Scuppered by the weather
Fishing wise, February was a non-event; all those plans I’d made for more winter bassing were scuppered by the weather. I did manage a couple of short, speculative bait sessions in between storms Ciara and Dennis, prompted by reports of occasional bass being caught, or just by curiosity. Sadly, neither produced any fish. As the month progressed, I gave up any idea of serious fishing, and decided that my time was better spent exploring new marks instead.
A silver lining
If you’re going to have months like the one that’s just finished, being constantly battered by gales, and the wettest February on record, the best time is when the fishing is at its quietest, which it usually is in February.
But every cloud has a silver lining, as they say; the wind had a westerly component on most days during the month, and this should help make this year’s bass spawning a success, hopefully bringing us lots of silver for the future.
Some anglers did manage to find bass in February though, in fact Guntars Zukovski landed a truly awesome fish of 22lb+. Very well done to him, especially as he returned the fish alive. This was a proper BOFFFF (Big Old Fat Fecund Female Fish)! These big fish produce huge numbers of young, so it makes sense to put them back. They have survived for 20+ years, so they must have some kind of survival edge in their genes – something which is worth passing on to their offspring.
We can only assume that the fish was making its way to a nearby spawning area. It is known that these exist off Cornwall, but there may well be other areas, off both the west and east coasts of England and Wales.
Spring has sprung!
The daffodils are out, and we can put those winter blues behind us. Watch out for blackthorn flowers – when these come out, those big momma bass should be starting to make their way back to their summer feeding grounds. If you are lucky enough to intercept one, make sure you handle with care, to protect those precious eggs she might still be carrying, before you return her.
Get those jobs done!
Having completed my annual list of decorating, patio washing, wall cleaning etc., it was time to get my fishing gear ready for the season ahead.
Reels are no problem. If you don’t want to service or repair your own, and your local tackle shop can’t help with this, there are some good places you can send them away to (with the extra cost of postage of course). I’ve sent my Abu 6500 C3 multiplier to Peter Coogan (07740 306500), up in the Wirral, for years now, and can highly recommend him. Likewise, Felindre Innovations (01792 796584) in Wales, who service my Shimano Sustain 2500FG (and will also do Penns and Daiwas).
I do manage minor reel repairs myself, like the problem I had with tiny nicks in the spool lip of my Daiwa Ninja 3000A. I presume these were as a result of misuse on my part, although I can’t recall any particular instance of this. A quick rub down with some very fine sandpaper, to smooth them out, seems to have sorted the problem out; not before I lost an expensive plug, when the braid snapped during casting though!
Rod repairs are not quite so straightforward. Many local shops will do basic repairs, like replacing tip rings for around a fiver, but few will tackle anything more than this. I did a bit of research and discovered the following places that might be able to help:
Roger’s Tackle, Bodmin (01208 78006); Graham Jasper’s Rodcraft, Redruth (07763 461991); Newtown Angling Centre, Penzance (01736 763721); Fishing Mayhem, Liskeard (who also do reel repairs) (01579 558558); Foxon’s, St Asaph (01745 583583). There will be others I don’t know about – please leave a comment about any you do.
A tip tip
I recently purchased a second-hand HTO Shore Game 9ft 6, 7-35g lure rod, in mint condition. After all the great comments people have made about this rod on the BASS Forum (access to this comes with membership), I’m really looking forward to fishing with it this year.
I’m not used to such posh rods, and I’m particularly anxious to look after it. I like to rig my lure rod up, with leader and clip attached, before leaving home. The trouble is, I’m worried about the clip scratching the tip ring lining on the way to fishing marks, resulting in potential braid problems. Then I remembered that we used to use an elastic band as an adjustable depth stop when float fishing. This seems to do the job of keeping the clip away from the tip ring nicely, and is quick and easy to put on, and take off, before starting fishing.
