That was the year that was – or wasn’t

Always at this time of year people (like me) post about how their fishing has gone over the previous twelve months. Mostly these reports are about how well people have done, and I guess it’s understandable they may not want to talk about things when they haven’t gone so well. But I think it’s important to give the true picture, warts and all.

As you may have guessed, my fishing in 2022 was disappointing, at least if you just consider my catch statistics. For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a fishing diary and computer record of my catches. For the last couple of years I’ve kept records as part of the BASS Catch Recording Scheme. This is a great scheme, which produces data tailored to the needs of bass anglers. The more data we get, the more information we can provide, so please take part if you aren’t doing so already. You’ll have to be a member, but what better value could you get for the £25 membership fee?

The records I’ve kept for this year don’t tell a very inspiring story:

188 trips (I’ve recorded mixed bait & lure sessions as separate trips, and sessions at different marks on the same day as separate trips)
111 blank trips (59% – glutton for punishment!)
150 days fished (crikey, that’s nearly every other day!)
413 hours fished (how did I get away with that!)
148 fish caught – with an average size of ~43cm. I managed just 3 of 60cm and over, the biggest 65cm.

Too many marks?

What do these figures reveal? Well, they will reflect the state of bass stocks for a start, particularly how bigger fish are becoming harder to catch. But that’s not the whole story, as I know others did better than me last year (some much better). A friend of mine who’s a top bass angler recently said to me “you’ve got too many marks”. I think he was saying that I need to focus more on the ones I know well, and which have proved themselves. He’s probably right, but I’m a sucker for trying out new places and things.

Last year was a good case in point. Having got into estuary fishing, I was presented with a whole new world of possible marks, which just had to be checked out. And when I started fishing with Simon Willey later in the year, free-lining big baits, a method I have always fancied, suddenly came into the mix. I didn’t see that coming. I guess that’s part of the allure of fishing – you never know what’s around the corner.

So with all this experimenting, I guess a certain amount of non-productive fishing time is only to be expected (that’s my excuse anyway!). I just hope it pays off in the long run. But even though I may have lost out in terms of my fishing results, I have gained in other ways – like fishing in some beautiful settings, with nice people, and getting to grips with new methods. I will try to be more focussed this year though!

A great start

Things got off to a great start when this 64cm beauty grabbed my 4″ Flash J Fish Arrow Shad, which I had put on to match the fry which are about at this time of year.


A 64cm lure-caught beauty taken in early May

Early June saw me catch what was to be my best fish of the year on a white 6″ DoLive Stick (see featured image). In the same session I caught my first ever sea trout.

A 53cm sea trout, caught on a joker-coloured SF125 plug.

Apart from those odd early successes, things didn’t really get going until August. This seems to be a regular feature of my fishing in Cornwall now – we used to get good fishing in June, but it seems to have slipped back. A session on the 1st August produced 9 fish at a proven mark, and for once I decided to cash in and fish the area again, producing another 12 fish in two nights.


I hoped this was the start of some good fishing, but as the months unfolded it just didn’t happen for me. The fishing was patchy at best, and of course we had that long run of rainy southerlies in the autumn which seemed to go on forever. The moral of that story is make the most of any good fishing while you can!

Thank goodness I had the option of fishing in estuaries, but the much-anticipated run of better fish in late November didn’t materialise. And between the bitterly cold spell with icy roads, the Christmas Festivities and picking up a couple of horrible bugs, December was a non-event, fishing-wise.

An eventful year

Despite the fishing not amounting to much, it was an eventful year. I continued my recording work  for the Marine Strandings Network, became the Conservation Officer for the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers and got to grips with being a general member of Cornwall IFCA.

In June I met up with the guys from BASS on the Cornwall Fish-in based around Rame Head.

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

I was pleased to represent BASS again at the Cornish Lure Festival this year.

Bass research

It was a busy year on the juvenile bass surveys in Cornwall. We’re continually striving to do more, and increase the recognition of our work in scientific circles. Our finding of very few ‘young-of-the year’ bass, was particularly important at a time when future bass management plans are being considered. One of the highlights was meeting David Kelley, whose father, the late Donovan, a keen bass angler himself, initiated bass surveys in the Southwest; he did so much to increase our knowledge of the recruitment and migrations of bass.

These surveys are only possible because of the efforts of our brilliant volunteers. If you’d like to help do get in touch. 

Making our way to another survey in Jon Williams’ boat, accompanied by John Shipwright.

The year was very rewarding in working with scientists from several Universities as Science Lead for BASS. We were approached as partners on several  research project bids; one has been approved, and is already underway. These should give us much-needed cutting-edge information about the biology and lifecycle of bass. Fascinating stuff, and so important.


