Budget Microfishing




About: General outdoors person

Unlike regular fishing, microfishing aims to catch the smallest fish species in our local creeks, streams, and ponds; bodies of water which most anglers would overlook. Microfishing originated in Japan as Tanago (English: Bitterling) fishing where small species of fish were caught on the tiniest hook with the lightest line attached to a short Tanago rod which often only measured 2-3 feet long. Microfishing is a great way to get outside with friends and family, explore local forests, see what species of fish live in your backyard, or wind down after a long day of work. I will show you how you can do it on a budget.

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Step 1: Equipment

Of course like any hobby or past time, you can spend as much or as little as you want. I suggest starting with cheap gear first then upgrading your kit as you go. This way, you can get out and have fun then optimize your gear to your own needs.

  • Collapsible pole (5-20$): The longer, the better. A telescopic rod is ideal so that the rods can be stored in a backpack while hiking to locations. Guides are not necessary for microfishing as it is a fixed line style fishing. If you already have another type of rod such as a fly fishing rod, you can use that instead and just fix the line to the tip to save some money. I used to use a 3.6m and 4m telescopic rod which cost me 4$ and 6$, respectively (ordered from China). I have since upgraded to a 3.6m rod but collapses to 32cm (instead of 74cm as my old ones did) for easier packing which cost me $20.
  • Fishing line (1-5$): The lightest line you can find will be best. Tippet is often used but light fluorocarbon or monofilament can be used too. I use a 4lb test red fluorocarbon which cost me $2 for 100m.
  • Hooks (0-1$): Specialty Tanago hooks can be found online (http://www.tenkarabum.com/micro-fishing-hooks.html) for about 0.20$ a hook (which becomes 0.75-1$ a hook for international shipping). Small fly fishing hooks (size 20-32) can also be used but are often difficult to find. I make my own hooks from larger hooks which end up costing about a penny or two a hook.
  • Split shot weight (1-2$): The smallest split shot you can find. I used to use the smallest my local Walmart had in stick which cost 2$ for 80. I have since upgraded to the weights that weight 0.07g and cost about $2 for 300 from my tackle shop.


  • Viewing Tank (0-5$): A small, clear plastic container that can hold water. Used for taking pictures of your catch. I use an old acrylic ant farm.
  • Floats (0-1$): In my experience, I don't use them often but I still carry some homemade ones as I couldn't find small enough ones in the store.

Step 2: DIY Hooks


If you decide to make your own hooks, WEAR EYE PROTECTION. The last thing you need is visit to the ER with a hook point in your eye.

I bought the smallest hooks I could find on the internet which ended up costing about 2 cents a hook. The problem was that they were not the proper shape of a Tanago hook which is designed to fit in the mouth of small fish. These hooks can easily be reshaped and work very well.

Sorry for the poor quality pictures, no macro on my camera unfortunately.

Step 3: Making Your Rigs

A typical knot used for snelling a hook IS used to secure a spade ended hook. I like to add a drop of nail polish to the attachment point to prevent any line slipping.

A split shot should be pinched about 5cm above the hook.

Different lengths of line should be spooled out. I usually make 60cm, 90cm, and 120cm long rigs. Those reflect the water depths of my local water bodies.

A loop at the end of the rig should be tied with a figure 8 knot.

Step 4: DIY Rig Holder

This has saved me so much time and I highly recommend you make one (or several) instead of carrying rigs in little plastic bags like I used to.

I push 5 sewing pins through a wine cork then cut the points off on the other side. Make sure to file the sharp parts flat. The great thing about these are that they are cheap and keep your rigs tangle free.

Step 5: Preparing Your Rod for a Rig

A telescopic pole often does not have any guides. Instead, at the tip of the rod, you will find a short length of cord called a lillian. Although it is traditionally knotted and the line is looped then secured to the line, I find it easier to just tie a split ring or swivel to the lillian then secure premade rigs to it. It is also easier for first timers to fix lines as a regular knot can be used.

Step 6: Bait

A small piece of worm or piece wax worm hooked behind the tip of the hook works well.

