What is Coarse Fishing?

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Coarse fishing is a popular form of fishing that is undertaken primarily for sport rather than food. Coarse fish are considered “lesser” fish. They were categorized as coarse fish during the 19th century in the UK due to their rough skin and poor taste. Coarse fish are not particularly tasty and never became a major food source worldwide, so the sport of coarse fishing was born. Coarse fishing is a catch and release sport rather than a “catch and keep” sport for food. Coarse fish are favored for their fighting capabilities and the fish themselves come in a range of shapes and sizes from the minuscule dace to the colossal catfish.

Coarse fishing can be undertaken in a manner of different ways using different techniques, but they are usually caught on bait rather than with spinners, plugs, and lures. You can target coarse species using simple float fishing methods, complicated “sit and wait” methods, trotting, free-lining, and ledgering with a quivertip rod. Coarse fish are found in freshwater rivers, streams, and lakes. Fishing techniques can be used in different ways to accommodate fast flows, slow flows, and still waters.

So overall, coarse fishing is a catch and release sport for targeting poor eating fish that thrive in freshwater. They are caught using a range of techniques primarily using bait to get a bite on the hook. In this article, we will be looking at the differences between freshwater coarse fish and freshwater game fish, what the typical coarse fishing species are, the habitats that you often find them in, and the type of equipment that is needed to catch them. By the end of this article, you will know exactly what to look for, where to look, and how to catch coarse fish of differing species. Enjoy!

The Difference Between Freshwater Game Fishing and Coarse Fishing

As we mentioned in the previous section, coarse fish are species that are considered poor eating fish that live in freshwater. So, what is the difference between coarse and game fish? Well, to put it simply, freshwater game species are fish that taste good on your plate and coarse are fish that are no good for eating. There are a few other differences to tell game and coarse apart though, so in this short section, we will be looking at what some of those differences are.

Game fish can be defined by a small fin in between the dorsal and tail fins. This small fin is called the adipose fin and can be found on salmon, trout, char, and grayling. You won’t find this fin on coarse fish and no salmonid fish is considered coarse. Most game fish are found in faster flowing stretches of freshwater and they prefer clear, clean water. This high-water quality gives the fish their great taste and although you will find trout in lakes, if the water is murky and muddy the fish will take on some of that taste. Coarse fish on the other hand tend to inhabit murkier stretches of slow-flowing rivers and streams, still ponds, lakes, and backwaters.

Game fish can be caught with a range of techniques just the same as coarse fish however they are more commonly caught on fly fishing gear, spinners, plugs, and lures. As mentioned earlier in the article, coarse fish are more commonly caught with bait and natural presentations. Overall, coarse species and game species can certainly cross paths in the same waters however game tend to inhabit clean, clear water. Coarse fish are a bit less fussy about their habitat and they can call still water ponds, small lakes, and murky, slow-flowing rivers home.

Coarse Fish Species

Fish that are considered coarse species can be found in almost every part of the world, from Asia, Europe, the U.S, and Canada. In this section, we will be listing some of the more common coarse species that are favored for their good sport and fighting capabilities. Although the list below is extensive, if we listed every coarse species this article would be several pages long! So instead, we have listed some of the most popular coarse for good sport.