A good Fisheries Management Plan for bass is long overdue and vital for the restoration of our bass stocks to a healthy level and age profile. Much time has been taken up with this, including submitting this report on the standard of bass angling in Cornwall , attending a drop-in session at Newlyn, taking part in an online’ Collective Intelligence’ debate and completing a ‘Co-refine’ survey. Let’s hope for a good outcome; if the countless hours of effort put in by my BASS colleagues on our behalf is anything to go by, it should be.

Yours truly, with fellow BASS members Tim Coe, Malcolm Gilbert, Brian Collick and Peter Maddern waiting to share their views about bass management with the Policy Lab team.

Personal milestones

Late in the year I sold the 300th copy of my book A Bass Angler’s Life. A hugely satisfying achievement.

I finished off the year with my 70th birthday. I’ve been remarkably lucky with my health, and so far it hasn’t restricted what I do. I’m still a twenty-something in my head, and as long as the bones hold out, I’ll keep doing what I do.

Thanks for reading, and a happy and successful new year to you

14 Replies to “That was the year that was – or wasn’t”

    1. Hi Bryn, and thanks for the kind words.

      I’ll do my best to keep doing what I do mate – while being mindful not to put the rescue services at risk! Age is just a number anyway (getting bigger ever year though!).

      Happy New Year to you and Emma – and all my good fishing mates on Guernsey.

  1. Robin

    I expect the fact Newlyn apparently landed 11 tonnes of bass in Dec 2022 won’t help the situation for 2023 either. Most people I speak to struggled to catch fish over mid fifty centimetres last year. Well done reaching 70 still full of enthusiasm youth is a wonderful thing.

    1. Hi Keith

      Last time I checked it had reached 13 tonnes – totally unsustainable! Well done on catching that nice fish last year. A good mark that one, and not one for a decrepit old fart like me 😉

  2. Hi Robin
    I have had a poor year catch and size down so I can certainly relate to the state of things.
    Twice I have witnessed boats of around 18ft coming into the beach at Dodman end of Carne Beach with navigation lights temporarily turned off. Needless to say we know what they were up too!
    Let’s hope for a better catch rate in 23!

    1. Hi Martyn. Reassuring (but depressing) to know that I’m not the only one who hasn’t done well. And yet the commercials will try to convince us it’s never been so good! If you see anything suspicious like that it’s always worth letting Cornwall IFCA know.

    1. Hi Mark. Many thanks for your kind words. It’s good to know that people find the posts useful. Best wishes for 2023 yourself.

  3. Great read as always Rob, I personally struggled for bass this year, lots of fish landed but only two bass around the 5lb mark. Hopefully a better year to come, good luck and tight little nes mate.

  4. Great read,interesting year for sure,epic start for myself in West Cornwall but a dreadfully end with a mix of bad weather and alot of netting going on,I am convinced the bass are there but further out feeding on the large amount of sardines that have been only 500yds out.water temps still 12c so I would expect to still catch on lures,hope you have a better year in 2023.

    1. Thanks Lee.

      Netting is the scourge of bass and bass anglers. It is for the fishing industry to show how it can be done sustainably as part of a future bass fishery, otherwise it should be stopped in my opinion.

      I have found in previous years that early January can be a good time for bass, but this depends on how many the netters have missed, how near to the shore they are (at least for shore anglers), and when they head off to the spawning grounds.

      Good luck for this year.

  5. Hi Robin. Enjoyed your post. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into protecting our bass.
    As you pointed out, visiting a lot of new estuary marks will have meant catching less fish until you concentrate on those you find productive. I’ve found exactly the same and have suffered a lot of blanks using lures but estuaries are fascinating, (and dangerous), places!
    I’ve caught less quality fish compared to my first year living here, on bait, from the beach. Partly because poor weather/sea conditions have prevailed I think. It’s frustrating though that I haven’t seen any of those 60-68cm fish from the previous year showing up with another year of growth. They just seem to disappear after reaching 5-7lb?? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of commercial fishing activity in the inshore waters here, touch wood, but I think the damage is probably done when migrating and aggregating out to sea.
    All the best for 2023.

    1. Hi Jim, and thanks for your kind words.

      I’ve been so inspired by seeing you catching some great bass from beaches during the day. I had meant to apply this to my own fishing, but things pulled me in other directions.

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about those 60-68cm fish. Last year I caught 9 of these, this year 3! I had hoped that this size group would remain as numerous this year, but with another 5 or 6cm of growth which might have nudged 70cm, increasing the chance of an 8lb+ fish. But sadly it looks like they’ve been culled by commercial fishing, which as you say doesn’t have to be local to seriously damage your fishing.
      All the best for 2023.

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