An Outdoor View: Strange fishing indeed

For some reason, this column doesn’t seem as crazy now as it did when I wrote it for the Clarion in 2006. — LP

“I was sittin’ on the top step dreamin’ a bit,

When from outa nowhere that leghorn hit…”

—“Fishin’ for Chickens,”

Hobo Jim

In my ongoing exploration of the outermost edges of fishing, it’s fitting that I write about the chicken (Gallus domesticus).

The links between the chicken and angling are many and diverse. Chicken feathers have been used as fly-tying materials for centuries and continue to be used to this day. Chicken livers make good catfish bait. Crab fishermen bait their traps with chicken necks. Luhr Jensen and Sons, the Oregon-based tackle-manufacturing firm, got its start in a chicken coop.

And then there’s chicken fishing, the zenith of the long relationship between fishing and chickens. I first became aware of chicken fishing at a party a few years back, when Hobo Jim sang “Fishin’ for Chickens.” The song is about a young lad whose grandfather teaches him how to fish for chickens by baiting a hook with corn kernels. The lyrics indicate that there is little sport involved, and no intentional catch-and-release. The old man is obviously a meat fisherman.

I thought no more about chicken fishing until years later, when I bumbled into a disturbing Web page ( Titled “Angling for chickens, the new off-season sport,” it contained photos of a man with a fly rod who was obviously stalking chickens.

At first I thought it was a joke, but the author went into too much detail. He was far more instructive than needed for eliciting a laugh. For example, one photo showed a kneeling angler holding a hen by its feet, admiring it as a normal angler would a trophy trout. The caption: “A nice three pound barred rock hen landed on three weight tackle. Spawning (egg-laying) females aggressively strike terrestrial imitations in sizes 14-18.”

Another photo showed the stealthily crouched angler stripping line while a chicken approached his fly. The caption: “Barred Rocks, true to their name, often conceal themselves by laying near ledge outcroppings in dappled light. Normally for close-in work the angler should cast from behind the bird, but the low angled light conditions of December permit the angler to approach his target with the sun to his back.”

Unlike the meat fishermen in Hobo Jim’s song, the author encourages a “no-kill ethic,” and supports catch-and-release to ensure sustainability of the brood and to increase the stock’s wariness.

Some readers may scoffingly cluck, but at the risk of laying an egg, I predict that chicken fishing will become a popular sport. Chickens are good eating. Their feathers are useful. They give a good accounting of themselves on appropriate tackle. They have trophy value.

Chicken fishing would take pressure off crowded streams and provide year-round angling opportunities. Ruffled feathers among the various chicken user-groups would be minimal. Everyone would have a backyard “fishery.” Skunked days would become as scarce as hen’s teeth.

The chickens would benefit. What would be better, to suffer a brief life in a crowded coop until being trucked to a slaughterhouse, or to live as a high-strutting, free-range bird? With luck, you might even end up on an angler’s wall.

I think I’m onto something here. Hobo Jim’s “Fishin’ for Chickens” is available on a CD, and “Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul” is on the bookstands. Hunters have taken an interest in chickens, as evidenced by the popularity of the computer game, “Chicken Hunter: License to Grill.” There’s money in this thing, and I’m not talking chicken feed.

I could go on, but men in white uniforms are banging on my door.

Les Palmer can be reached at

More in Life

Achieving the crispy, flaky layers of golden goodness of a croissant require precision and skill. (Photo by Tresa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Reaching the pinnacle of patisserie

Croissants take precision and skill, but the results can be delightful

This 1940s-era image is one of few early photographs of Cliff House, which once stood near the head of Tustumena Lake. (Photo courtesy of the Secora Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 1

Here, then, is the story of Cliff House, as least as I know it now.

Minister’s Message: What’s in a name?

The Scriptures advise, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Visitors put on personal protective equipment before an artist talk by Dr. Sami Ali' at the Jan. 7, 2022, First Friday opening of her exhibit, "The Mind of a Healthcare Worker During the COVID-19 Pandemic," at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
ER doctor’s paintings follow passage of pandemic

Dr. Sami Ali made 2019 resolution to paint every day — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Almond flour adds a nuttiness to this carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A ‘perfect day’ cake

Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting make for a truly delicious day off

Minister’s Message: A prayer pulled from the ashes

“In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.”

A copy of “The Year of Magical Thinking” by author Joan Didion is displayed on an e-reader. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking” is a timely study on grief

‘The last week of 2021 felt like a good time to pick up one of her books.’

Megan Pacer / Homer News
Artist Asia Freeman, third from left, speaks to visitors on Nov. 1, 2019, at a First Friday art exhibit opening at Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer.
Freeman wins Governor’s Arts Humanities Award

Bunnell Street Arts Center artistic director is one of nine honored.

Zirrus VanDevere’s pieces are displayed at the Kenai Art Center on Jan. 4, 2022. (Courtesy Alex Rydlinski)
A journey of healing

VanDevere mixes shape, color and dimension in emotional show

Traditional ingredients like kimchi, ramen and tofu are mixed with American comfort food Spam in this hearty Korean stew. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Warm up with army base stew

American soldiers introduced local cooks to some American staple ingredients of the time: Spam and hotdogs.

Peninsula Crime: Bad men … and dumb ones — Part 2

Here, in Part Two and gleaned from local newspapers, are a few examples of the dim and the dumb.