How to fish without a rod and reel? Try Sargassum fishing!

Fishing is one of the great pleasures of childhood, especially in summer when the days are long and lazy.  My children love the challenge of trying to catch a whopper on their kid sized poles and they take great delight in trying out every lure in the tackle box.  But rod and reel fishing is not the only way we like to fish, we are also big fans of Sargassum fishing.

Sargassum is seaweed that floats on the ocean currents thanks to spherical growths full of carbon dioxide.  You have probably seen sargassum, it is the clumpy seaweed with little air filled sacs that floats up to shore when you are at the beach.  A few years ago we noticed that the seaweed is actually a floating community for various types of ocean creatures.  We began scooping it up in our nets before it hit the shore and then gently shaking it out over a seawater filled bucket.  To our surprise we found that many different types of juvenile fish use the weed as a nursery, and crabs, shrimp, sea horses, nudibranch (called sea slugs) and other creatures also inhabit the weed. One of the most interesting seaweed residents is the sargassumfish, which looks exactly like a piece of weed until it slowly begins to swim away as you get close.  Below is a picture of a really neat sargassumfish along with a few other critters.

 Sargassumfish                                Shrimp(56972)Bucket of Fish Crab in Bucket

My family can spend an entire afternoon sargassum fishing and then watching all of the different creatures as they swim around and interact in our beach buckets.  We have seen fish stalking and then catching and eating crabs and shrimp, and we have seen the crabs turn the tables and eat the very fish that were stalking them.  We have caught crabs, shrimp, jellyfish, man o’ wars, sea hares, squid, sea slugs and about a dozen different types of fish.  Each scoop of the net is a wonderful surprise as we carefully dip and shake the seaweed to release its tiny treasures into our buckets. Below is a picture of sargassum seaweed that was just scooped up in our net.

Sargassum Seaweed

To start sargassum fishing look for the yellow-brown seaweed clumps that are still floating, if it is dark brown or it doesn’t float then it is too old and you won’t find anything in it.  Scoop it up in your net and get back to shore right away.  Pick it out of your net and gently dip it into your bucket of seawater, then lift it out and gently shake.  Repeat the dip and shake a few times and then put aside the seaweed and look in the bucket for your catch.  Remember to check the bottom of your net for any creatures that may have gotten stuck there.  It may be hard at first to see what you have caught because the very small shrimp and crabs are translucent so keep looking for movement in the bucket.  You can also break off a small piece of seaweed to float in your bucket which will cause the fish to cluster around it.   If you keep the sea creatures in the bucket all day you will need to occasionally refresh the water so that they don't overheat and when you are done it is fun to walk out into the water and gently lower the bucket into the sea to watch your critters happily swim away to the nearest bunch of their favorite seaweed hangout.

This type of micro-fishing is a great way to introduce children to the amazing creatures that live in the ocean.  Even the youngest child can fish this way, all you need is a net and a bucket.