The next generation of bass anglers

With Father’s Day fast approaching, my thoughts turn to fishing and family. As passionate about fishing as most anglers are, family is still the most important thing in their lives. My book, A Bass Angler’s Life, is dedicated to, among others, my family: “To Angela, Ben and Sarah, who never minded when I wanted to go fishing, and always humoured me when I wanted to tell them something about it, or go looking for new spots”

With many anglers, a family member, or relation, was in some way instrumental  in them taking up fishing. My own father took my brother Peter and I fishing while on holiday in Scotland, and this triggered a lifelong passion for angling. The magic ‘tug-tug’ as another obliging flounder took our cockle baits, legered on thick lines and heavy weights from a wooden frame, has never left me.

Alas, my own children never felt that indefinable thing which makes anglers so ‘hooked’ on fishing, whatever the species or surroundings. That thing which, at times, can occupy our every waking moment (and even our dreams sometimes!), obsessing about marks, tides, weather, methods, and of course ten-pounders laying at our feet.

It wasn’t for the want of trying though, as this photo of a young Ben with an estuary schoolie, caught on float-fished live prawn shows:

Estuaries are good places to introduce youngsters to fishing, with their gentler conditions and usually obliging schoolies. Ah well – maybe the grandchildren will take to it!

It’s important that young people have the opportunity to try fishing, and we can all help in this by taking a family member with us once in a while. Hopefully this will lead to some of these youngsters becoming the next generation of anglers, without which this wonderful pastime has no future, and will become just the stuff of whisky-haze nostalgia.

What excites kids (including 60+ year-old ones!) most about fishing is catching fish, so we owe it to them to look after the stocks, and fight for more and bigger bass. By following and supporting groups like Save Our Sea Bass, the campaigning arm of BASS, you can do your bit to this end.

Recent catches

Well, the foxgloves are out in force now (see my last blog), but the bass don’t seem to be! There are some encouraging signs, like this 53cm bass I caught on the North Coast in mid-May:

A 53cm bass taken on peeler shore crab. Thank goodness the temperature has finally warmed up, and the wooly hat is no longer required!

followed by another of 56cm on the next cast. Both these were caught on crab, from my own traps, but we have struggled to find either fish or crabs since then. I have yet to catch a bass on lures this year.

It can be a bit worrying when the fish don’t show – have commercial catches finally damaged the stocks to the point where even our reduced expectations can’t be met? But don’t give up just yet – there could be other factors contributing. Mind you, if things haven’t taken off by the time I write my next blog I’ll be getting worried.

Keep fish wet.

I came across the excellent Keep Fish Wet website. I like its philosophy: “Our goal is to create a supportive community for learning and sharing best practices for catch-and-release. We do not support finger pointing or shaming.  Keep Fish Wet is not opposed to the lawful harvest of fish. We also acknowledge that even when we ‘catch and keep’, we often return some fish to the water (due to size limits, closed seasons etc.) and therefore practice catch-and-release. Keep Fish Wet best practices can be applied to any type of fishing in any type of water anywhere in the world.”

For any fish which you want, or need to, return, it makes sense to maximise its chances of surviving and recovering as quickly as possible. When I wrote my book, although I had stopped using treble hooks in order to minimise fish damage, I did not see the need to go further and use barbless/debarbed singles. But subsequent experience has taught me that even single hooks can take some time to extract from a fish if they are barbed, and this adds to the time the fish is out of the water. All my plugs are fitted with singles now, and I’m replacing these with barbless patterns.

I know I’m probably missing small bass by using single hooks, and whether barbless hooks also reduce the number of fish landed is unclear – but that matters much less to me than a returned fish surviving, and fully recovering after I’ve caught it.

That’s it for this month folks, but I can’t close without a mention for Pete Ryan, who I met while out fishing the other night. Pete recognised me (even with the wooly hat on!), and his first comment was to say how much he enjoyed my blog. Thanks Pete, it’s so nice to get that kind of feedback.

Tightlines, and best wishes to you and your family.