Fishing With Chickens

By Capt. Cefus McRae, Nuts & Bolts of Fishing Series

For as long as we’ve been filming the Nuts & Bolts of Fishing television episodes, I’ve always wanted to produce a show that would incorporate a combination of fishing, bluegrass music and chickens. Yes, chickens. Live chickens. Don’t ask me why, it was just one of those things that I thought would make good TV.

Well it wasn’t too long ago that the opportunity arose to film a show about fishing for bluegills on a neighborhood pond. Hmmmm…. bluegills… and bluegrass! Now the puzzle was starting to come together. So, I contacted the winners of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the BlueBilly Grit Band, and presented the concept of having them play while floating on a pontoon boat in the middle of a pond. And I mentioned there might be a couple of chickens on the pontoon too. Apparently this bluegrass group had done some crazy things before, but this took the cake. Playing bluegrass music on a farm pond in the middle of nowhere… and the audience was a couple of chickens? Their answer… Count Us In!

We met on a cool spring morning at a buddy’s farm pond. We launched a small pontoon boat for the band, and a jon boat for me to fish from. Along the shoreline, you could smell the distinct aroma of bream beds and the dogwoods were in full bloom. I had a tube of crickets, a tub of worms, some corks and a 6 foot bream rod. My buddy off-loaded three prize chickens and a couple hay bales for the pontoon boat. We were all set.

This was a perfect pond-fishing morning. A low mist over the water. Lots of shade along the banks. And we could see the pond grass move as fish swam among the beds. Nothing else smells quite like bream on the bed, and for me…that smell brings back so many memories.

Perhaps I should mention, this vision was hatched from growing up watching fishing shows on TV. I can remember a gentleman by the name of Jerry McGinnis who fished on TV every Sunday afternoon. They filmed the show without any location sound. So when the show aired, it was just Jerry doing a voice-over of what was happening on the screen. As an accompaniment, when he would catch a fish, there was always bluegrass music playing in the background. It was mesmerizing and left a huge impression on me.

The premise for this episode was somewhat similar, but with a unique twist. The band (and the chickens) would hang out on the pontoon boat, just out of the camera’s view. When I’d catch a fish, they would start playing and float through the shot behind me, then disappear out of the shot. With the next fish, they’d come from the opposite direction, playing a different song and so on.

The fish cooperated virtually all day. Maybe they knew they would be on TV, or that I had plenty in the freezer and all of them would be released. Maybe they liked the bluegrass music. Whatever the motivation, the plan came together nicely with the same simple formula that has filled skillets for centuries. Light line, small hooks, crickets and a cork. You can use a spinning rod with 4 to 6 pound test line, or a cane pole. Whatever will let you get a bait gently placed near the bream beds. This is the perfect way to introduce youngsters to fishing. The action can be almost non-stop, and you don’t need a lot of expensive gear, or even a boat, to fill a bucket up with dinner.

During the day, I think the chickens enjoyed the music as much as we all did, but they were also harsh critics. If there was a long pause between songs – because I wasn’t catching fish – the chickens would let us know. They’d cackle and walk the rails of the pontoon looking for something, or someone, to peck. Once the water started to splash with a hooked fish, they immediately turned their attention to the action.

By mid-afternoon, we had a great TV show. And I was elated. There were a bunch of fish on film…we had our own private concert from a world-class bluegrass band… and I finally got to justify a reason to have chickens in the show.

After the boats were loaded and the band all packed up, we realized we hadn’t eaten a thing all day. You guessed it… the closest place to eat was Kentucky Fried Chicken. And yep, it was real good. The chickens didn’t think it was that funny.

If you’d like to watch this episode, check it out on It’s called Bluegills and Bluegrass and it’s a hoot! Here’s the link:

Tight Lines and Calm Seas, Capt. Cefus McRae