It was a great day learning about micro-fishing with Mike McClelland, Illinois Fishery Manager in Schuyler County.

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Illinois—Mike McClelland introduced me to micro-fishing by unpacking a small camouflage bag, reused from his original role in the mouth-loading deer hunt.

On the tailgate of his gray Dodge truck, he spread short blanks of Tenkara rods. Two had cork handles. The line would be attached to a small loop of red wire at the end of each rod.

McClelland, Illinois chief fisheries officer, said during the pandemic shutdown that he was learning micro-fishing. It sounded like fun and we got together in early June.

“I find micro-fishing is analogous to smallmouth brook fishing – best to go after the spring rains have ended, which allows for low and clear water levels,” he said. written beforehand.

Micro-fishing means catching small fish with reduced equipment. McClelland learned by reading and watching YouTube videos.

Equipment for micro-fishing.
Dale bowman

He started us off with pre-mounted setups with red Umpqua U-Series # 18 hooks on 8x tippet.

“I’m going to go down to No. 24, which is really good for darts,” McClelland said.

The only way I could have micro-fishing was with pre-set lines and hooks. I could never have put on one of those little hooks.

For a tiny two-pronged hook remover, McClelland cut off the top of a needle eye.

For bait, many use pieces of PowerBait. He prefers thin slices of sausage to snack on or pieces of ham. Rinds help keep the bait on the hook.

It uses three sizes of clear plastic wells to photograph small fish.

We packed our bags and then left. McClelland wore a blue “I Fish” t-shirt, shorts and walking shoes. I had jeans and rubber boots. McClelland stayed cooler, but I led as I walked through some nettles.

A perfect stream for micro-fishing.  Credit: Dale Bowman

A perfect stream for micro-fishing.
Dale bowman

It started us at a small wooded stream.

“You want low, steady, clear water, you want to see the fish and the fish to see the bait,” McClelland said.

Schools of small fish swam as we waded, knee deep in water at most.

The instant the bait hit the water, the fish swarmed. It was not easy. Well, McClelland landed the first little chub in the creek in a few throws. I missed several, I returned two more, before catching my first.

Because we missed so many, McClelland reduced its dimensions to a 0.3mm red hook. It worked, although he noted, “The hardest part is getting it down into the water column.”

He solved this with a small split shot.

After that, things went so well that it was 2pm before we stopped for lunch.

In my proudest moment, before heading out, I drifted the little hook presentation through a classic stream setup, the current swaying to wash under a traffic jam. I was rewarded with the only red shiner.

A red minnow in a well, a better way to photograph fish during micro-fishing.  Credit: Dale Bowman

A red minnow in a well, a better way to photograph fish during micro-fishing.
Dale bowman

We only caught the two species, but McClelland also spotted a southern red-bellied dace, which neither of us were able to catch. In the creek other times he caught common or striped minnows, bluegill and central arugula.

Because of his field experience, McClelland knows the fish. For us mortals he suggested the “Peterson Field Guides” or “the Fishes of Missouri”.

“One thing worth mentioning about micro-fishing and which I think is imperative that anglers take note of the potential occurrence of threatened / endangered fish species for the where they go fishing, “McClelland wrote beforehand. “My personal preference would be to make sure I don’t go anywhere where I could catch and injure a T / E fish.”

A county list is available at

Late afternoon on our second stream, I missed another fish at a drop off, then exclaimed, “Awwwllll.” “It’s the endless sound of micro-fishing fun,” said McClelland.

It was time.

I sat on a sandbar to watch him grab a few more to take the two dozen of us away.

A brook chub in a well, a better way to photograph fish during micro-fishing.  Credit: Dale Bowman

A brook chub in a well, a better way to photograph fish during micro-fishing.
Dale bowman

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