Micro Fishing for Tanago (Bitterling) in Japan

written by Fishingwithpole

Every year I go back to Fukuoka, Japan to spend a month with my family. This year in October I had a chance to do some fishing for Tanago (bitterling), a typical micro fish in Japan and my favorite one.


There are tackle shops dedicated to micro fishing in Japan, especially in Tokyo, and they also provide online shopping: http://www.sugamo-fishing.co.jp/tanago/
However, this time I did not use tackle dedicated to micro-fishing mainly because of financial reasons.

1. Telescopic pole  2. Line  3. Float  4. Rubber tube for fixing a float  5. Strike indicators  6. Tape sinker  7. Leader-pincher type micro swivel  8. Tanago hooks with leader  9. Tube-type bait for minnows  10. Wheat gluten bait powder  11. Rig-holder (hand-made of Tetrapak)

Instead, I decided to use a part of my conventional all-purpose fishing poles. I have two poles, one made from carbon graphite and the other one from glass fiber.  For micro fishing I don’t think the materials matter, but another difference is their assembly size.

One is about 90 cm and the other one is about 40 cm. If you walk around the fishing spots to do run and gun style micro-fishing, short assembly poles would be better because you can put it in a backpack.

I used 80cm, 1.6 m, and 2.5 m parts of the poles and for each part I prepared a rig.

For rigs, micro-fishing (Tanago)-specific rigs are also available in Japan made to be quite sensitive to bites of fish. However, I made it myself this time using the smallest parts available at a normal fishing store nearby except for hooks that are specific for Tanago and the smallest in Japan.

The line I used was 2 lb. fluorocarbon fly tippet, but monofilament line is also OK. The float was the smallest one I found at the store and fixed on the line with a quite small rubber tube. Below the float, I put five strike indicators made of fluorescent yarn and provided by Owner. Those indicators can be moved along the line to be adjusted for the water depth. You don’t necessarily need to use strike indicators, but they help to detect small bites. Also in case the water current is too fast to use a float rig, you can use the same rig by adding more sinkers and getting rid of the float. In this case, the strike indicators work on behalf of the float.

At the end of the line, a swivel is connected. I usually use a leader-pincher type swivel and this was the smallest one I found. It no longer has a function as a swivel because it is too small to have a turning head, but it doesn’t matter for microfishing. A leader is already tied to the hook, and it is fixed on the leader-pincher by pulling down the leader through the pincher.

Above the swivel, a sinker is placed. I use a tape sinker because I can adjust the weight easily.

As for bait, I think live blood worms are the best for micro-fishing. However, they are not always available except for big cities in Japan where micro-fishing is popular such as Tokyo. So I prepared other alternatives this time including earthworm, maggot, Berkley PowerBait blood worm, tube-type bait for minnows (by Marukyu), and gluten bait for Herabuna (a relative of crucian carp) all of which are commercially available in Japan.

(earth worm)


It depends where you fish which bait works best, but generally the tube-type bait for minnows worked better than others. However, this is too soft to put and stay on a hook. Gluten bait covers this defect and stays on a hook quite a long time, but it is a little tiresome to prepare it because it deteriorates easily and cannot be kept long in the fridge once mixed with water. Also it doesn’t contain strong tanago-attracting ingredients that the tube-bait above has.

 Fishing Spots

Tanago usually inhabit small rivers, creeks and ditches with relatively good water quality because mussels they use as a brooding cradle have to be around in the same environment. Spots around rocks, weeds, and sunken branches are good to target Tanago. In many cases they are within a meter of shore, so short poles have an advantage.

Creeks in Yanagawa are probably the best places to target Tanago in the Greater-Fukuoka Area. You are sure to catch Tanago there if you are not bothered by the heavy boat traffic from those sightseeing by boat, which is a popular activity for people visiting Yanagawa.


Around Fukuoka, six Tanago species are available:

Aburabote (Tanakia limbata)

Yari-Tanago (Tanakia lanceolata)

Kanehira (Acheilognathus rhombeus)

Seboshi-Tabira (Acheilognathus tabira)

Kazetoge-Tanago (Rhodeus atremius atremius)

Bara-Tanago (Rhodeus ocellatus)

Of these, I caught four species this year.

Aburabote, male

Aburabote, female

Aburabote, small male


Another Yari-Tanago

Kanehira, male

Kanehira, female


Male Kazetoge-Tanago that I caught in Yanagawa in 1984

by Fishingwithpole

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