fishes that congregated there was quite interesting. Many of us local kids started learning how to identify different kinds of fish with a little help from the older fishermen. Many of us youngsters made fish tanks from clear glass gallon jars and enjoyed observing the fish, crawfish, snails and anything else that we managed to take from these local ditches. It was a wonder that many of us didn’t get sick from splashing around in these ditches because they also drained run-off from the numerous outside privies that were located in Aurora in those days.

Since we were all less than 16 years of age, we didn’t have to have fishing license.

Several years ago, I was driving near the town of Roper and saw a couple of young girls fishing with cane poles in a small roadside ditch. It reminded me of the times I used to fish the ditches around Aurora. Curious, I stopped and asked if they were having any luck. Much to my surprise, they ran to a fish stringer they had attached to a bush on the bank and proudly held up a stringer, one with about a dozen fish of several types.

Most of the fish on the stringer were assorted sunfish and catfish. What really surprised me was that they had a largemouth bass that weighed approximately 2.5 pounds. When I asked them where they caught the bass, they pointed to the deeper water just under the culvert that allowed the water to drain under rather than over the road. Apparently, this water had washed out a deeper area for the fish, and the bass had settled in for the season there. It had an abundance of smaller fish and crawfish available for food.

Most of the public roadways here in eastern North Carolina have drainage ditches alongside them that were created when the soil was pulled up to raise the road’s level above the surrounding low lying area. In many cases, these ditches (otherwise known as canals) eventually feed into tidewaters. The closer you get to the coast the water levels in the drainage ditches actually become affected by the tide levels. In some cases, these man-made tidal streams become brackish waters and the variety of fish found there is a real mixed bag of both salt and fresh species.

In past years, anglers that wanted to catch a stringer of fish by using a cane pole with natural bait for a meal in their county of residence did not have to have fishing license. It was called “subsistence” fishing and many local folks spent an enjoyable day sitting by a roadside stream, taking a meal or two of fish home for a fish fry. These “subsistence fishermen” were not required to have a fishing license, as long as they were in their county of residence.

Today, the old “subsistence license” is no more and most anglers over 16 years of age are required to have a fishing license. There are a few exceptions to this licensing requirement and these and those exceptions are clearly spelled out in the North Carolina Hunting and Fishing Regulations Booklet (see the exact wording listed below).

“A resident of this state who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States serving outside the state, or who is on full-time military duty outside the state in a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States is exempt from hunting, inland and coastal fishing license requirements while on leave in this state for 30 days or less. Those who qualify for this exemption shall carry on his or her person at all times, during the hunting or fishing activity, their military identification card and a copy of the official document confirming they are on authorized leave from a duty station outside of North Carolina.

• Persons under age 16 are exempt from the requirement of a basic inland fishing and trout privilege license.

• The game lands license is not required to fish in any waters on game lands or Wildlife Conservation Areas.

• An inland fishing license is not required to fish in a private pond. A pond or lake located on land owned by a public body such as a state supported university or a governmental entity is not a private pond.

• July 4 is declared “Free Fishing Day,” and a fishing license and trout privilege license are not required in any public waters on this date. Residents with a valid Unified Subsistence Inland/Coastal Recreation Fishing License Waiver are exempt from requirement of a basic inland or coastal recreational fishing license.”