That’s more like it!

In my last blog I was hoping that this August would be as good as last – well it was! After months of seeing just the odd fish now and again, it’s so nice to be able to go fishing knowing there’s a reasonable chance of catching something. I’m saying this despite not being able to get out as much as I normally would, due to a succession of much-enjoyed family visits and a busy schedule of bass surveys.

Peter Maddern commented on my last blog “August to January is my season these days”. There is a chance of catching bass (including some big ones) earlier in the year, but if you want consistency, I think Peter is spot on, at least down here in Cornwall.

Another estuary mark

A lone 51cm fish on a DoLive Stick, cast along the shore over some shallow weedy ground after dark in quiet conditions, was enough to confirm the potential of another estuary mark.

An estuary-caught 51cm bass, which took a fancy to my DoLive Stick.

Back to the coast

I’ve been increasing my fishing time in estuaries in an attempt to discover more marks, but when a nice SW wind blew up, suggesting a bait-fishing session on the coast might be worthwhile, I headed for the beach.

Sure enough, there was a lovely sea running when I arrived, but the fish didn’t seem to be biting. Almost last chance saloon time, I put on the tail half of a joey mackerel. This method of mounting a mackerel bait works for me, with the bait coming back as it went out (unless I’ve had a bite of course!), rather than as a lump of mush. I know mackerel head works well, and I haven’t ruled out other methods of presenting it (chunks, fillet, whole joey etc).

I felt the weight move, but because I was fishing across the surf, I assumed this was due to a wave lifting it; I now use braid for my beach fishing, and it’s brilliant for bite detection.

The violent thump, thump which followed left me in no doubt this was a fish, and the ensuing battle to bring it in suggested it might be a good one. The landing was a bit tricky, but fortunately the hook was well set in the underside of the chin of a nice bass ( I remember thinking this was quite unusual), and I was able to get it in. This 60cm bass was the second of this size I have caught  on mackerel, out of a total of three to date; a very pleasing result and I shall certainly be using mackerel more now.

A 60cm beauty, taken on mackerel bait. The bag containing my fishing paraphernalia is left in for scale.

Lure trials

As the month wore on, the fishing improved. With good numbers of fish about, I took the opportunity to do some trials with lures which I had not yet proven, or used for some time.

On the first of a couple of productive lure sessions, I managed eight fish to 50cm, reaffirming my confidence in Sidewinder Skerries Eels, and catching for the first time on one of Sean Stevenson’s Eels and James Lanfear’s Needlefish lures. The second session produced seven fish, again to 50cm, this time allowing me to prove a Sunslicker Swimish Lure, a  Megabass Spindle Worm, and several colours of the excellent 6″ AGM Stick Worm.

Just like old times

The fishing wasn’t all like this though. Angling buddy Paul Wallace, who features regularly in my book, and I finally managed to catch up and get out for some fishing. Disappointingly, our first (lure + bait) session ended in a blank, although Richard Brandon fishing with us managed a 3lber on squid fished close in. The following session with Paul, on lures, did produce a couple of modest fish for both of us. As Paul commented, it was good for both of us to catch, as fishing sessions can so often go in favour of one angler over the other, often for inexplicable reasons.

It was great to be fishing together again – just like old times. I was really pleased that Paul caught, particularly as he is having a shoulder op later this month, and probably won’t get out again until at least November. I feel for him having to miss out at such a (potentially) good time of the year, but hopefully he’ll be able to get among those big fish we sometimes see in December and January.

More estuary success

Knowing my current interest in estuary fishing, Keith Towsey offered to show me one of his marks. It looked like the session was going nowhere, with neither of us having any action, but a lone fish at the end completely turned things around.

As we headed back to our cars, by now well dark, I spotted an enticing-looking small shallow bay of mixed sand and weed-covered rock. A few flicks with a rockfish-coloured 6″ AGM Worm Stick produced the odd tap to revive my, by now, flagging commitment. The next cast was met with a definite take, followed by the satisfying feel of a good bass thrashing on the surface. At 62 cm, this was my best fish of the year to date, and my best ever from an estuary.

A 62cm estuary-caught bass taken on an AGM Worm Stick lure.

