Let’s hope we can all go bass fishing again soon

What might have been

I had hoped to be telling you about my early season bass fishing exploits with my mate Steve Ainsworth, hopefully blessed with one of those lunkers making their way back to their summer feeding grounds; or catching some nice Channel Islands bass with my Guernsey mates; maybe even describing the first trip to my crab traps to collect peelers.

Steve Ainsworth with an 11lb 9oz beauty caught at the end of March 1994. For the full story (including why he’s wearing a suit!) you’ll have to read my book.

This terrible disease

But the COVID-19 pandemic has put paid to all that. This terrible disease has stopped us in our tracks. How can something smaller than a speck of dust wreak such havoc on the world? Whether the cost is measured in human, or in economic terms, the scale of it is hard to grasp. This pandemic is being compared to the Second World War – it’s certainly the most catastrophic thing I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Our lives have been turned upside down, affecting our physical and mental wellbeing, our work and livelihoods, our travel plans, our interaction with friends and family, our personal freedom, and of course our hobbies. Scanning my diary, the only bass fishing-related activity I’ve undertaken since my last blog is collecting razors on the big tides just after the full moon in March.

To show a razor clam coming up after salting
A razor fish surfacing after salting.

Staying at home

But curiously, I’m not crawling the walls in desperation to go fishing (yet!). Maybe that’s partly because, by some strange coincidence, the bass fishing in my area doesn’t really get going until June anyway.

Maybe it’s also partly because my heart just isn’t in it. When you see what’s happening to people at the moment, with the desperately sad stories of those losing the battle against this killer virus, it puts going fishing for fun into perspective.  The danger that our doctors (including my own two corona heroes) and nurses, and all the other key workers, are putting themselves in, and the sacrifices they are making, is truly humbling; it’s also very worrying for them and their families.  I found this short video, Our Heroes , incredibly moving.

I’m following the Angling Trust’s guidance  that we should refrain from fishing, pending the agreement of specific guidelines for recreational fishing with the (UK) Government. I think it’s important that we all do our bit, and set a good example to others.

It’s difficult to say how this whole Coronavirus situation will play out, but it’s just possible that we might see the relaxation of some of the restrictions next month. Whether this will allow for angling, in some limited form, to take place, remains to be seen, but hopefully as we go into June the chances of this will increase. But beating this virus is the overriding priority, and we must do whatever’s needed, however long it takes.

Bass fishing in March

The only bass I’ve heard about since my last blog are the odd fish to 5lb in estuaries, and a few (mostly small) fish caught by Dan Richards on Sandy Andy lures (along with some good-sized sea trout) – in both cases these fish were caught before the lockdown .

My mate Simon De La Mare had better luck over on Guernsey in March, before the lockdown there (now updated to allow recreational fishing from the land as an open sea activity). He finally cracked a new mark, after numerous blanks, with a bass of 6lb 2oz on a black Sidewinder Super Solid Sandeel (6″, 25g) lure during daylight, with the water very dirty from a recent storm. A couple of days later, the weather had calmed down, and the tide and conditions were right to fish the new mark in the dark for the first time. On the second cast, his white DoLive (don’t you just love these things!) was smashed, and after an incredible fight, he slid ashore the biggest bass he’s had in 5 years – an 8lb 2oz cracker. Nice one Simon!

Simon De La Mare (he’s in there somewhere!) with his 8lb 2oz Guernsey bass.


I may not be fishing, but I’m still getting my ‘exercise’ with my daily walks with Toby.  Mind you, we’ve had to cut down to one a day, around the village, under the current Coronavirus restrictions.  To be honest though, at 14, Tobes was starting to struggle anyway, so I think he appreciates the lighter routine. As much as he’d like to be down on the beach, clambering over rocks, or walking miles along the coast path with me, his poor old legs can’t manage it so well these days.

A coastal walk with Toby – in happier times.

Walking has taken on a new meaning in these strange times – it’s more about giving everybody a wide berth, and anticipating whether there’s enough room for you both to pass. It seems more like driving than walking! Most people have quickly got the hang of it, but the odd hasty route deviation is still required!  It’s still possible to chat with people though, provided you keep your 2m distance. Some people are nervous, and quickly move on, while others are keen to engage, perhaps as a consequence of their social isolation.

Keeping busy

I haven’t been idle during the lockdown. Having already completed my pre-season preparations, like many redundant anglers, I’ve been scouring the homestead for jobs that need doing – the garden has never looked so kept, the garage and shed have never looked so tidy, and the car has never looked so shiny. I’ve even been cleaning windows! As a result of all this endeavour, I’m absolutely awash with brownie points – it’s just that I can’t use them!

Freezer disaster!

While we’re on the subject of garages, Angela exclaimed “What’s that awful smell”, as she entered the hallowed man cave. “Well it’s not me dear – it must be the coat I wear for bait fishing”. But then I remembered that she had only recently washed it, almost certainly since the last time I went. “Hmmm”, I mused, slamming the garage door shut, “I hope nothing’s died in there”; “it’ll probably go eventually” (the smell that is).

The next morning I decided it was time for a tidy-up in the man cave, ready for when I can start fishing again. “Better just check the freezer while I’m at it” I thought. This was just a routine check, you understand, such as I have performed on many occasions since I inherited the freezer from a neighbour, some years ago – although I must admit that recent events have somewhat distracted me from this. Despite a slightly battered top draw, with one broken hinge, it has always performed perfectly, protecting the treasures of razor fish, squid and mackerel baits contained within.

As I opened the door, the smell hit me like one of my mate’s worst eggy farts – it really was that bad! If you’ve ever cleaned out a sandeel or fish tank, you’ll have some idea of the smell. “Christ, the bloody thing’s packed up”, I muttered, as I touched the squishy 1lb box of squid on the top shelf. The plug was still in, and the switch was down, so I guess it must have just given up the ghost – several weeks ago, judging by the smell!

As I decanted the freezer’s stinking, dripping contents into a bin bag, I wondered what the poor bin men would make of the evil-smelling mess on Monday morning. I did momentarily consider refreezing the razors (even though I didn’t have a freezer!) – they say they work even better when high, but this was more a case of advanced putrefaction. Even the hungriest bass would have turned its nose up at them – assuming they managed to stay on the hook.

So it was in the bin they went – even those 50 odd big razors I collected only a few of weeks ago! I suppose the fact that I can’t actually fish at the moment is some small consolation. If you know of anybody with a small under-bench freezer going second hand in my area (Cornwall) please let me know (not that I’ll be able to collect it anytime soon). At least my fridge is still working, so I can store any crabs I collect – if I can ever get to the coast again!

Helping to inform and entertain

I find that just thinking and reading about bass fishing helps to pass the time and lift the spirits at this difficult time. Organisations like BASS and the Angling Trust are adding extra content to their websites, to keep anglers informed and entertained during the current lockdown. It’s well worth checking these out.

Boost to bass stocks?

With markets collapsing, and restaurants closing,  commercial catches of bass will be reduced. While this will undoubtedly cause hardship for those involved, at least bass stocks might benefit, especially since some may still be spawning for a few weeks yet.

Well, that’s it for now folks. Keep safe, stay home, and let’s hope things get back to normal soon. We will get through this!