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Picture of Budget Microfishing

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.

Step 1: Equipment

Picture of 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 ( 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.
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
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.
IHGlife1 year ago

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

wait for fish to bite

and dip my bait

Catfaced83 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...
CliffordW53 years ago

Trout egg hooks and fly-tying hooks can be had in sizes so small one needs a magnifier to see them. Flyline tippet is also what I always use for leader now. It works better for me than fluorocarbon. Flattening the barbs on your hooks actually reduces the fish you lose with an easier and better hook-set, Plus easy hook removal.

I have a small creek that runs through our back yard. There is one fish that gets fairly large, like 3-4". I would like to get one just to identify them. Those boxes are a good idea.

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Fishing does not kill fish, as long as you release them careflly with pliers.

Jobar0073 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?

Common Man Survival (author)  Jobar0073 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.

rcaputo13 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.

Also, permits sales are the primary source of conservation revenues. There's really no excuse not to have one. Children under 16 don't usually need permits except for salmonids.

deluges3 years ago

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

parisusa3 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!
seamster3 years ago

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

Do you release what you catch, or eat them?

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 Survival (author)  seamster3 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.

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

Uncle Kudzu3 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?

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.