New Sport Invented by Experience Arizona: Mine Fishing
By Matt Marine
Ever wonder what's at the bottom of a mine shaft, but don't have the guts to climb down there yourself? Or maybe a better way to put it is, you have a brain in your head and aren't crazy enough to rappel down a mine shaft (never mind the legality issues).
If you answered yes to the above question, you're in luck! I've "invented" a new sport called mine fishing. Invented is in quotes because I'm sure someone else has done this before, but it was the first time I'd done it and because I'm too lazy to check on Youtube to see all the other videos most likely posted on this, I'll just take credit for inventing it. Finally, I call it mine fishing because it combines all the things you love about actual fishing with some really stupid and dangerous things people call mines.
The bottom line is it's an extremely easy sport that takes absolutely no skill whatsoever to excel in. For example, I've gone mine fishing exactly once and I've already mastered the skill of not dying.
Arizona Mine Fishing Equipment
The most important aspect of mine fishing is having the right equipment, because without the right equipment you may as well be having fun playing a real sport. For the rest of us, here's a list of all the equipment you'll need while mine fishing. Actually, that's not really true. It's just some things I've listed that quickly came to mind. There's probably a lot more, but I didn't really want to put any effort into this list. Take it for what it is.
- GoPro or equivalent sturdy camera
- LED flashlight that's not too heavy
- Fishing pole or some other method of sending down and pulling up the camera
- Brain that's slightly off
- Fishing buddies that are probably more "off" than you
- Sense of humor if things go wrong and you lose your camera, fishing pole or life
- Goofy hats
- 4WD vehicle to get you to some old mine shafts
- Someone holding your belt so you don't fall into the mine
- Fishing chair
- Video editing software
- Andy Griffith theme music
- Beer or other alcoholic beverages (though not recommended until afterward)
- Cell phone service to call 9-1-1
Finding the perfect mine fishing spot
One of the most difficult aspects of Arizona mine fishing is finding the right fishing spot. Sometimes, you can easily find mine fishing spots on a topo map where they are helpfully annotated by a pick, 'X', 'Y', half-filled box symbols or called out as "mine" or "prospect". That's the easy part. The hard part is getting there. While a few may be accessible by passenger car, most need a capable 4WD vehicle or a Jeep. Or a cantankerous old mule, which many people who own old Jeeps call them.
Once you get to the fishing hole, you need to check it's depth. The best way to do this is to climb down there with a long tape measure. Caution: make sure you have someone at the top of the mine to hold the end of the dumb end of the tape measure.
The other way is to simply throw a rock into the hole and time how long it takes to reach the bottom. It's an easy calculation to find the distance given you know the acceleration due to gravity and the air's drag force on the rock. Ok, maybe not that easy, but if we assume the rock has no drag, it's basic physics. And since basic physics are still beyond me, I had my daughter (who is currently studying basic physics in high school) do the calculations for me. Here's a cheat sheet:
How to know if you're in trouble when throwing a rock down a mine
- If you don't hear the rock hit bottom. Ever. Ain't no fish at the bottom of that hole. Probably just a time warp or something like that.
- If you here "ouch". Slowly back away and don't ever come back.
- If the rock you just threw down there, comes right back up. Run.
- If fire comes out of the hole, then a dragon. And he's pissed. Run. Faster.
- If you hear the sound of banjos playing the theme from Deliverance coming from behind you, jump into the hole and get it over with.
What kind of mine shafts are the best to fish in?
It's been my experience that clean, well-trimmed holes are the best. I would find a mine that doesn't have large amounts of vegetation around it's entrance. They are much simpler to get into and a lot less messy. It's a much different world today than when most of these mines were originally drilled, there's no excuse to go fishing in anything but a well-trimmed mine.
If you find a wet hole with water at the bottom, you get bonus points!
If the mine has a toxic smell coming out of it, I would pass and let the next fisherman have a go at it.
How to mine fish
- Find good fishing hole (see above)
- Tie your camera and flashlight to end of some strong fishing line
- Tie double knots. Even if you have your Boy Scout badge in knot making.
- Make sure you protect your camera before sending it into the mine. You never know who has been in that hole before (or maybe they are still there). I know some holes that were used by a large number of people over many, many years.
- Stand as close to the edge as safety will allow. It's good to have someone holding on to you. It's also good to have a million dollars in the bank. Pick one that's most important to you at the moment.
- Unreel the fishing line to slowly send the camera into the hole. There's no casting in mine fishing. If you think you have to cast, your at the Grand Canyon and this isn't a mine.
