Crucians are one of my favourite fish, they have that wow factor and can almost certainly be counted as one of the very few cute and cuddly of our indigenous fish. I have a fondness for them that can only be described as “a bit worrying,” but for me a little plump bar of gold can bring out a smile in me that is markedly different from the smiles I get with other fish captures. They are plain and simple, very lovely fish to catch, handle gently for a very short while, admire and release. The fight can only really be regarded as interesting, as they will not give you a screaming reel churner, but they will entertain with their “shall I go this way, no I’ll go that way, no I think I’ll roll over and tail slap my thigh,” attempts at freedom. I like them a lot!
Everyone has their favourite rigs, presentations and variations on popular themes, when it comes to specialist fishing. When targeting crucians, I think of not one, but several fish feeding in quite small areas, maybe no bigger than a dinner plate. My rigs and float fishing especially therefore, are as precise as I can make them allowing for the fact that not every cast I make will be bang on the money. I try to keep my hook baits in that feeding spot or as close to those tight free offerings as possible.
With a float, when fishing close to lilies and marginal reeds, it is easier to fish with precision, but when casting a feeder, it will, even with the utmost care land slightly off target. The object with the use of a feeder is of course to get a compact area of food close to the hook bait, so in effect we are achieving what we set out to do and perhaps do not need to worry so much about precision when feeder fishing. If we work on the principle that crucians may be feeding in the area of free offerings deposited by the last feeder, we can assume that they will find the next feeder full, without too much trouble. The only question we may need to ask ourselves from time to time is; “ will the feeder, dropping through the water column, spook the feeding shoal,”? My experience is that it will not, especially not in deeper water and providing you are not using a large feeder and take some care feathering the cast to avoid a big splash.
When crucians are feeding in small areas and in close proximity of each other, I do not believe they move very far at all when picking up items of food. I will therefore try to get away with the shortest hook lengths when using a feeder. This can have drawbacks, as the shorter the hook length, the less stretch available to help take the strain of hooked fish. Very fine hi tech co polymer lines, say under 0.11mm, will not cope well with fighting fish and are prone to snap if they are too short. If I do use a fine line I will stick to 0.11mm and above and ensure the hook length is no shorter than 6”. The other problem I have encountered with short fine hook lengths, is when using maggot on the hook, they can crawl back into the feeder. It has happened to me on too many occasions to write it off as unlikely to happen again. In fact the last crucian I caught from Harris Lake, Marsh Farm, took a couple of maggots that crawled in and back out of the maggot feeder, with the hook length trailing through two of the holes of the feeder. So far, it hasn’t caused any major problems, but it does knock my confidence if I haven’t had a touch for a while. It is best therefore to re-cast with some frequency, just to make sure you have a hook bait available to any interested fish.
As far as feeder methods go, I tend to use either a very small 25g ground bait method feeder or a 12g Drennan feeder bomb, which I allow to run freely on a 6lb fluorocarbon leader of around 1 metre. I tie the leader to 5lb Preston reflo power max mainline using a leader knot, which is small enough to allow the method feeder or feeder bomb to pass over it. Above the knot, I will often place a small rig bead and a running back lead to pin everything to the bottom of the lake. This keeps everything free running, with no chance of a fish dragging any fixed weights should the line part. With the method feeder, I will use a 2-4 inch braided hook length and with the feeder bomb, I will use a 6-8 inch 0.11mm to .013mm Preston reflo power line hook length.
In muddy water, you can do away with the flouro leader and replace the leader knot with a mono or co polymer knot tied 1 metre above the feeder, as long as the feeders can slide over the knot, it is still a safe method. With braided hook lengths, for hair rigs, 8mm pellets and 8mm boilies etc, I will use a Drennan specimen hook in size 14. With hi tech lines, when using maggot with the feeder bomb, I use a Drennan specialist wide gape in size 18. The above methods can be fished with light bobbins or with a light quiver tip.
I find that most traditional leger rods are unsuitable for crucian as they are too stiff or powerful. I prefer to use a pair of 11ft pellet waggler rods with a soft tip and through action, the same rods that I use when targeting big perch. In spite of claims to the contrary, there are very few if any rods in the marketplace that cater for small specimens and I hope this will change over the coming years as we see a return to the popularity of targeting small specimen fish.
When float fishing, I will try to get away with the lightest hi tech line that I can, usually fishing with a 0.9mm or 0.10mm hook length of around 12-18 inches tied with loop knots to the mainline. I use a fine tip Drennan still water blue or the more recent Drennan glow tip antenna floats. These are very light and sensitive and will detect the most delicate of bites.
My preference when feeding is to avoid a catapult unless it is absolutely necessary, especially when using red maggot, as they will create a larger feeding area and they will also attract tench into the swim, that I am trying to avoid. Small pellets and caster seem slightly easier to feed and tend to stay in a tighter area. A bait dropper then, is my preferred choice for getting bait on the deck and for topping up the swim from time to time.
When fishing with maggot or caster, I like to fish the bulk of the weight near the float and dot the rest down to within a few inches of the hook. This helps get the bait down quickly onto the deck and helps avoid roach and rudd muscling in on the hook bait. I prefer to spend a bit of time with the plummet, getting the tip to show around 5mm above surface and to ensure that the bait is fished dead depth. The float will either dip or lift depending upon how the crucian suck in the hook bait. It goes without saying that crucian bites can be frustrating. A friend refers to them as excruciating carp and he does have a point as they can have you pulling your hair out. But stick with it and you will naturally become accustomed to learning the best times is to strike.
One of my favourite methods when using the float is fishing large lumps of very soft paste, which when fishing at dead depth, you can use to cock your float without any shot. The paste sinks slowly to the bottom, cocks the float and will stay put long enough until bits of paste are nibbled off by the crucian. The float will bob and dip for some time and when the paste bait is small enough, the crucians will engulf it and give you a very positive bite to hit. Occasionally they will nibble the paste down to the enth degree and the float will just lift up and lay flat on the surface. This is because all the paste has been nibbled off the hook and what’s left has softened or disintegrated from the hook. Time to try again with another lump of paste!
It is always best to fish for any fish in the knowledge that you can protect it from damage when removing hooks, retaining it in the net and taking photographs. Crucians can withstand a lack of oxygen better than most other species, but they do still need looking after on the bank. Use an unhooking mat at all times and try to get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible. The pleasure in crucian fishing from the dipping of the float to the returning of your fish is in the realisation that you were treated to a special moment with a special fish, that you ensured its safety whilst in your company and gently sent it packing to rejoin its gang on the bottom of the lake.
Happy Crucian Fishing!
Paul Hiom ACA