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How angling is done in Japan

Methods to catch Japan's most popular target fish

Chapter 6: Shore fishing in Japan

Anglers around the world agree that Japanese fishing gear is among the best and is known for its high precision and performance. The fishing techniques they are used for are also of a very high level. As for myself, when I was stationed in the United States, I had brought over my own Japanese fishing gear that isn't available there, and found that I could fish very well with them using Japanese angling methods. I would like to introduce some of these methods little by little in coming articles.

The tools, target and technique

This time, I want to introduce what we call the ukifukase-tsuri (float or bobber drift) angling method for targeting largescale blackfish in rocky shore areas. One of the appeals of fishing along rocky shore waters is the variety of fish that can be caught, and in Japan, the most popular fish anglers target is the largescale blackfish. The fishing gear we use is a long, thin pole about five meters in length mounting a specialized spinning reel fitted with a braking lever. It is a unique Japanese angling method that uses krill as bait, both on the hook and as attractant in the water, in a hook and line setup that looks natural as it drifts on the water. It is also a method that requires a good amount of technique and a sensitive touch.

Once hooked, the largescale blackfish instinctively beelines to lodge itself in the crevices in the nearby rocks. In contrast to the sensitive touch needed in this type of angling, one of the things that makes this method of fishing enjoyable is halting the strong pull of the fish and working to keep it out in the open water until you can reel it in.

The largescale blackfish is the most popular target for shore fishing in Japan

Fishermen ferries and a different angling experience

Fukase-tsuri is a type of angling where the hook and line is allowed to drift with the current. It can be done in a variety of ways; from more casual fishing off breakwaters, jetties, piers, or natural rock outcroppings along the shore that you can walk out to, to more serious ways like getting a hired boat to ferry you out to offshore outcroppings or points that can't be reached easily from land. However, from a safety standpoint, using a hired boat, known as fisherman ferries in Japan, is probably the best way to fish rocky shorelines. In Japan, this type of fishing ferry boat that takes anglers out to shore fishing spots is basically a commercial fishing boat with a diesel engine. Most are outfitted with old tires and the like as boat fenders to protect the bow should it hit the rock outcroppings. You can see boats all over the world using tires for fenders in this way.

Since anglers have a tendency to want to fish from points that can't be reached easily on foot and where other people can't get to, and considering that fishing from the shore has an entirely different appeal from fishing from a boat, this fisherman ferry system is truly an attractive one for anglers.

Using commercial fishing boats as ferries, you can enjoy angling from spots unreachable by foot

The longer, the better - competitions on the rise

Size of largescale blackfish is measured not by weight but by the fish's length. If you are an angler who likes going after "the big one" (a large or trophy-size fish), one of over 40 cm is considered a big catch, while one of 50 cm or more is trophy size, and there are occasionally "monster" fish of over 60 cm. The fishing season for largescale blackfish is year-round, but the biggest ones are usually caught in winter. As such, I've often been fishing for my big one out in the freezing cold every year.

Although there are many anglers that like to go after big largescale blackfish rather than participating in tournaments, tournaments sponsored by the fishing gear manufacturers are now being held. I recently started competing in these tournaments. Generally, they are competed on the basis of weight, with the prizes going to the anglers with the highest total weight of their ten biggest fish caught.

I was lucky enough to finish 3rd in my first qualifying tournament and I plan to enter the finalist tournament this autumn! My work keeps me very busy so I won't know whether I will be able to compete or not, but if I do, I will be sure to report the results!

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