I wasn’t expecting that!

You can say that again! Having never caught a sea trout in all the years (nearly 40) I’ve been sea fishing in Cornwall, that was the last thing I expected to see as I landed my first fish of the session. As I got closer to the water’s edge I thought “that’s a funny-looking bass!”, and then recognised the fish from photos I’ve seen as a sea trout.

I was lure fishing at night on a beach, when the SF125 (courtesy of Danny Watson at High Street Tackle and the UKBLF raffle) I was using was hit hard  – not far out. This was its first outing after receiving it and  changing the treble hooks for size 1 VMC barbless singles. I’ve caught lots of bass on this plug fitted with singles. I love that ‘Joker’ colour, which previous experience suggested would catch fish in the dark.

IMA SF125 fitted with size 1 barbless VMC single hooks

I did a Facebook post, to see if anybody else had caught a sea trout on the Cornish coast. Apart from the responses to my question – it turns out quite a few people have – one responder mentioned that sea trout are not as robust as bass. After measuring (53cm) and photographing my fish, it seemed to go back just fine – maybe this had something to do with the fact that I had switched to single hooks, causing less damage to the fish?

If anybody has caught a sea trout on the coast (past or present), it would be useful to report this to Cornwall IFCA (as I did) as further evidence in support of the need to protect salmonids from netting.

One of the responders to my Facebook post suggested I also report the catch to the SAMARCH project, which I duly did. I find the science aspects of fish, especially their movements and spawning,  fascinating and salmonids are a good example of this. Dylan Roberts contacted me and explained:

“Sea trout are like salmon they spawn in rivers, the juveniles spend 2-3 years in the river then migrate to sea to feed and grow. They go to sea in March – May and then spend a year or two at sea before migrating back into the river between May and September to spawn in Nov & Dec. Your fish was probably feeding near shore with the view of finding its natal river to return and spawn this year as I say probably in Nov.”

Dylan adds:

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust are looking for scale samples from any sea trout caught at sea to help with a study to investigate the movements of sea trout at sea from their natal river. If you catch sea trout at sea and want to help, please contact Dylan Roberts, Head of Fisheries at droberts@gwct.org.uk and he will send you a scale collection kit and what details need recording.

Not just sea trout

I had brought a selection of lures – various plugs, weighted and unweighted soft plastics, to try. One of these was a Fish Arrow Flash J Shad in a bright greeny – yellow colour, which I’m pleased to say produced the goods, in the shape of a 40cm bass. This was looking good – not just sea trout, but bass as well.

My daydreaming about catching my first sea trout was interrupted when the lure I was retrieving felt like it had taken off in a different direction. I had switched to a DoLive Stick (white), as it seemed rude to neglect my all-time favourite soft plastic. “This is interesting” I thought, especially when the fish, which by now had realised its fate, started banging.

“Could be a nice one” I thought , as I brought her through the waves. “You beauty!” I called out, as a 65cm beauty of a bass slid ashore.

A 65cm Cornish bass – definitely not a sea trout!

This is turning into quite a session I thought. Sticking with the DoLive for a few more casts, just before closing time another bass, this time of 44cm, decided to join the party.  Time to head for the hills.

A Cornish Fish-in

The weekend of 10th – 12th June saw me attending the BASS Cornwall Fish-in, based at Maker Heights campsite on the Rame Peninsula. The fishing wasn’t the best, but the ‘craic’ was awesome.  It’s always good to fish new ground, and if you throw in some friendly banter, the odd tipple and a decent curry and barbecue, what’s not to like? It can be a dilemma, deciding whether to fish or socialise, especially when the company is so good, but you find the balance that suits you best (and you can always join the lads when you get back!).

Fish-ins are a key benefit of BASS membership. Meeting people and fishing with them gives so much more than can be gained by simply interacting online.

Some of the BASS members who enjoyed the 2022 BASS Cornwall Fish-in

Something’s afoot

A couple of weeks back I was out fishing with Archie (can you believe the size of him at nearly 15 months!). I looked round to see blood all over the rocks! Somehow he had punctured one of his paws – between the pads. By applying pressure with an assortment of tissues and rags, eventually the bleeding stopped. But he needed this looking at, and antibiotics as a minimum. So there was nothing for it but to cut the session short, and head back while there was still time to catch the vet.

Archie – with leopard skin dressing covering poorly paw

He’s fully recovered now, but it took a week or so to fully heal.

Juvenile bass surveys

We’ve reached the halfway point in our juvenile bass survey programme. As always I extremely grateful for all the help we get from our amazing volunteers – especially Jon Williams for helping out with his boat. If you’d like to help with the surveys, even on an occasional basis, do get in touch. If you have a boat and are prepared to use it on the Fal, even better.

During May and June, we are looking for last year’s bass (so-called ‘1’ groups), as a check on our findings on the previous year, when these fish were first spawned, and to see if many have been lost over their first winter due to prolonged very cold spells.

Our results this year have been poor, apart from one good result on the Helford. Taking these results, and our findings from last year, into account, it seems likely that the 2021 class can only be described as fair. There is some uncertainty over this, given the pattern of results observed, so it will be interesting to see if our conclusions are confirmed in other surveys and future catches.

A 1 year-old bass netted (and safely returned) in the Fal estuary on 27.6.22.

That’s all for this month; thanks for reading.