Change those hooks
Another job I do at this time of year is checking the hooks on my lures, and replacing as necessary. I will only use single hooks on my plugs now. This may mean missing the odd schoolie, but I’m prepared to pay this price in the interests of keeping damage to fish (and me) to a minimum. So this means changing the trebles to singles as soon as they come out of the box (why can’t more plugs be supplied with singles fitted already?), and then replacing the singles as and when required.
The single hooks I’ve used for a while now are Seaspin Gamu SW’s. I find these are reasonably robust, and seem to offer good hooking capacity. The size I use depends on the size and weight of the trebles they replace. I weigh these, including the split ring, using digital scales and use the single hook size which best matches this (1 and 1/0 have so far covered all my requirements).
I was out fishing the other night, when a helicopter flew overhead and proceeded to hover above a distant headland. I watched in awe as the pilot skilfully manoeuvred his craft up and down, and then swept across the bay, lights shining on the sea below.
I quite often see this at night, and usually assume it’s part of a training exercise. I can’t help wondering what might happen in the event of a real emergency, and it’s comforting to know that we have the Coastguard Service to call on in such situations. Whether these are due to being swept into the sea, falling down cliffs, being hit by falling rocks, or the myriad of other problems that can occur, it’s reassuring to know we can call for help. But let’s make sure we do all we can to avoid needing the services of these brave folk.
With safety in mind, don’t forget to get your lifejacket serviced. I get mine done at this time of year at Macsalvors in Penryn (01326 377131), for under £20. And don’t forget to check the studs on your boots; so important if your fishing involves walking over, or fishing from, slippery rocks. I’ve just bought another pair of Rockhopper Wading Boots since the studs on these wear out after a couple of seasons. I’m trying out some Supa track studs to replace the ones which are worn out on my Rockhopper Boots.
A question of nets
Following all the hype about the film ‘Bait’, I decided to go and see it myself. It’s basically about the tensions between local people, in this case commercial fishermen, and so-called ‘incomers’. It was filmed using a vintage hand-cranked Bolex camera, using 16mm monochrome film that the director hand processed. The resultant black and white, slightly grainy, appearance, and the way it’s directed, gives the film a brooding, raw feel to it, which adds to the tension.
I was intrigued by the netting they were doing on the beach at the harbour mouth. At low tide the net was lying on the beach, with several bass, of modest size, stuck in it. Can this be legal I thought?
Not wishing to detract from the undoubted artistic value of the film, and accepting that the events portrayed within it are fictitious, I contacted the Marine Management Organisation about this netting. Because I had mentioned an old bylaw in my email, I was referred to my local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. I duly contacted Cornwall IFCA and received a very helpful reply the next day.
It turns out that this activity does not infringe any local bylaw, since the only one which would have made it illegal (the “Fixed Engines” bylaw) is no longer being enforced, apparently because of legal advice received by CIFCA regarding how the bylaw had been created. So for several years, there has been no restrictions on netting at sea; the only exception to this being within two small areas over the Runnel Stone and Manacles reefs, where any net used must have a mesh size of at least 250mm. The prohibited range of mesh sizes for other nets has not been increased in line with the increase in the 42cm minimum size for bass, meaning that undersized bass are still being caught in them.
Of course, according to EU regs, bass cannot be legally targeted with nets, but many are caught ‘accidentally’ in nets supposedly set for something else. The EU regs also state that commercial fishing for bass from the shore is not permitted, so the activity portrayed in the film could well have been illegal.
Back the App!
It’s vital that catches of bass from commercial fishermen are properly recorded. But plans to implement a new fish recording App for the under 10’s are being strongly resisted by them. To find out more, including what you can do to help, visit the Save Our Sea Bass website.
What will your bass fishing focus be this year?
Tightlines for the season ahead. I’m going to restrict myself to fishing specific areas this year. Areas where the chances of a big bass are highest, and where I can develop my estuary fishing. It will be tough to ignore favourite places, but I have to maximise my chances of getting that double.
All the best,