There are 215 species of Darters in North America. The United States, Mexico, and Canada have great angling opportunities for these super little micro fish. With a little preparation you can be on your way to adding new species to your lifelist. It isn’t always the easiest of tasks but can be performed with simple micro fishing gear and a little patience. With Darters being some of the most colorful freshwater fish it certainly is rewarding.
Micro Fishing Hooks and Gear for Darters
Short rods 6 feet and under are typically good micro fishing rods for fishing for Darters. Short telescopic rods make for better fish than Tenkara rods. Many people confuse Tenkara with micro fishing. A 6 ft telescopic hand rod with no reel is a perfect length to get some distance away from your quarry yet close enough to see the action. Micro fishing Darters as a species of fish will have you fishing rocky bottom cooler water creeks. You will be angling in knee deep water or perhaps even more shallow than that. You need to see what you’re targeting so being 12 or 15 feet away or more targeting a small fish with a Tenkara rod isn’t as effective.
There will also be different species around that you want to not target. Targeting Darter species micro fishing can be a time consuming activity. Target Minnows, Chubs, Sunfish, and other micro fish on another fishing trip and with a longer rod and other fishing tackle. Plan on fishing for Darters on your Darter trip and try not to combine them for the best results. Some of your micro fishing trips will be a mixed bag but you will likely have better success if you concentrate solely on Darter species.
Small hooks are an absolute must when microfishing for Darters to add to your lifelist. The generic term tanago hook is misleading in that tanago is a specific species of Bitterling fish found in Japan. This is why we developed the 1-2-3 Micro Pack of micro fishing hooks for tiny fish. They were designed specifically for micro fishing and offer 3 sizes of micro fishing hooks on 30 cm pre tied snelled leaders. The Aldridge 1-2-3 Micro Hooks are much better for micro fishing than Tanago hooks will be.
Simply tie on an Aldridge micro fishing hook to your 6 foot fishing rod. A short leader is perfect for concentrating on Darters so the 30 cm leader on the Aldrdige micro hooks is a perfect length. Otherwise you can tie your micro hook to a piece of fishing line. Add a bit of earthworm to the hook by pulling the hook through the tip of the worm. Red wigglers are small and can be baited on the Aldridge micro hooks rather easily. Tiny fish of all sorts will take this setup freshwater and saltwater.
Add a splitshot 2 or 3 inches above the micro hook to hold it fast in the current. Often times Darters will hit the splitshot instead of the bait. Be patient and the Darter may eventually take your bait. It can be hard to see as Darters blend in with the bottom. The bit of bright yard just above the tiny hook can greatly help you target hiding Darters where depth or current makes it harder to see them.
- Catch Darters with The Aldridge #1 and the 1-2-3 Micro Pack.
- A shorter rod is preferred, usually under six feet in length.
- Learn Darter habitat to increase your knowledge base.
Sight Fishing for Darters
Sight fishing is likely the most common method of fishing for Darter species. It’s the most productive on hook and line. Shallow water angling can produce aggressive fish and can be more colorful, too. Brighter times of the day will increase visibility and seeing where Darters are will improve your chances of getting a Darter. Keep your profile down low and try not to cast a shadow over where you are fishing. This may mean moving to the other side of the stream or moving your position when seeing fish on the bottom. Some fish you see will never take your bait so move on to the next one if you can’t catch it.
Look around for fish laying on the bottom. Approach them carefully and drop your baited microhook just in front of the fish. The splitshot will help hold it steady. If after a few moments the bait isn’t taken pick up the bait from the bottom and reposition it. Often they will hit the sinker and return to their station on the bottom. Remember that they are a fish species living in swift current. Fish will be lying in slight depressions to avoid that swift current. They will dart up for food and then right back to these stations.
Fishing at night for Darters can be productive. It’s a method that works on a lot of other fish species like Madtoms and Sculpins. As long as you don’t shine your light directly on the fish your chances are good. Keep your light to the side of the fish so you can see the fish but don’t light up the fish directly. Night fishing is about the same as sight fishing but you are using a headlight to see where you are going. Pay attention to hazards around you to avoid accidents.
Blind Fishing for Darter Species
Blind fishing for Darters is not as effective as sight fishing but can still produce some nice fish. They may be other species and you may not know what you will catch. It could be a Shiner or even a Trout. It is more time consuming and often involves deeper water in areas of the creek than when sight fishing. Sight fishing you can avoid unwanted fish like the Shiner but when blind fishing you catch whatever you catch.
Blind fishing for Darters is a lot of work. Sometimes, it’s the only way you can fish. You got to do what you got to do, though. A nice rock crevice can be a great spot for a Darter or Madtom but you never know what you might catch. Drop or drift an Aldridge #1 size #30 micro fishing hook down a crevice and wait. Look for a delay in the drift or other signs of a bite. Dragging your bait and split shot (they bite these often) across the bottom often results in a curious and hungry Darter.
A small bright color bit of yard tied just above the hook will greatly increase your visibility of the bait. Tie a knot with some bright colored yarn just above the hook and trim the excess off with scissors. Keep the knot just above the hook as a bite indicator as worms can sometimes be hard to see. It also acts as a bit of an attractor.
Good spots to try are rocks, riffles, rock ledges, and crevices in cold, fast mountain rivers. Darters are good at hiding and blending in with their surroundings. It will take some time to become proficient at seeing and catching them. Stick with it and you will be a pro in no time.
Get Out There and Catch Some Darters
Anyone wanting to add a number of new species to under their belt should consider Darter fishing. They are very colorful little fish and are found all over North America. Many of them behave the same so when you figure one species out that experience can be used to catch other species. Since micro fishing gear is simple it can be kept in a backpack or in the trunk of the car for impromptu fishing sessions. It’s a very rewarding pastime and hobby for anglers all over North America.