Let Them Eat Steak

Although it sounds like something Marie Antoinette would have said*, it makes perfect sense to me. I live in New York City, on Manhattan, and around here "Live Bait" is the name of a trendy restaurant and bar. I've never been there, but I don't think they sell worms.

I do know of a couple places where I can buy worms, but neither one is what I would call convenient. That was one of the driving factors that led me to import the Marukyu minnow bait when I started to carry micro fishing hooks and gear. I found it worked well enough when used the way it is used in Japan (fishing almost directly under the rod tip) but it didn't stay on the hook well enough when you have to cast.

One nice thing about micro fishing is that one worm will last all day. I cut such small pieces for the tanago hooks that I've never needed a whole worm for a day's micro fishing. Unfortunately, you can't buy just one worm.

I don't know how many worms you actually get when you buy worms, but there are a lot more than I've ever needed. And no, my wife would not think keeping worms in the refrigerator between trips was a good idea. So basically, I buy the one worm I'm going to fish with, and lots more I'm going to throw away. When you look at it that way, worms are pretty darned expensive. Last time I used one, that one worm costs me four bucks!

I think I have a very reasonable solution. Let them eat steak. When I go to the grocery store, which unlike the bait shops is incredibly convenient, I generally see at least one cut of meat packaged in a small enough portion that it sells for about $3. My first experiment with this strategy was a package of chicken thighs that I bought for $2.61. The second experiment was a small portion of chuck steak for $3.44.

In both cases, I cut off what amounted to considerably less than half a bite's worth of meat, which surely wasn't missed. (The rest I had for dinner that night.) I then sliced it into slivers that I could easily cut to size streamside with my nippers.

Gamakatsu Smallest snelled tanago hook with bit of raw chicken meat

The hooks are small enough (and my fingers fat enough) that I find it much easier to bait tanago hooks by first holding them with the Spring Creek Clamps. The hook shown is a Gamakatsu Smallest that has a much longer point than the Owner New Half Moon or Smallest, and much, much longer than the Gamakatsu Ultimate. It seems to hold fish better than the Owner hooks but is a bit too large for the smallest micros. In the photo above it is baited with just a speck of uncooked chicken thigh.

Angler holding very small largemouth bass

This little largemouth bass had a plenty large enough mouth to take the hook. There was no hesitation on his part.

Nissin Fine Mode Kosansui 270 and bluegill

This bluegill also took the bait. Neither largemouth bass nor bluegills are micros but they're still fun to catch

Tanago hook with small bit of steak.

This photo shows just a tiny bit of chuck on an Owner hook. It helps to leave the point exposed, otherwise it can be hard for the hook to catch.

Angler holding creek chub

Unlike the bass and bluegill above, which went straight for the bait, the creek chubs immediately hit the tanago float. (OK, what natural food item for creek chubs is long, floats vertically and is shocking pink?) It didn't take long for one to see the bait, though. Once it has been in the water for a little while (it doesn't take long), the steak is no longer red. It is almost white, which makes sight fishing pretty easy.

Angler holding micro caught with a bit of steak

Is a "personal best" micro the largest you've caught or the smallest? This is my smallest ever creek chub. I could not hook anything last time I fished this spot with size 26 flies. With a tanago hook and a speck of steak, it was easy to catch several.

Different location, different day. (Unlike worms, I can keep Steak Julienne in the refrigerator!) Instead of sight fishing at the edge of a pond or in a very small brook, this day was casting well out into a shallow, rocky bottomed warm water stream. The advantage of meat (whether worm or chicken or steak) over the gel bait that comes in a tube was immediately obvious. The meat stayed on the hook every time.

Satinfin shiner in Micro Photo Box

There are lots of satinfin shiners in the stream. I could see schools of them but they were skittish. I couldn't get close. With a tanago hook baited with a speck of steak, a single #10 shot and a Unibobber, it was easy to cast just upstream of the school and let the current drift the bait down to them. It soon got just too easy and I had to look for other quarry.

Update: I no longer carry the Unibobber floats, but a 3/8" Nakazima Ball Float would work just as well and is easier to adjust.

Close-up photo of Green Sunfish with Gamakatsu Smallest tanago hook

A little further downstream I saw a school of large creek chubs. All around them were sunfish, though, both green and redbreast. It turned out the sunfish were much more aggressive and I could never get a good drift right to the chubs. A sunfish would always rush in and take the bait.

I ended up catching lots of fish. Worms MIGHT be better bait, but if you don't have readily available worms, don't be afraid to let them eat steak.

*Marie Antoinette never did say "Let them eat cake." That statement, or words to that effect, had been floating around Europe for over 100 years before Marie Antoinette became queen of France, most famously in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, which was written when Marie Antoinette was only 10, three years before marrying the French prince and eight years before becoming queen. The revolutionaries sought to demonize her and with that misquote they succeeded. (Fake news is fake, but it isn't new.)

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

Beware of the Dogma