Alternatively, a fishing dough can be made and put into a syringe and brought to your location if you would rather not dig up worms or buy them from your bait shop. I haven't been able to find a good recipe though, if you have one please let me know.

Step 7: Scouting a Location

I often use Google Maps' Satellite feature or Google Earth to look for small ponds and creeks along local trails. Of course, you will not be able to see everything from the sky but it is good to have an idea of where to look before heading out. You're looking for small creeks or streams and ponds that form off of fast moving water.

Step 8: Fish!

Very often you will be able to see the fish swimming around in slow moving/ still shallow pools of water. This is a good place to start as you know there are fish and can see them as they investigate your hook. Once you've become used to feeling the bites of these microspecies (which is surprisingly strong on a long rod), you can move to water that fish may not be able to be seen due to water clarity, vegetation, etc.

You'll see a lot of other aquatic life too! A great opportunity to teach kids.

I hope you get out there in your free time and explore your local area with your friends and family. Be sure to take the proper precautions when going out in the sun such as sunscreen and bottled water. Have fun!

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    15 Discussions


    Question 2 months ago

    Can you micro fish all year round, or is it more of a summer pursuit? Here is a tiny European Perch I caught on a tiny lure a few days ago


    1 year ago

    That part with homemade hooks was just crazy. You don't special tanago hooks at all. You can buy any 20-28 size universal hook and you will be fine. 24-28 sizes hooks are already insanely small for any fish.


    1 year ago

    what catches me mny small and beutiful ciclids is i sprinkle fish pellets

    wait for fish to bite

    and dip my bait


    3 years ago

    I used to take coconut frond leave midrifs, the spine of the actual individual leaves, then find a spider web and take the "dry" thread and kinda twist and stick it on the end of the midriff, then for my hook Id kinda roll a ball of the "sticky" web, I swear catching mosquito fish and small goldfish was so entertaining this way, Id spend hours doing it till there were no more webs in the surrounding area...


    3 years ago

    Do you heat your hooks before you bend them? Also, it looks like you bend them out before you bend them in. Is that correct?

    1 reply
    Common Man SurvivalJobar007

    Reply 3 years ago

    I used to heat when I made hooks from thicker hooks but found that heating made them too soft and hardening them (by quenching) made them too brittle. I bend out first so that I can reduce the height of the point when I bend it back in.


    3 years ago

    Now I can tell other fishermen that I am just micro fishing when I hook an undersized game fish and have to release it. LOL. Warning.....make sure you check your local fishing regulations. You may need a license once you put a line in the water in any attempt to catch a fish. If you are required to have a fishing license and do not get one, the fine might not be micro in size.


    3 years ago

    So cool ! I only macrofished before but this is great and I'll give it a try next time I go fishing


    3 years ago

    Interesting. I've never heard of this either but we see lots of the little fish in our local lakes while swimming! Regarding macro photos: with my phone camera, I pull the phone away until it focuses on the small object (my rabbit's face, a flower, etc.) snap the photo, then just crop the photo (your phone should have "crop" under the edit option or a free app will do it) & there you have easy macro photos!


    3 years ago

    I've never heard of mircofishing before, and found this very interesting.

    Do you release what you catch, or eat them?

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I hadn't ever heard of this either, and especially enjoy seeing a how-to of a new hobby at the same time I learn about it for the first time.

    Common Man Survivalseamster

    Reply 3 years ago

    Definitely catch and release as I don't believe these are good to eat. If they were, you'd have to catch at least 30 for a decent meal! Thanks for the comment.

    seamsterCommon Man Survival

    Reply 3 years ago

    I figured as much, but being completely unfamiliar with the hobby I wasn't quite sure! :)

    Uncle Kudzu

    3 years ago

    Interesting! I've caught plenty of mosquito fish with a little net and once a beautiful endangered darter, but it never occurred to me to fish for small fish with a hook. Do you know what kind that is in your first photo?

    1 reply

    Likely a blacknose dace. I haven't had any luck catching any darters yet, they're absolutely beautiful (especially the rainbow darter)! Thanks for the comment.