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Ask Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is recognized as an authority on surf fishing for striped bass. He is the author of six books and hundreds of magazine articles. Frank is a member of the Outdoor Writers of America and lectures throughout the Northeast.

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  #1  
Old 06-02-2010, 09:05 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Horsing in Fish

Bless me, father, for I have sinned...

I was fishing a couple of weeks ago when I made one of the cardinal sins of surfcasting: I tried to horse in a good fish. There were a couple of mitigating factors (I won't call them "excuses"): I had just caught a few big dogfish, and I had been mugged by three total idiots who set up (we were bait fishing) about 20 feet on my left. I was thinking about moving when another fish came tight.

Naturally, it went right for the lines of the Moron Brigade next to me. These guys had never fished at night before (or at least their behavior indicated to me that they'd never fished at night before), and the prospect of losing an hour because of tangled lines made me cringe. It's just another doggie, I said to myself, so I cranked down the drag to horse the fish in, get a release, and move away from the Three Stooges.

Well, you can probably guess the rest: I got the fish close enough to see that it was a good striper, at least 25 pounds, but right as I was easing up on the drag -- pop! -- the fish broke free.

I deserve scorn and ridicule for this, of course, but maybe we can use this as a learning experience. Discuss the risks, merits, and other aspects of trying to horse in fish. As a corollary, discuss the merits of playing fish correctly.
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Old 06-03-2010, 09:35 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

WOW! Leave it to you to come up with something fresh because I have never seen that subject here before.

Horsing is one of the cardinal sins of trophy fishing. The harder that you and the fish pull, the greater the chance of some sort of failure. Not just equipment, but there is the issue of hook penetration -- an unknown quantity. How deep is the fish hooked? How much flesh is making the connection? Because we don't know, the safe thing is to go easy. I could give this issue two thousand words like breakin sticks but I want to leave some of the fun to the gang. Going to love this....
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Old 06-03-2010, 09:57 AM
lagoonguy lagoonguy is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

During the "down" years of Striper fishing, we spent a lot of time fishing for Atlantic Salmon in Maine and New Brunswick. In those days on Margaree River on Cape Breton Island the regs called for releasing all but 1 Grilse per day. Salmon could not be kept and all were encouraged not to prolong the fight if you hooked one.

We got in the habit of fishing the salmon hard. I won't call it horsing them in but it was more maintaining control of the fish once hooked. We lost some fish but, landed most and quickly let em go. It gave us a real sense of what our particular fly rod could and couldn't do with a big fish on. I think most of us were surprised at just how hard we could fight a 15-20 lb. Salmon with an 8 or 9 wt. flyrod.

When the Stripers came back, I know that I played them much harder than I used to and landed/released them much quicker. I think it was better for the fish and tend to play a nice Snook or Tarpon the same way today.
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Old 06-03-2010, 10:10 AM
Merlin Merlin is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

Chris, brother of the surf, you have indeed sinned. You gave those invaders the power to upset your normal routine and habits. Shame of you! or did you, like me flunk out of anger management class?

If I could whisper in your ear I would tell you to fish every fish as if it was that life time trophy because someday if might be.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:08 AM
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ragman ragman is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

I guess I'm sort of a sinner also... I tend to "horse" them more often than not. However, I also am quick to change the drag setting if I feel the fish is good sized (I know, another sin, dont change drag during the fight ). I think I learned that after catching my first cow nosed ray (about 45 lbs), thought it was a good sized striper and let it take a lot of line, landed it after about 15 minutes. After that, I started paying attention to how they fight, stripers, blues etc. Dont get fooled too often either.
Frank is point on about hook penetration. A few years ago, landed a stiper maybe 15 lbs by horsing it in. When I landed it, I couldn't believe I did. The hook was in the fleshy part of the lip, and almost fell out when I grabbed it. I still shake my head over that one...
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Old 06-03-2010, 12:37 PM
Jon006 Jon006 is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

I'll keep my normally long winded reply brief: I think there is some merit to horsing in a cow if the water temperature is up and you plan on letting the fish go, you obviously need the tackle to match though.
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Old 06-03-2010, 02:31 PM
Nifty Nifty is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Daignault View Post
WOW! Leave it to you to come up with something fresh because I have never seen that subject here before.

