Squawfish (or “pikeminnow” if we want to be politically correct) are nothing more than a pest that steals your bait and eats juvenile salmon and steelhead, right?
Throw in the fact that they typically fight like a cross between a wet sock and a walleye and they don’t sport any beautiful coloration and squaws are pretty easy to loathe.
But are they perhaps a little more sporty than we give them credit for?
Where I fish for salmon on the Sacramento River, squawfish are conditioned to follow boats around. As soon as one pulls up to the beach (any beach), the squaws materialize in massive schools, looking for discarded roe…or better yet, filleted salmon carcasses.
Each day when I’m cleaning fish, I’ve noticed that most of my clients are fascinated by the hordes of squaws and many end up asking to borrow a rod so they can try to catch a few.
So, I started bringing out my kid’s mini 5-foot fly rod and let guys mess around while I cleaned salmon. As it turns out, the squaws are pretty gamey.
They are very skittish and a lot tougher to hook than you’d expect considering the amount of salmon chum in the water. They act…dare I say…almost like spring creek brown trout and the fly had to be presented very precisely to solicit a strike. And when hooked, the squaws often go airborne if you can believe it! On the light gear, they pull hard and make some impressive runs.
After catching a bunch of bright salmon, the guys almost seem to have more fun with the squawfish at the end of each day. As Matt Steiger, pictured above, said: “We may be pushing the boundaries of fly fishing here,” as he tied into yet another feisty squaw.
I’m not so sure fly fishing for pikeminnow is the next big thing, but I can honestly say (after trying it) that it is a lot of fun and surprisingly challenging.
So, next time you’re out on the creek and the marquee species aren’t playing nice, give the ol’ sqauw a try…