Returning the favour

Eager to return the favour, I took Keith to one of my marks on the coast. An early fish for me suggested things might go well, but a couple of hours later we’d had no more action.

As with the previous trip, it looked like it just wasn’t happening, and I was about to suggest that we head for home. Then Keith came up, declaring that he had just had a fish about the same size as mine (48cm) on a Gravity Stick Pulsetail. I had suggested he try a Gravity Stick, as sometimes the paddle (pulse) tail can make a difference if the fish aren’t biting too well and need a bit of geeing up.

We were standing next to one another discussing the best way to retrieve this type of lure. “Do you ever twitch them?” asked Keith. Before I could answer, he had a take, the fish obviously responding to this tactic. “It’s a nice fish” said Keith, as he struggled to bring it in. But in she came – all 67cm of her. A nice fish indeed, which the BASS tape puts at a little shy of 7lb.

A 67cm bass for Keith Towsey, caught while twitching a Wagasaki-coloured Pulsetail Gravity Stick.

While most of the fish I’ve caught have been in the 40-50cm range, there is an encouraging number of 60+ fish around. Hopefully they will be joined by a few 70’s as we move into what could be a good autumn.

Catching large bass in the day

As you can see from my photos, I’m very much into lure fishing at night. I do enjoy lure fishing in daylight, but this is usually in the evening, leading up to darkness. Having said that, on a few occasions when I’ve been fishing in the middle of the day, usually when fishing a competition, or on a fishing holiday, I’ve hooked into, and sadly lost, what were apparently very large bass.  These situations have usually occurred on Spring tides, and when fishing weedy, rocky ground with surface lures. I wonder if there is less competition for those fish brave/bold enough to feed at these times. I’d love to know if others have any thoughts on this.

I had thought about actually targeting bass at these times, and a recent capture of an 8.5lb beauty by Jake Bodie has given me the added impetus to give this a go. Mind you, catching fish like that doesn’t come easy, and Jake points out that this catch was the culmination of a lot of research and putting up with numerous blanks.

An 8.5lb lure-caught beauty for Jake Bodie. Photo: Jake Bodie.

Intriguing catch

Perhaps the most intriguing catch I’ve heard of recently, is a 3lb bass taken on float-fished bacon! The angler was fishing off the end of a pontoon, where children use bacon chunks to catch crabs. Presumably some of this finds it’s way to the area around the pontoon on a regular basis, and the bass become accustomed to this. Whether bacon would work elsewhere is unclear, but worth a try I reckon, although I’m not sure whether smoked or unsmoked, or streaky or back is best!

Leave it in

I am indebted to BASS colleagues, via their forum, for flagging up an interesting article discussing “What happens when the line parts” It’s well known that the post-release survival of deep-hooked fish is not good, but by cutting the line, and leaving the hook in-situ, survival is much improved, especially if using barbless hooks made of materials which corrode.

Juvenile bass surveys

Our juvenile bass surveys resumed at the beginning of August. I always feel a sense of wonder when I see the first fish of this year’s spawning coming through.  These perfect miniatures of the adults we like to catch really are beautiful. I find myself wondering where and when were they spawned? what obstacles have they had to overcome to get here? how many will reach the magic 10lb after 20 years or so?

Netting for juvenile bass on the Helford Estuary. Photo: Peter Maddern.

Just when our results seemed to be indicating a poor 2021 year class, a bumper catch on the Fal (1,159 ‘0’ groups) has turned this conclusion on its head. Let’s hope our remaining surveys clarify things. Please be assured that great care is taken to make sure these fish are returned alive.

‘0’ group (this year’s) bass netted in early September. The difference in sizes probably means these fish were spawned at different times. Photo: billy Mathews.

This work is completely dependent  on volunteers, and the bigger the pool, the more surveys we can carry out. If you’d like to help on an occasional or regular basis, especially if you can use your boat, please get in touch via the comments box.

What it’s like to be caught in a rip

I’ve often wondered what might happen if I got caught by a wave while wading in the surf to cast. Watch this disturbing video about a swimmer who got caught in a rip current on Mawgan Porth beach in Cornwall.

That’s all for this month folks, thanks for reading. Do feel free to pass on to friends if you’ve enjoyed it, or leave a comment.