- If you've done a good job (and if you're reading this for actual help, my guess is that you haven't) and you've calculated the number of feet to the bottom of the shaft, then begin estimating the number of feet your camera is dropping as you go.
- If you haven't hit the bottom by the time you've reached the estimated number of feet, throw a couple more rocks into the hole and get it freakin' right!
- Once you've hit the bottom, let it sit there for a few moments. This gives any alien or unknown creature living down there enough time to fully grasp the situation (that you have discovered them) and figure out how they are going to tug on the line, pull you into the hole and feed on your dead carcass
- Here's the fun part. If you're still alive after all of the above, give your pole a good tug! Pretend to your friends standing around the hole that you've actually caught something. This is the last thing they will expect and will laugh hysterically for the next few hours. You can expect for decades to come that they will be relaying the story about how smart you were in fooling them into thinking there was actually something at the bottom of the shaft that grabbed your line. It worked for me.
- After everyone is done laughing, reel the camera back up. If it gets caught on anything. Don't worry, it's your camera and it didn't cost me a thing to lose it down the mine shaft. I'm okay. Thanks for asking.
- When you're done, take out the camera's memory card and play it on your computer.
- Once you get done swearing like a drunken sailor because all the footage is either too damn dark to see anything or the camera was spinning so fast it's all blurry, you can download some video from Youtube and pretend it was yours.
- There, you're done. Wasn't that fun?
What not to do while mine fishing
Even more important on what and how to mine fish, is what NOT to do:
- Fall into the hole
- Jump over the hole
- Throw shit into the hole
- Climb into the hole
- Actually, anything to do with the hole is a bad thing. Deep holes are dangerous. Mines are a bitch. Enough said.
What is a "legal" catch
Sometimes you may actually "catch" something worthwhile during a mine fishing trip. Here's some info to help you determine if it's legal to keep
- Video footage. This is the most common of all catches while mine fishing, but not a guarantee by any means. If you've got the right equipment, you just may be able to catch some of this. Anything not completely dark and over 15 seconds long is a keeper. You must throw back unusable or short footage. There is also a limit. Any video over 5 minutes is too freakin' long and you must either cut it or toss back into the hole. No one wants to sit through 30 minutes of mine shaft video.
- Skeletal remains or decomposing bodies. You get bonus points for finding these items down at the bottom of the shaft. Just make sure they aren't too fresh. The drug runners who put them there may still be around and I don't want to see your body down there when I go fish your hole.
- Cool old mining stuff. If you've got the line strength and pole to bring it up, grab that booty and run.
- Trash. As always, pick up your own trash and others. It's just the right thing to do.
- Jimmy Hoffa. For those of us old enough to understand this reference, this is the Holy Grail of mine fishing finds. Reel that sucker up and start signing the book deals!
- Box of dynamite. Ummm, now maybe you're thinking you shouldn't have thrown that rock in to test how deep the shaft was. Wrong! You need to go back and throw a BIGGER rock into that sucker, just make sure your girlfriend is standing a long way away so we can see you being blown up when she posts it to Youtube.
- Arizona Mine Trout. This is an actual fish that lives in pools at the bottom of Arizona mines and wells, sometimes even in shallow pits around campsites. How to identify if you've caught an Arizona Mine Trout: They are typically 3 to 6 inches long, with tapered ends and no eyes. Most are brownish in color, although some have been known to have yellow spots. Many have long white parasitic creatures hanging on to them or nearby. Caution: the Arizona Mine Trout is a close relative to the Arizona Brown River Trout and should NOT to be eaten. They are best observed and thrown back if you happen to be unlucky enough to catch one.
How do you know if you've done well at mine fishing
- You're alive, out of jail and you have some video that's usable. Bonus points if you've caught something cool on it.
FAQ about mine fishing
- Do I have to use any bait? No. Your camera and flashlight will be enough to attract whatever creature or ghostly force is "alive" down there.
- Are you an idiot? Yes. And I'm also beginning to wonder about you, this should have been obvious if you've read the article above.
- What if my camera gets stuck down in the hole? Call it a day and buy another camera.
- Should I be concerned about losing my fishing pole and camera if I get a "bite"? No. I would be concerned about surviving the next five minutes.
Arizona Mine Fishing Video
This video was taken during my first attempt at Arizona mine fishing.
I have absolutely no idea about the legality of mine fishing. I understand that some mines may be private property and for safety reasons, others may be illegal to enter by whatever government agency owns the land, but I doubt if there's anything on the books about sending a camera down the hole. But, you never know, there may be some obscure Arizona law against it and you play mine fishing at your own risk! Be extremely careful when mine fishing. Don't fish on slippery slopes or cross fences, etc.
Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here.
No member comments yet.