Horsing is one of the cardinal sins of trophy fishing. The harder that you and the fish pull, the greater the chance of some sort of failure. Not just equipment, but there is the issue of hook penetration -- an unknown quantity. How deep is the fish hooked? How much flesh is making the connection? Because we don't know, the safe thing is to go easy. I could give this issue two thousand words like breakin sticks but I want to leave some of the fun to the gang. Going to love this....
Surprised you didn't say "Remember: you have her she doesn't have you." :-)
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Old 06-03-2010, 02:33 PM
Nifty Nifty is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

I lost one last week after a long battle coz it finally decided to go under a bridge and started taking line even though my drag was set tight. In desperation, I horsed it and even thumbed the spool just before the inevitable breakoff.
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Old 06-03-2010, 04:31 PM
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Steve C. Sink Steve C. Sink is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

Chris, both Mr. Merlin and Mr. Ragman make very good points.
You need to always do it your way, which for me is to block out everything and everybody on the beach and concentrate on the fish, and make changes as the fight progresses.
The worst thing that you can do [see if I can say this right] is to loose a fish and think that everything you did was wrong, and then to do everything opposite the next time. I lost the biggest Largemouth Bass that I had ever even seen in pictures, at Santee Cooper years ago because of this stupid thinking on a previously hooked fish. I'll never forget that lesson. Whatever has worked the best for you in the past will probably keep working. Just be consistent. Real sorry about your lost big fish. Again, when you hook one just try and pretend that you are the only one on the beach, except of course for manipulating around other people's lines.

MULE.
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:32 PM
Kroc Kroc is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

If you are planning on releasing the fish this plays a major role in how you fight the fish. To properly exhaust a large fish so it can be safely landed in the surf will inevitably give it a slim chance of survival. Conversely, trying to pull a fish through the wash that isn't tired increases the odds of something going wrong. Also, any discussion on horsing in a fish would have to begin with what kind of tackle you are using. C&R fisherman should use strictly heavy tackle. Frank, what was that quote about wretching in the dunes?
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Old 06-03-2010, 07:28 PM
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ragman ragman is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

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Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
If you are planning on releasing the fish this plays a major role in how you fight the fish. To properly exhaust a large fish so it can be safely landed in the surf will inevitably give it a slim chance of survival. Conversely, trying to pull a fish through the wash that isn't tired increases the odds of something going wrong. Also, any discussion on horsing in a fish would have to begin with what kind of tackle you are using. C&R fisherman should use strictly heavy tackle. Frank, what was that quote about wretching in the dunes?
Thats not entirely true Kroc. A worn out fish might not swim away that fast, but if released quickly, should do fine.
I'll post a pic of an 87 lb black drum my son got at Sandy Hook when in the Coast Guard several years ago, caught on a 7 ft St Croix rod, Tica reel spooled with 50 lb PowerPro. Other than the line, I would consider it light tackle. Sometimes I hate that kid....
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Old 06-04-2010, 02:02 AM
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akoller akoller is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

In my opinion, you should be fishing with line heavy enough to horse in a fish if you need to. The issue then, is that your hooks need to be strong enough. And then, of course as Frank mentioned, you need to worry about hook penetration and not ripping a hole in the fish's mouth.

A few years ago I was having the best fishing I had ever experienced. The only thing that was keeping me from catching more fish was that it took me a few minutes to get each fish in. So I got greedy and tried to horse in a ~20 lber (guessing from the fight) without ever letting the fish get its head. It would have worked if I had used a strong-enough hook, but the hook on the 7-inch tsunami shad bent and the fish got off. Tsunami has since upgraded its hooks...
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Old 06-04-2010, 07:13 AM
Rmarsh Rmarsh is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

Good topic: I have been trying to learn how to land large fish effectively, finding a balance between applying too much pressure too soon, or a prolonged fight that might not be necessary. Less concerned about tackle strength, than other factors like how well the fish is hooked.

I usualy like to "play it safe" and take my time but sometimes I feel like the longer it takes to land the fish the more chances there are for it to escape.

More discussion of this subject would be insightful.

Bob Marshall
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Old 06-04-2010, 07:56 AM
Jon227 Jon227 is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

Is avoiding personal injury a valid reason not to horse a fish? I would think that the health of the fish must also be considered in conjunction with the health/safety of the angler. Depending on the situation, horsing a fish may or may not be the safest option
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Old 06-04-2010, 10:10 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Horsing in Fish

This busines of being considerate of the fish raises what Chris Garrity pointed out in another thread: "Who loves the bass most." If it is that much of a deal with you maybe you should become a PETA, Fish Division where they don't put any steel in the mouth of any fish.

Experience says a lot about what we can do and when we can do it. For instance, if you don't let even a monster turn around that is close to you on the beach, and remember that they cannot swim backwards, you can horse him in right quick. I caught a 42 pounder one time at the Traps on my Pikie that hit only 20 feet out. I just backed up quickly without taking the time to reel and each time it tried to turn and burst through the wave I gained on it. But when I went to reach down for my plug, it bounced over three feet in the air, it was so green. Scared the schit out of me.
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