Pocket Fisherman

-- Last Updated: Mar-12-06 6:12 AM EST --

Okay, let the tomatos start flying, but I am a total newbie to fishing, greener you will not find. Not even interested in fishing, actually, just in the fish--catching them and frying them up. So, I'll be in the San Juans this summer, looking to occasionally catch my dinner, and was wondering ...

If you don't want to get fancy, if you're not into fishing per se, want to keep it nice and simple, functional, and only want the fish, what would you recommend? I'm old enough to remember the old Ronco Pocket Fisherman. Would something that simple actually work?

Many thanks in advance! (And let the tomato tossing commence!)

Pocket Fisherman

– Last Updated: Mar-12-06 6:50 AM EST –

I remember that one!! Naw, if you are gonna be saltwater fishing you'll need something a bit more hefty than that. You probably don't want to spend a fortune on gear you'll only use occasionally. There are 2 ways to go, use a hand line, works good from a kayak for trolling, jigging, etc. Try this out:
Then there's the rod and reel. Check this out:

Something that would be a bit more fun to catch fish on than the above rod:

Go live bait or some simple swimming jigs and you should be able to catch a few.

Go to the fish market or buy directly
from the commercial fishermen. Cheaper in the long run and more productive. But, if you insist, check out Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop for a travel spinning rod and a spinning reel. Breaks down into three or four pieces, fits into a tube or cloth container, and will pack in the suitcase. Not the best for saltwater, but it’ll work. Shower with the reel after using it to wash the salt off.

travel rods
I’m sure there are some good travel 4-5 piece rods out there but one guy in our group took one to Quetico one year and it came back a 9 piece rod.

Pocket fisherman. No. Can’t handle those big ones. The whales. Better go the cane pole route. Or, try fish market route.

Well, I guess I asked for it.

Laugh all you want
But the Pocket Fisherman made millions for Ron Popiel.

San Juans, sigh.
Before I looked at your profile I had visions of the San Juans here in Colo. Beautiful mountain streams brimming with wild trout. I was all ready to tie a #20 BWO to my tippet and find the nearest eddie full of them. Hence the sigh. Can’t say anything about the other San Juans except to see what the locals are using there and maybe rent some equipment before buying. There are probably outfitters who can (for hire) give you a fishing tour so you don’t spend money on the wrong stuff.


I have two combos that have worked
very well.

The first is a Zebco 11 (the smallest version of the 33) paired up with one of two rods, a 2.5 ft solid fiberglass crappie rod for if I am paddling tandem or I’m on a narrow river with a lot of overhanging brush or a 4.5 ultralight graphite spincast rod, which I use when there is serious fishing to be done. They both do very well, in fact I landed a 10lb buffalo with the 4.5 footer this past Saturday. The down side of this combo is that the reels wear out quickly because they “just don’t make 'em like they used to”.

My other favorite is a 4.5 ft ul spinning rod and reel combo. I actually own 3, one is a 20 year old tubular fiberglass Daiwa rod and an old KMart 2100 spinning reel, one is a slightly newer Diawa fiberglass/graphite blend with a Shakespeare Sigma 20 reel, and the last is a boron Uncle Bucks (Bass Pro Shop)and a no name reel that I bought from KMart when they were closing up down here a few years back. I keep them all loaded with 8lb line and the main difference in all three is the stiffness of the rod. The old Daiwa I use for jigging or with live bait and the two newer ones with assorted sizes of lures depending on the current. If I had to choose one it would be the Daiwa fiberglass/graphite as it offers the best all around action.

Either style (spincast or spinning) in this size will serve you very well.

If, what you are interested in is salt
water fishing, then the tackle needs to be more substantial. Maybe a 6.5 or 7 ft. two piece Shakespear Ugly stick with something like a Shimano Sahara or Sedona 2500FB or 4000FB spinning reel. It’ll set you back less than $100 and usually the tackle store will put line on the reel free…suggest 15 lb Berley Trilene Big Game fishing line. Just ask about weights and hooks. The same set-up will work for some types of freshwater fish, but you’ll want to go with lighter equipment if after trout. Maybe a 4.6 to 5.6 foor ultralight (look at the Berkley Cherrywood and Lightnign rods) and again a Shimano Sedona or Sahara 750. Use with 4-6 lb test line. Berkly Trilene XL is a good one. That’ll set you back a measly $80 or $90 bucks. If its bait you’ll be using, ask the locals. Lures should be small spinners…Mepps 0 or #1 size, or ask the locals.