  • Barbel The barbel is a cyprinid (carp family) coarse fish that lives in freshwater rivers. They feed on the bottom of the river and feel for food using their “barbels” (whiskers on the mouth).
  • Bream The Bream is a dish-shaped freshwater fish found primarily in lakes but also deep stretches of river. They feed in mid-water and off the bottom with their protruding mouths and swim in shoals.
  • Carp The Carp is a freshwater coarse fish that is a popular target species across the globe for their stunning looks and incredible fight. They feed primarily off the bottom but also feed in mid and top-water when the conditions suit.
  • Wels Catfish The Wels Catfish is a colossal species of freshwater catfish that can be found across Europe. They are predatory scavengers that will feed on anything from small fish, fruit, to ducks off the surface of the water! They can reach colossal sizes of over 200-pounds!
  • Channel Catfish The Channel Catfish is the most prominent North American Catfish and it can reach sizes of up to 50-pounds. This is a scavenging fish that feeds in a similar manner to the Wels Catfish of Europe.
  • Flathead Catfish The Flathead Catfish is a large species of North American Catfish that can reach up to around the 100-pound mark. They are hungry fish that feed on anything from live fish to rotting meat on the lake or river bottom.
  • White Sturgeon The White Sturgeon can be found in the northern parts of the U.S, Alaska, and Canada. They can reach sizes of over 1,000-pounds, which is unbelievable! They feed on salmon spawn, shrimp, and crayfish.
  • Chub Chub are a cyprinid species of fish that inhabit rivers and streams across Europe. They are a shoaling fish that are opportunistic feeders, feeding on anything from fry, eggs, to bits of bread thrown in the water. They reach sizes of up to 10-pounds with the average being around the 4-pound mark.
  • Dace The Dace is a minuscule fish that can be found in freshwater rivers and streams. They feed on small food particles and natural insect larvae. They barely reach 1-pound in weight but are favored by some match fisherman that use the pole.
  • Roach Roach are a small freshwater coarse fish that inhabits rivers and lakes around the world. They have the classic silver body with red fins and can reach weights of up to 4-pounds. They feed on natural foods like insect larvae, fry, and maggot. They are favored by float fisherman and match anglers.
  • Rudd The Rudd looks almost identical to the roach and they reach similar sizes, however, their mouths are angled up because they primarily feed on the surface of the water. They tend to eat insects, flies, and eggs from the top of the water.
  • Grass Crap The Grass Carp is a Cyprinid fish that inhabits lakes and ponds. They feed on weed and natural baits on the lake bed. They can reach weights of up to 40-pounds and they almost look like a large Chub or elongated Carp.
  • Perch Perch are similar looking to Bass with a large curved dorsal, green body, and black stripes. They feed on small fish, worms, and insect larvae and inhabit rivers, streams, and lakes. They can reach weights of up to 6-pounds. When they are smaller, they tend to shoal but when they get above the 3 – 4-pound mark they become more solitary.
  • Tench Tench are a green to brown fishthat resides in murky rivers and lakes. They feed in a similar way to carp and have the same eating habits. They can reach sizes of up to 14-pounds in weight and put up a good fight on a quiver tip or lightweight float set up.
  • Zander Zander are a predatory fish that feeds on small fish but also scavenges on the bottom of the lake or river. They can be found almost anywhere but the fastest-flowing rivers. The Zander can reach weights of up to 25-pounds and can be caught on spinners, dead, and live baits.
  • Eel The Eel is a broad range of fish, some in saltwater, some and fresh, and some migratory. Some Eels that reside in freshwater are considered coarse fish and they can put up quite a fight. What they eat depends on the species, but they are predominantly scavengers and can reach weights of over 100-pounds (depending on the species).

Where do You Find Coarse Fish?

Coarse fish can be found in freshwater rivers, streams, and lakes around the world. There are many different species that are considered coarse fish with some of them weighing over 500-pounds and some weighing barely 1-pound. You will find coarse species inhabiting deep rivers, shallow streams, the largest of lakes, and the smallest of ponds. There are so many different species of fish that are considered coarse and not all species like the same environment. In this section, we will be looking at 3 different species, their habitat preferences, and where they feed.

The Carp

Carp prefer to reside in slower flowing deep stretches of river, backwaters, and lakes. You will pretty much find them everywhere other than fast-flowing streams and rivers. They like to hang out around underwater features and bankside vegetation, and you will find them feeding on gravel and sandy patches rather than silt and clay. Most of the largest carp I have had out in the U.K and Europe have been either caught over clean gravel patches or from the margins (bank side), this shows that their favorite feeding spots are places with cover and clean river/lake bottoms.

