Bikefishing Basics To Get You Started

Bikefishing is something I have come to love over the past couple of years because it combines two things I really enjoy doing, riding bikes and fishing.  Living in Minnesota with its bike infrastructure and abundance of lakes, rivers and streams makes it a perfect place to marry these two activities.  As a kid I used to do this all the time and I've revisted it again as an adult.  Now, getting to my fishing spot is half the fun.  One of the nice things about bikefishing is you don't need a lot of fancy equipment to do it, just the basic gear and a bike.  This post will go over some of the techniques and items needed to get started on your own fishing adventures via bicycle.

I like to travel light on the bike with regard to fishing gear.  I only bring what I think I'll need for the fish I am targeting.  For panfish I usually just bring my ultralight collapsible rod/reel combo, jig box, forceps, line cutter, a depth finder weight, towel and waxies/nightcrawlers for bait.  These can all fit in a bar bag, frame bag or backpack.

Three of the other species I like to fish for are catfish, carp and northern pike.  For these I use a medium action collapsible baitcasting pole and reel with 30# braided line.  Targeting these fish requires me to bring along a little extra gear such as a small tackle box, blood bait, live bait and a rod prop for bank fishing.

I prefer collapsible fishing rods for their convenience of storage and transport on the bike but multi-piece travel rods will do the trick also.  Some of the other things I will bring along for the trip are a portable digital scale with tape measure (can be found on Amazon for under $15), vinyl or latex gloves for handling fish and bait, a collapsible stool, a small cooler with beverages and snacks, zipper bags and of course, a fishing license.

I usually use live bait for panfish which includes waxworms, nightcrawlers and crappie minnows.  Transporting these is pretty easy, for waxies I use a bait puck, nightcrawlers in the package they came with and minnows in a Bait Up container.  When the weather heats up it is a good idea to keep your bait cool.  I'll store my bait puck and worms in a small cooler or bring along a frozen gel ice pack to place against them in my bike bag or backpack.  The Bait Up container can be stored in a cooler, with a frozen gel pack or in the body of water I'm fishing to keep the minnows alive and active.

There are a couple of different methods and bikes I use depending on the terrain involved and the species of fish I am targeting.  Traveling light is a must for me but I also want to make sure I have everything I need for a successful and comfortable outing.  A backpack or commuter bag is usually my first choice when I don't want to bring along a lot of gear but still have room for a couple of beers, snacks and my portable folding stool.

For longer distance travel to get to my fishing spot I will take my gravel/commuter bike.  These are usually lakes within 20 miles of my home that I fish for panfish or northern pike.  I also have some secret spots along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers that are easily accessible for skinny tires where I frequently try my luck for channel catfish and jumbo carp.

For those harder to reach areas like sandy beaches along the river or hidden spots that require some bushwhacking to get to, I will opt for my fatbike.  Since there are no rack mounts on my carbon Farley I have to carry everything I need for the outing in one of my appropriately sized backpacks.  This method is great for moving along the river bank and trying multiple spots in search of catfish.  I usually go by the old catfisherman's words of "if no bites in 15 minutes, it's time to move on."

When I want to carry a few more items or just want to skip the backpack I will strap on the panniers and let the bike carry the weight.  This allows me the extra storage space to bring along more tackle, extra rods and live bait for those longer outings or times when I want to target several species of fish.

For those short fishing trips or when I want to go after panfish only I will pack very light, usually only a rod, jig box, towel, forceps and waxworms or nightcrawlers.  All of this fits nicely in a small handlebar bag.

Living in the land of 10,000 lakes means there are probably several of them within biking distance from your home.  The Minnesota DNR website is a terrific resource to find out more information about the lakes, rivers and streams near you.  Visit the Where to fish page to get started.  Here you will find helpful links including a LakeFinder for desktop or mobile, river maps and accessible places for shore fishing.  If you are new to fishing visit the Learn to fish page for tips and links to get you started.

Minnesota has more than 200 fishing piers and on-shore platforms around the state and finding them is easy with the DNR's Fishing piers and shore fishing sites page.  Here you'll get the information you need about the location, a link to the LakeFinder page that contains size, depth and fish species and directions to get there using Google Maps and Bing.  When using the Google Maps link make sure you select bicycling directions to find the most bike-friendly route to get there.