Its not easy to find an ultralight rig that’ll break down, so it may be difficult to pack if flying. You can buy a rod tube to pack the rod/s in, but will have to check.

Better yet, if you want to be sure to catch a salt water fish and aren’t subject to sea sickness, also have the cash, charter a boat. If you have several friends that want to do it too, it’ll reduce the cost. Usually, everything but the beer is furnished. Be sure to tip the deckhands and captain. Here’s a link in the San Juans:


I like that idea

Thanks jerlfletcher
But I’m kayaking first, fishing second or third. We charter a boat out of Ilwako once or twice a year, but instead of concentrating on fish, that just fires my jets for coastal kayaking (I’m not up to that level yet)! Just thought it would be fun to catch your keep along the way, y’know.

Use a hand line.
Your question is OK, good for you for risking guff by asking. I live in the part of the world you are talking about and have kayak fished considerably in those waters. If all you want is fish with minimum gear purchase and mimimum hassle, go with a hand line.

Use heavy line, 50 lb. test is pretty mininimal and I’d get the heaviest cheap mono I could find in a store, 80 or 100 or more is much easier on your hands. It also tangles less. If hanging up and breaking it off concerns you, and it should in a kayak, add a leader tip of 15 or 20 lb. mono. five or ten feet long.

Buy a few cheap metal and or lead head rubber tailed jigs in one to six ounce sizes big enough to scare midwest fishermen into screaming flight and go fishing. A snap swivel is quick to change lures but uneeded otherwise. If you go deep for halibut, a 16 oz. or larger jig is better, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what you have in mind.

The best hand line holders are from Australia, and I’ve never seen one for sale in North America. Saw one on e-bay of all things the other day for about three dollars. They look like a big plastic donut a foot or more across, with a flanged rim made for wrapping line on, and a cross member in the middle to hold easily. They are designed for hand line fishing and if you have a lure big enough to throw, they even cast pretty well. I mention them in case you can find one before next summer. Cheap and excellent.

Otherwise wrap your line on a board the size of a shingle. Long wraps end to end, with a notch or scallop in each end of the board is best. Let the lure straight down to the bottom, lift a foot or two and start jigging. Lift the lure a foot or two at a time and drop it so that it falls free the foot or two. Don’t let it sit still more than a second or two between jigs, or you will catch dogfish shark, not sure why.

Fish in the edge of kelp for greenling (tasty) occasional black kelp bass and smaller rock cod. Ling cod are likely but closely regulated so make sure you know seasons, sizes, etc. I got a ling on a hand line once that was pot bellied and as long as from my nose to the ground. No scale to weigh him in wilderness waters. Used 200 lb. test speical hand line mono, looks like weedeater grass cutter line.

Currents can be bad, so I clip my yak to kelp with a lanyard and a large size cheap plastic clamp/clip from places like Home Depot. I tie to my yak with a quick release slip knot just behind the cockpit, so that a fish big enough to pull the yak around has me facing him rather than fighting him behind my back.

If you dont’t get a bite, move. If you catch one to three fish and then they stop, move.

Deep reefs in open water have bigger fish, but will be harder for you to fish in a yak due to wind and tides. I know a couple of guys who have caught salmon on hand lines from small boats, and many who have caught halibut up the BC coast.

Most of the well intentioned freshwater gear advised so far will mostly frustrate the life out of you and land very few fish in your yak. With the hand line set-up, plan where you want to put your fish. On a stringer over the side may work but slows down your paddling and sharks may congregate and eat them. I don’t have an excellent solution.

If I took a rod it would be a hefty salt water one just barely long enough to move the tip beyond the bow of my yak. I paddle a short yak, 13.5 foot. A seven to eight foot rod that will handle heavy line of 20-30 lbs. is about right for this kind of fishing, and will do for salmon. I used a saltwater trolling bait casting reel with 50 lb. line and a 20 lb leader.