In the summer months where the weather is hot, you will find the carp basking on the surface of the water and occasionally feeding on the top. They tend to rise to the surface of the water to feed on natural baits as well as bread and floating feed that has been thrown in by anglers and families that are taking a stroll in the sunshine. In the winter, the carp slow down and feed on the bottom of the lake or river. You will find them in the deeper sections of the water as the temperature levels are more stable here.

The Catfish

Catfish are present all around the world and there are over 3,000 species of them in more than 36 families. They are born survivors, opportunists, and scavengers that feed on a variety of food from live fish and small birds, to whatever may be laying on the river or lake bed. You can find catfish in almost any environment from fast-flowing rivers to tiny stagnant ponds. They are highly adaptable and extremely hardy, with some species able to move across land to find a new water source, so perhaps it is not so bad to be a fish out of water after all!

The Catfish you are likely to find in the U.S and Europe are the Wels, Flathead, and Channel Catfish. These Cats prefer murky waters and tend to reside deep down under fallen branches, trees, and bankside cover where they burrow to live and spawn. They are very protective of their territories and will bite anything that may get too close, even fingers and toes which is where the sport of noodling comes from.

The Roach

When weight and size are concerned, the Roach is at the other end of the scale to the Wels, Flathead, and Channel Catfish. The roach reaches no more than 4-pounds and lives in clean freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes. They are finicky feeders with tiny mouths, and they prefer natural baits like maggot, worm, and larvae. The Roach is a shoaling fish and swims in large groups where they can better confuse predatory fish that swim in the same waters such as Pike, Musky, and Zander. You will often see them in clear waters where you can spot them from above from there green-looking back and bright red pectoral fins. They do like open water and will often sit in shallow waters where they can be seen by people and predatory birds. They are vulnerable to predation, however, their vast numbers and breeding capabilities make roach and other similar species prominent in many waterways across the world.

What Do You Need to Start Coarse Fishing?

Coarse fishing is relatively simple to get into and it is often where most young anglers start. You don’t need much kit to get started in the world of coarse fishing, but you will find as you progress your tackle cupboard will too. If you are new to fishing you can start fishing for coarse species with a setup as simple as a rod, reel, and some floats which isn’t going to cost you much at all. As you progress you will likely want to start targeting larger species and casting longer distances which means tougher, longer rods, high-quality fishing reels, and stronger line. You may even start heading out specimen hunting for large carp, catfish, and sturgeon which will see you investing in bite alarms, a fishing bivvy, large landing net, heaps of tackle, and much (much) more!

Coarse fish come in a range of shapes and sizes and the type of rod and reel your start with will ultimately depend on what species you are targeting. You wouldn’t start fishing for Catfish with an ultralight rod that is suited for Roach and Rudd, just as you wouldn’t target Roach and Rudd with a rod that is designed for Catfish. You will find plenty of quality coarse fishing rods on the market that are suited for all types of fishing, just make sure you know your target species and purchase a rod and reel that will handle it.

Accessories for coarse will depend on your target species and style of fishing. If you are planning on hunting specimen fish, then chances are you will need to stay on the bank for many days waiting for a bite from the big one. This is where things can get a little pricey as you will need a comfortable bed chair, a waterproof bivvy/ shelter, bite alarms, luggage bags and rod bags for all your kit, and potentially a folding barrow to haul your multi-day kit to your fishing spot. Other accessories may suit the roaming angler more, such as tackle backpacks, intelligent rigging stations, and durable fishing clothing.

The tackle you decide to fill up your tackle boxes and bags with will also depend on your chosen target species. You will need to scale up your tackle along with your rod and reel when you start targeting larger fish as your end tackle is ultimately what will put the fish on the bank. Smaller hooks and lines with lower gauges are needed to tempt smaller coarse fish and finicky feeders to biting, and larger hooks and strong braided lines are needed for callosal powerhouse species like catfish and sturgeon. Make sure you tackle up wisely for your target species as your end tackle is what will get you the bite, the fight, and a fish in the net.

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