Nothing wrong with leeches

Nothing wrong with leeches
Another smallie falls for a leech. This fish was released.

Quite a few emails come to me from readers asking about fishing or some other aspect of the outdoors.  Some will ask about rods and reels others about baits.  Every once and awhile, when a question is asked, it sparks a memory of some experience I had.  Let me share one of those stories with you.

An email message came last month about leeches.  Specifically, the question was about the purchase of mail or phone order bait that would be shipped to the buyer’s home.  What a familiar note that rang out.

I ordered leeches from a company that probably doesn’t even exist any more as this was so long ago.  Whether they’re sill in business or not really doesn’t matter.

I was going on a fishing trip with a friend and we wanted some huge healthy leeches for trophy smallmouth bass and walleyes.  This particular company was our outlet.

The order was placed over the phone for two pounds of the largest leeches the company had.  Since I was working at the time, I had them delivered to my fishing partner’s house.

The leeches were shipped to his home the week of our trip up north to the Land O Lakes area.  Oddly enough, the package was accepted by my friend‘s mother-in-law.    Well, she thought it was just another package, so she took it and placed it next to his desk and never told him about it.  This was a Tuesday afternoon.  We were leaving on Friday night.  Oh boy.

When I arrived at my fishing partner’s house to pick him up, I asked if the leeches ever came.  He said they had not.  This prompted him to check with his wife and mother in law to see if they were aware of any deliveries.  Well, if you haven’t guessed it by now, we received the shocking news that the package was delivered on a few days ago.

Our stash of leeches was next to his desk in his office.  Needless to say we were a bit concerned about opening the container of bait, especially in the house.  We went outside and put the wind to our backs.  The leeches were packed in a styrofoam container and sealed air tight.  That container was in a sealed cardboard box.

To our surprise, with this box sitting in an un-air conditioned room for three days, the leeches were all alive and healthy.  Talk about lucky.  Maybe this was a sign that our trip would be with much success as well.

When we arrived at our Northwoods cabib, we didn’t waste much time launching the boat.  We fished a lake down the road on the Cisco Chain which has about 9 lakes that share the Wisconsin and UP boarder.

The weather was quickly changing.  Storms were coming in and we could hear thunder in the distance.  We both had a couple of rods rigged with a small hook and a split shot.  My partner and I both made a cast with our hooks baited with one of the monster leeches.  We sat over a deep hole that had a pile of trees on the bottom.

It was only a matter of moments before we both had a huge smallmouth bass on the end of the line.  I netted both fish in the one net we had in the boat.  While struggling with that to clear the tangles and unhook the fish, my partner baited up a third rod with another squirming leech and made a cast into the same hole again.  On the drop he got a third smallie.  Believe it or not, the three fish combined weighed over 18 pounds and my friend had a very impressive reproduction mount made with the fish by Ron Lax Taxidermy outside of Eagle River in Vilas County.  All of the six pound plus fish were released.  Guess this really confirms the statement that fish really bite well before a storm.

Memories like this can never be forgotten.  There’s no doubt about it that these were very lucky leeches for sure.

I have since learned of a great way to store leeches for fishing.  First get a bucket, preferred with a tight lid and foam lining.  The bucket should he tall enough so that you can place a plastic water bottle inside and still close the lid.

Freeze a couple bottles of water.  Keep one in your cooler with other ice and drinks, sandwiches, etc.  Now take one of the frozen water bottles and put it in your leech bucket.

The water will stay cold and the leeches will attach themselves to the side of the bottle.  Need a leech?  Lift the bottle and some leeches will come along with it.  The extra bottle of frozen water is for when one starts to melt down.

When baiting up, I like to dry the leech with my fishing towel first to get the water off of it.  Without the water the squirmy little bugger is easy to hold while a small wire hook is placed in through the sucker and out the back of its head.  At least I think it’s the head.  By putting the hook through the sucker, the leech won’t ball up on the hook.  Once in the water again it will swim naturally until it get picked up by your catch of the day.

Big leeches as well are medium sized ones are good for bass and walleye.  These are ones that are from four to six inches long when swimming.  Small leeches that are two to three inches long are good for panfish but will also catch a good share of gamefish too.  I’ve seen on occasion very small leeches, about an inch and a half long at best and used them for bluegills.

Leeches are really good baits to use; there’s nothing wrong with them.  But remember this… keep them cold like you would nightcrawlers and minnows.  Warm bait is often dead bait.  With healthy leeches you’ll see that “Great Fishing is not that far away.” tm

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