Stalking sticklebacks – enjoyment, excitement and passion! (entry 518, article and video)

On a recent bream session I made to a pit I noticed sticklebacks in the margins. I don’t have any evidence, it’s all anecdotal, but they do seem to have declined over the years. When I was a kid they were everywhere and you always saw people out with a net and a jam jar. However, I hadn’t seen one for ages, so to spot them again after so long was brilliant.


Not only was it nice to see them though, I also decided that I would actually target them next time I returned. With my bream  fishing on the venue being nocturnal, at the very least it would give me something to do during the long days of summer. I used to catch sticklebacks back in the 60’s from Penn Common duck pond, so this was a real step back in time. 

My wife's float creations
My wife’s float creations


The stickleback (we have three-spined and fifteen-spined) is a fascinating little fish. During the breeding season the male develops a bright red breast – we used to call them red butchers back then. They become territorial as they guard their nest;  yes like birds they build a nest of sorts! I even thought twice about fishing for them at this time of the year, but it’s not like targeting spawning fish!


Intending to fish for them properly, I dusted down my 4m Mitchell whip, gathered my tackle of 1.6lb fluorocarbon and a size 20 hook and I was ready to go. Well, almost, as I needed a float. Even the tiniest of floats I own are far too big, but I had a plan. In the accompanying video you will see how my wife, Debby, comes to the rescue. Two floats later and I’m all ready to go.  

Float ready to go
Float ready to go


A visit to the local tackle shop and I’m sorted with half a pint of pinkies. Knowing I usually fish for bigger species they asked what I was after. When I said sticklebacks they replied that funnily enough they’d been having a conversation with another customer about them. Coupled with someone else telling me the same thing, there might be a stickleback revival on the horizon!

A lot of pinkies in half a pint!
A lot of pinkies in half a pint!


Out on the bank I couldn’t wait to get going! It has been over 40 years since I’ve actually fished for them. A few years back I did visit Penn Common duck pond again though to see if they were still in there, as I fancied re-visiting my childhood. However no fish were to be seen. I did spot some newts though so I wasn’t totally disappointed. So I guess the stickleback desire has been simmering for a while. 

Keeping tackle to a minimum
Keeping tackle to a minimum


With the water being crystal clear, I could spot the fish, so I went to them rather than expecting them to find my bait. Dropping the pinkie in the general area around them, it was fascinating watching it fall and the stickleback approach it. After a few ‘casts’ I realised this wasn’t going to an easy fish-a-chuck experience. Virgin fish they might be but they still have a natural wariness of sorts.


But eventually after a number of attacks that were more plucks than anything else I had my first fish of the evening. It was brilliant to lift the whip and see myself connected with a real, live, wriggling stickleback after all these years. It was a definite trip down memory lane. I think the older we get the more nostalgic we become. If that means we revisit our angling childhood from time to time then so be it!

The first fish of the session!
The first fish of the session!


I was going to cock the float with a shot but as I was fishing different depths I preferred to leave it flat on the top. When I had a proper bite though it soon shot beneath the surface. Whether it be a pike bung, a wrasse float or one of my wife’s tailor-made creations, there’s nothing like a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t moment. And even better when you lift into a fish!

The margins were crystal clear
The margins were crystal clear


I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I’m sure that came over in the video. It was a great way to spend an evening and I would recommend to any hardcore angler that taking time out in this way is definitely refreshing. Not that I was in that position, but if your angling is hard going, why not do something like this and put the fun back into your fishing. I will guarantee it will work! 

Another on the bank!
Another on the bank!


The following day I again had the pleasure of not only fishing for, but also catching, sticklebacks. You can read next week how I got on pursuing bream, but for now the limelight belongs to the mighty midget. I’m sure some of the fish I caught took the pinkie out of aggression rather than hunger, and on that front they remind me of perch.

Beautiful colouration - small but perfectly formed
Beautiful colouration – small but perfectly formed


One thing that stands out when you see a stickleback close-up is the beautiful colouration and markings. I know we tend to think of rudd and crucian carp as the stunners, but I think there’s more than a good case for the stickleback, certainly at this time of the year, to be crowned as the wrasse of the coarse world!


Will I fish for them again? When I come across them, definitely! When I say I’m an all-rounder I mean it. Make sure you watch this week’s video, the link is below. You can subscribe to my video channel via YouTube and you can get my Facebook page and Twitter links from my website.


By connecting with me there you can keep up to date with my angling adventures.  Next week, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m after bream. See you then! And if you’re out and about yourself, tight lines. And let me know how you get on, Facebook in particular is great for that.  (Published June 15 2013)

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