Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
Bass in the north east.
In February I wrote a piece for “Sea Angler” about where I’d most like to fish for bass. After a bit of head scratching I decided that I’d enjoy trying my old stamping ground in the North East of England – not the most renowned bass fishing in the world but (I assumed) a fishery which has interesting potential. Shortly after the feature was published I had the following email from Pete Brown – absolutely fascinating stuff! Here it is slightly edited -
Hi Dr Ladle
Just as I was getting ready for work the new Sea Angler dropped through the door. I had a quick scan through and saw your article for this issue. I was in a rush getting my daughter to drink her bottle and get to work in time so I only skimmed it but I saw that you were reminiscing about living up here in the North East. You mentioned that you fished for a good few years here and never caught bass. I can tell you that things have definitely changed and although they are not here in big numbers they are here and can be caught on bait and lures.
I live in Newcastle and I only started targeting bass two summers ago. At first it was hard going. Everyone fishes for cod still up here, even in summer, so there is very little information around for local bass fishing. This meant that me and a few friends have just had to put the hours in. Between us we probably fish at least 150 hours over the summer and we have only managed around twenty fish in the first year and forty in the last year between us. However things are starting to pay off and we are able to predict with some success when and where they are going to appear. I must say that “Hooked on Bass” has been a great help.
The season here appears to be much shorter than elsewhere with the first numbers turning up in late May to bait, starting to get more interested in lures by mid-June, and then dropping away again around mid-September. There are the odd ones here and there caught outside those periods obviously but with no predictability. As you may remember we get some pretty big seas here and coupled with very shallow sloping coasts in many places water clarity is a big issue for lure fishing. We we tend to chop and change tactics all through the summer.
I am no marine biologist but from the limited research I have been able to do (searching local fishing forums) it seems that numbers of bass here are steadily increasing. Ten years ago there were plenty being caught at Blyth power station, up to double figures. Since the closure of the installation things went very quiet for around five years and then, over the last five years, catches have become more frequent. However, there are only a handful of anglers who fish in the summer (apart from people mackie bashing from the piers) so you often have beaches and rock marks to yourselves. Strangely, in winter here you will very rarely go fishing without seeing another angler. Even in the middle of the night in sub-zero temperatures.
I remember it well – ML
Fish sizes seem to be on the small side with most in the one to two pound bracket. My largest bass to date is just over three pounds. Myself and my friends all fish catch and release, hopefully giving the fish a chance to grow and develop, although as you say in your article I am hearing of more and more commercial pressure on them with, apparently, a double figure fish being caught in nets off Whitley Bay last year.
I know that a hundred miles down the coast at Whitby they have seen a similar growth in numbers of bass and are now catching quantities of fish up to six or seven pounds. I am hoping that the trend continues north and we get similar fishing here. I believe we have ideal ground for them and with some slightly better temperatures we may see decent numbers here.
If you do fancy fulfilling a wish like you say in the article you are more than welcome to come up here and give it a go sometime. I would recommend the new moons in either July or August although you probably have some much more productive places you would like to be then! I cannot guarantee you a fish but you might enjoy trying some of the marks you remember.
Following this very full email I sent Pete a string of questions about the fishing and here are his replies -
To answer some of your questions:
Do they catch them as far north as Bamburgh?
I don't know to be honest. There is a load of ground further north which me and my mates plan to cover when we get the chance. Lots of these places look likely but there is also the definite chance of other species as well. As most of us have young kids it is not as easy to get out up the coast too far during the week.
I see that you are using a variety of lures to catch your bass - do you ever catch anything else when you are lure fishing?
Yes. I have had coalies, cod and launce so far on the lures. I know someone locally caught a 3lb cod last summer on a Slug-Go. This is definitely stuff we intend to explore. Lots of places call out for a few soft lures to be chucked into the kelpy gullies.
Have you tried poppers?
Yes, although I personally have only caught on the surface with a Patchinko, which is a walk the dog style lure rather than a pure popper. My friend has caught on a Gunfish which is closer to a traditional popper. I am sure it is just a matter of time until we get surface fishing worked out up here.
Have you thought about using the weedless lures that I've been trying for a few years now?
We use them all the time. Pretty much all the marks we have tried here so far are very shallow, weedy and rocky. It is hard to find places where you can chuck a lure at all at times as the kelp grows so thick in the summer. One of the bass in the photos was caught on MegaBass spindle worm fished on a weedless weighted hook. I also hooked and lost what would have been a p.b. Bass of around four or five pounds within about three feet of the shore on an X-layer fished weedless.
Are the fish being caught in weedy, snaggy spots? (I expect they are).
Yes. As mentioned above all the ground is pretty tackle hungry if you are not careful. The deepest divers we tend to use are about two to three foot. Wading is pretty much essential.
Have you tried at first light?
Not really, but that and night fishing are the aims for the coming summer. The fact that, from what I have read, these are even better times than dusk only makes us want to do it more.
Too many bloody questions eh!!
Not at all. It's great that you are taking an interest in our fishing.
I think that Pete and his pals have done extremely well to catch as many as they have. Clearly they are all thinking anglers who are prepared to try something a bit different. If the big fish are there it's only a matter of time 'til they get one. I asked whether I could use some of Pete’s information on the website and commented that two things sprang to mind as possibilities for the lads to try (It’s what I would do myself if I went up there) - (1) Fishing at first light can be a revelation and (2) Live mackerel seem to find bigger fish than you might think possible. I just lip hook them and free line. Other livebaits (small coalies, launce) would work too but mackerel do the searching for you by swimming around like mad. When I mentioned it to Pete he said -
I think first light is going to be a big feature for us this summer. During June when the nights are so short we may even fish dusk through to dawn if wives and girlfriends will allow it.
I was really interested in the stuff about live baiting in "Hooked on Bass". The problem with using mackerel is that they are not always that easy to catch in the first place. I am not sure if they were more plentiful back when you were living here but I have never caught one by accident when plugging. I will be carrying around some rigs now in case I do get one I can quickly set up my plugging rod and give it a try. I may also try with coalies as they do often turn up.
I have a bit of cabin fever now. Nothing much is being caught on bait and it will only tail off now until May. Will be trying a bit more trout fishing on fly this year and the local reservoirs open up in about three weeks. Roll on summer.
Pete has a nice little website " Bass Lure Basics", for anyone interested in bass lure fishing click on the picture, it’s certainly worth a look.
I used to catch lots of mackerel in North Northumberland. Of course they are usually in deeper water and take smaller lures (wedges, spoons, etc.) better than plugs or softbaits. In fact where I now live in Dorset mackerel are also scarce as hens teeth from nearly all my bass marks but there are a few spots where I can catch both. I tend to use single hooked lures/flies for the mackerel so as not to injure them and then I put them straight on the circle hook of the livebait rod. Anyone interested should Google 'mackerel livebait' in the little box on my website for the detailed info.
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - email@example.com
Bass on a Patchinko.
Bass on a paddletail