Summertime – who said that! Just when we thought we were set for a long hot one, things have gone seriously downhill. But if the weather forecasts are to be believed things should improve soon.
The fish are jumping though – especially in the estuaries, with fish spraying all over the place around dusk as they chase their hapless prey. Not exactly sure what they are though – the only fish I’ve managed to catch when this was happening was a small scad.
My recent catches show a mixed picture of good sessions and poor ones/blanks, on both coast and estuary. Things are becoming a bit more consistent as we move into August though. I’m seeing fish around the 30cm and 50cm+ mark, but not much in between. Shows the effect that year classes can have; the 50cm+ fish are probably from the best class we’ve had in recent years – 2014 (but nothing like the really good classes of the past e.g. 1989). As this class grows, we should see more 60cm fish in our catches next year or the one after, although the numbers will fall as a result of natural predation and commercial (and to a much lesser extent recreational) exploitation. I’ve still only had one 60cm fish this year. Hopefully the chances of something bigger will improve as we go towards Autumn, but I’m not holding my breath!
Despite telling myself I was going to focus on proven marks more, I have been doing some exploring – to good effect I might add. My increasing experience of shore fishing in estuaries, and the fact that fish seem to behave more predictably in them than on the open coast, has helped – not to mention the fact that the resident fish seem to be in properly now.
One new mark I tried was particularly memorable. After an hour or so of fruitless casting my attention was waning, and I was beginning to think I should have gone to somewhere I’ve caught fish before. About 10 yards out, just at the edge of a bank of weed, there was a fishy-looking boil. My piscatorial reflexes took over, and made me stop winding and pause for a second. As I started winding again, a dark shape came out from the weed and snaffled the lure. It was like a slow-motion movie, the image now burned in my brain. Seeing a bass (46cm) actually taking a lure is not something that happens every day, and this memory has made this a special place for me.
Perseverance pays off
Buoyed up by my success at a new mark, I decided to try another. I was coming to the end of the session, with nothing to show for my efforts other than a few knocks from what I assumed were small fish. My enthusiasm was waning, and an earlier-than-planned finish looked on the cards. But this was a good tide, and I decided to persevere, and rotate through the various lures I had brought.
The solunar effect was definitely working on me, let alone the fish, as the moon poked in and out of the clouds. But nothing seemed to be working – that was until a 58cm beauty latched onto a 125mm Soft J Shad in Black Neon Sprat from Bass Lures UK. They usefully describe the best conditions to use each lure colour, and they were spot on this time! “I think it’s the combination of being a black lure with the added neon strip in the belly” says Matt.
If you’re thinking of buying some lures from this company, now’s a good time as they’e offering a 10% discount in August on their already very competitive prices. Just quote the code BLUK10 when you order.
Stuffed with whitebait
This year I have been keeping the odd fish for the table, to help with the Supper4science project (see later). I always like to look at the stomach contents of any bass I keep. This is fascinating in itself, and can be useful from a fishing perspective. For example, both the fish I caught on separate sessions at the same mark on the coast were full of fish. In June these were mini-sand eels; in July these were whitebait, suggesting that lures would be an effective way to catch fish at these times – as was the case. In fact, I don’t know where the second fish thought it was going to put the 6″ DoLive Stick that it took – its stomach was full to bursting!
This 51cm bass must have been hungry, by the way it smashed the little surface lure I was using. There was no messing about, or repeated slashes at the lure – one second it was ‘walking the frog’, the next it was gone!
As with all my plugs, this one was fitted with single hooks – in this case size 1 VMC 7237 Light inlines.
Whenever I’m using plugs in estuaries, where catches of multiple small fish are possible, I make sure to crush the barbs, or use barbless. Even a small hook can look big in the mouth of a 25cm bass and make extracting it difficult with barbed hooks (especially trebles) – no sense in damaging the potential ten-pounders of the future.
Juvenile bass surveys
Our juvenile bass survey group now has its own name – Cornwall Bass Investigations Group. We also have our own website. We’ve tried to make this a central point for sharing reports, photos, news and general information. Many thanks to fellow volunteer Peter Maddern for building the site. We are commencing surveys again as I write this, so if you live in the area and would like to get involved, or just passing through and fancy an interesting afternoon, do get in touch.
Bass FMP consultation
Perhaps the most important development in bass fishing and management ever is the development of a new Bass Fisheries Management Plan. Defra have produced a draft for consultation (along with some other interesting documents) which can be found here.
Definitely worth responding to this. BASS and the Angling Trust will be producing some guidance if you need help.
This important project is an opportunity for anglers to get involved in research which will help to restore and maintain bass stocks in the future. Essex University need bass heads from around the English coast, so if you are keeping one for the table they would love to have the head. Just pop it in the freezer and await further instructions. You’ll need to let them know you’re interested by emailing email@example.com
Another of the FISP (Fisheries Industry Science Partnership) projects that BASS (and Cornwall Bass Investigations Group) are involved in is looking at how juvenile fish use estuaries using a novel camera developed by Plymouth University. Read all about it here. Exciting times ahead!
That’s it for this month folks. Tight lines and thanks for reading,
Thanks to Ben Harris for the featured image photo.