When I want to learn more about the structure and depth of the area I will be fishing I use the Navionics Boating Marine and Lakes app on my phone.  Another handy feature of this app is that it allows me to set markers on the map with notes about the structure or fish species so that I may return to that exact spot later.  This app does have an optional paid subscription that has access to more advanced features and downloadable chart layers.  Available for both Android and IOS.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about bikefishing from those that do it regularly, put in a request to join the Bikefishing Facebook group.  This is a private group and membership will need to be approved by the admins or moderators to see posts and who is in the group.

Fatbikers that use their bikes for fishing those hard to reach areas may be interested in joining the Sport-Utility Fatbikers Facebook group.  In addition to fishing, this group is also for the cyclist that uses their fatbike for hunting, bikepacking, bikecamping, bikejoring, winter commuting or adventure riding.  This is also a private group and membership will need to be approved by the admin to see posts and who is in the group.

When the open water season comes to an end that doesn't mean that bikefishing has to also, it's just time to shift gear and methods for hardwater season.  For more information about ice fishing by bike see my updated post "Fatbike Ice Fishing and How to Do It-Revisited."

Bikefishing can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.  This usually depends on the duration of time to be spent and the fish you'll be going after.  For me it was trial and error to see what was convenient and what worked best.  Travel light or bring extra gear, it all depends on how you are going to carry it on the bike to your fishing spot.

Make sure to follow all Minnesota fishing regulations for the body of water you'll be fishing.  These can be found online on the MN DNR's Minnesota fishing regulations page, be downloaded in PDF format to your computer or phone or a paper copy can be picked up at licensing agents around the state.  Minnesota residents over the age of  16 will need to purchase an angling license to legally fish.  These can be purchased online, by phone at 1-888-665-4236 (1-MN-LICENSE) or in person from numerous ELS agents around the state.  A list of these agents can be found on the MN DNR's Where to buy a license page.  Good luck and happy bikefishing!


The Joys of Riding After Dark

I've always liked biking after dark but in this time of social distancing I am enjoying it even more for numerous reasons.  With Minnesota's current Stay at Home Order people are doing their exercise or getting out of the house for a while during daylight hours.  This has caused congestion on local trails and in parks making social distancing more difficult.  This is where biking after the sun goes down is the perfect time to get in that daily ride.  In this post I will go over the benefits of riding at night and provide you with some helpful tips to be safe and have fun.

The trails at your favorite park are almost empty, go ride them. Just be sure to abide by the park's visitor hours.

Get out a little before dark to take in the sunset.  I've seen a lot of sunsets from the saddle and it never gets old.

Some areas around the city that have too much traffic to ride safely during the day have almost none once the sun goes down.  This is when I ride the areas that I normally would not go during daylight hours.

Mountain biking at night is a blast and in most cases you'll have the trail to yourself.  Work on those night singletrack skills and experience that old familiar trail in a new light.  I ride with a light on my bars and one on my helmet so I can see better through the turns, find my line and navigate obstacles scattered along the trail.

I've been doing a lot of  bike from home rides recently and riding at night is a fun way to explore my local trails in a new way.  Most trail users have gone home by the time the sun sets making it a great time for riding and practicing safe social distancing.

Tips for riding at night

Drivers may not see cyclists after dark so increase your odds of being seen by using reflectives placed on you or your bike.  While lights will get you seen from front and behind, reflectives will let drivers know you are there from many other angles up to 500 feet away.  I use Brilliant Reflective's Stick-on Reflective Strips strategically placed on my bike for maximum visibility when riding at night.

During night rides I will adjust my headlight beam frequently depending on the speed I am traveling.  The last thing I want to do is overdrive my headlight and hit that pothole or fallen tree branch I didn't see.

Intersections are dangerous during daylight hours and the darkness can make a cyclist even less visible.  Approach with caution and use your lights and positioning to let motorists you are there.

The last thing you want when riding at night is to have a light that is giving you a low battery indicator.  Make sure your lights are fully charged before a ride and know the length of run time for its various modes so you don't cut your battery short.  For longer rides I will bring a backup headlight in case I use up the battery on the first light before the end of my ride.  Then I can simply swap it out and continue riding illuminated.

Whether you're a mountain biker, roadie, graveleur or trail rider, getting out on your bike at night is very enjoyable and easy to practice safe social distancing.  The winds have died down, people are at home, the nocturnal creatures are starting to come out and the trail or road is all yours.  Night rides are the perfect way to unwind after a long day or to take that next bike adventure.  For more information on riding at night visit the Night Riding section of Bike MN's Minnesota Bicycling Handbook. Be safe, be seen!
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