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Trolling the bricín

Outdoor Living

Country Sights and sounds
John Shelley

I long for a trout. The mild weather has kept insects hatching from the lake, and as soon as things warm even a little they ought to be there, feeding at the top, where I hope to intercept them with the fly rod.
Nobody that I know has bothered much to date; although a few hardy souls have enjoyed the occasional quiet moment on some of the lakes, catches have been light.
There is an exception though. Trolling for early season trout has long been popular on Lough Corrib, where minnows have traditionally been the bait of choice, and this method of fishing is becoming more-widely practised in one place after another. And this year, despite a quiet start to the game angling season, on Corrib, Mask and Conn, trolling the ‘bricín’ is once again producing the goods.
Fresh bricíní (or minnows, also known as ‘pinkeens’) are preferred, but where these are not available pickled or salted ones caught at the tail end of last season do nearly as well. Yet a few minutes work with a minnow trap ought to produce enough for a days fishing, and if you don’t have a trap then one can be made, very easily, using a two-litre bottle of cider and a second, equally large bottle that holds lemonade or something similar.
The important thing is that this second bottle should be made of clear plastic, for we want our minnows to see the bait we will place within, which will encourage them to enter. Here are your instructions:
Buy your two bottles and drink the contents of the first while using a craft knife or something like it to cut two windows close to the top of the second, the contents of which have already been poured into nephews and nieces or, better, emptied onto the ground. Each of the windows should be two to three inches wide and maybe five inches high. Place a couple of stones in the bottom – these will act as ballast and help your trap to sink.
Now make a tasty mix of chopped liver and breadcrumb, and place a good amount inside. Tie a stout cord to the neck of the bottle, and there you go, you have one very efficient minnow trap.
You will need to know where to find a population of minnows, of course. Any of the rivers or streams running into Lough Mask will have them. Most obligingly, these pretty little fishes will hang around slack-water eddies out of the main current.
Drop your baited bottle trap in among them, throw a loose handful of similar bait over their heads and before long their lust for bread and meat will have them queueing to get into the trap, hoping for a free lunch.
Now, as you and I know quite well, there is no such thing as a free lunch. All things have their price, and for the minnows the price is a high one. Wait until half a dozen have entered the bottle, then lift it out and transfer them into the now empty, brown plastic cider bottle. They will live quietly and healthily in the dark confines of this, until such time as they are needed. Then the bottle can be inverted and the contents poured through a small net, such as might be used by a keeper and breeder of goldfish, until one of the imprisoned fishes volunteers itself for the task ahead.
The continuing good health of the prisoners can be ensured if a large number of pinholes are made in the upper walls of their temporary home, and the bottle kept in the water between evil visitations.
It is illegal to use live minnows as bait and should you be discovered thus engaged you deserve the on-the-spot fine that will come your way. Such tactics are also morally repugnant, although it must be said the prospect of an immediate financial penalty is a more of a deterrent than any punishment reserved for the Greater Judgement to Come.
A blow to the back of the head will kill your minnow, and once dead it can be impaled on either a large single hook or a pair of trebles. Then it is a simple matter to place it before an early season trout, which has likely been starved through the winter months into a state of recklessness and subsequently cares nothing for the steely reward of haste until the barb goes home.
Trapping minnows is nearly as much fun as catching trout, and if enough are caught they are indeed very tasty.