I used such a rig last summer and caught a dozen or more green ling and switched rods to cast for salmon and caught one about 16 lbs. (8.5 foot spinning rod, spin reel and 14 lb.line for the salmon, but the salmon was in open water. I don’t like spin reels and light lines for bottom fishing). My companion was using freshwater gear, 12 lb. line I think and a nice 6 or 7 foot rod suitable for trout or bass with a medium sized spinning reel. He landed two, lost a pile of lures, and broke off nearly all the fish that he hooked. They were average size of freshwater bass and walleye mostly, not big fish but abrasive, difficult reefs and kelp beds.

Fishing regulations can be byzantine in complexity in the San Juans.

Go for it.


I’m going to print that off, laminate it, and glue it to the deck of my boat! Very detailed, very helpful. A little disconcerting about the shark, but can’t wait to try it out.

I was surprised to learn that you anchor. Could you just as easily “go with the flow”?

You can go with the flow, but

– Last Updated: Mar-14-06 2:44 PM EST –

be careful where it takes you, especially if you want to paddle back. Tide currents in island and channel geography at the lattitude of the San Juans produce currents like swift rivers, complete with whirlpools and rapids. Some are too swift to paddle against, though in a few hours they will be running the opposite direction. If it is going your way, you can fish for miles.

There are long periods of slack tide with little current, and kelp beds, especially in coves, tend to be out of the strongest currents. You will figure it out when you see it. In fog, however, you can be drifting at high speed and not know it on a calm surface, and move a LONG ways from where you thought you were.

My preferred way to fish for salmon is to drift with the flow and jig with a 2-4 ounce Dungeness Stinger (a metal baitfish minnow) in water 30-120 feet deep, keeping the jig within 6 feet of bottom. However, if you drift when you are in a kelp bed, which is where you are most likely to catch just some eating fish, then you will snag quickly and endlessy, so I clip in one spot.

Another reason for heavier/stiffer rods is to jig heavy lures efficiently, and a bait cast type reel works better than spin gear for that also. I only use spin gear when salmon are chasing bait on the surface, a rare but fun event to get in on.

The heavy line allows you to snag on kelp and still have a chance at ripping your lure free, or not lose a fish tangled in kelp if you can rip him through it. Think of a hedge type plant with flat leaves and wrist sized main stalk, 100 feet tall and made of slightly rotten wet leather and you have bull kelp. It's a forest for fish.

Dogfish sharks are more nuisance and likely to injure rather than dangerous to life. They run two to 4 feet long, have razor sharp flat edged teeth, sort of like human teeth, and a spike the size of a nail on their main back fin. The teeth cut flesh or fishing line instantly, and if you got a finger into their mouth, would lop it off. They roll in line when hooked and flop around making it hard to avoid the spike nail. Their skin is sandpaper and will abraid thorugh line pretty quickly. Check line for abrasions after releasing them and cut off the damaged part or the next fish will probably break off, losing lure and fish. Dogfish shark are edible, but cause an allergic reaction, swollen face etc. in some people. Been there.

Pliers and gaff are helpful for all of these kinds of fish. Tie everything to a lanyard and I clip those to the boat with small cheapo caribiners.

Obviously I am fishing with you vicariously, and obviously enjoy such fishing. On this rainy winter day I wish we were out there, as it is much easier to show than to describe in type. You will catch fish, in some of the most beautiful waters in N. America.

Defending the Pocket Fisherman
…When I was a young Army SP4 (E4), I served on a NATO Nuclear Site in Turkey…the Morale folks got together a fishing trip to the southern part of Turkey, a Lake called “Cay” pronounced CH’EYE. I was the only one who fished that lake for Northern Pike with the “Pocket Fisherman” (Mepps spinners and Steel Leaders)…I personally caught seven really large Northern Pike in that Lake.

I might note that the Old Turkish men who watched me use that rig where incredulous at first, but were impressed with the way it worked.

Pocket Fisherman
Wow i own a for years the year they came out its great for all fishing gee I still use it and get large fish with it I had a large striper landed with it. Plus the fact its so compact I take it everywhere. Just in case the fishing mode grabs me.

you might also take a look at
a small, ultralight ice fishing rig- mayabe a 24 inch pole with an open faced spin cast reel.

Emmrod fishing rods
You may want to look at www.emmrod.com