Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page


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).


I've had a couple of blanks this week. Admittedly I only fished very short sessions but, had there been anything much about I'm sure I would have had a bite or two. The first trip was a dawn fly fishing effort and although conditions were promising I never had a sniff. On the second session three of us were spinning and again it was dead. However, my son Richard, who now lives in Brazil, has recently bought himself a kayak and is exploring the possibilities off the beaches near his home in Maceio. he sends me reports of how he's getting on and here's a summary: -

Hi Dad,

Went fishing a couple of days ago and first decided to drift over the reef - picked up a little grouper, followed by a silvery grunt (over the sand) and, one of your favourite fish as I was drifting in.

The other funny thing was yesterday night, I noticed that the dog was staring at her drinking bowl. When I went to look an enormous toad had taken up residence inside...I wouldn't fancy drinking the water either!



Then he followed up with: -

Hi Dad,

I went trolling last night - after 2-3 weeks of kayaking every couple of days I can now troll for 30-40 minutes without too much effort. I was using a one-piece slow sinking Rapala (trout pattern) of the size they seem to favour in Tobago when they are trolling for kingfish. I paddled out to the reef and then made my way along the inside of the reef without having a touch. As the sun was starting to set I decided to drift into the beach and 'spin' from the kayak. Much to my surprise I had a bite on the second cast and landed a small coney - smaller than the one I caught off the beach in Bahia, but very satisfying as it is the first fish I have had on an artificial in this part of Brazil. I took a couple of photos that came out astonishingly well: the similarity between the colouring on the fish and the lure is wonderful and the soft light of dusk really sets off the photo. I continued fishing for another 5 minutes and had one more knock, probably from the same sort of fish.

Anyhow, three future possibilities suggest themselves. First, with a shallow diving plug I can probably fish over the top and the edge of the reef (the water depth at mid-tide is about 1m), something that none of the local fisherman do as it would be impossible with conventional tackle or nets. I suspect that other fish apart from grouper forage on and around the reef as the tide covers them. Second, it shouldn't be too difficult to fish a 'Slandra' through the seagrass beds near the reef. My Rapala picked up quite a bit of weed and I suspect that you could even let the Slandra fish itself as you drift. Finally, I keep seeing big mullet around the reef so a slow-trolled baited spoon would seem like a good bet. But what to use as bait? I could peel a prawn or use a strip of squid or fish. What would you suggest?

Anyhow, back to work,


I replied telling him that I’d had mullet take prawns on baited spinners but that they often need a few passes before showing any interest, so trolling might not be as effective as spinning. His next email was a fuller update: -

Hi Dad,

I've been out a few times in the kayak and, much to my surprise, it has become much easier to paddle. I even went out to the reef and did some trolling last night (but to no avail). Anyhow, I thought you might be interested in the highlights of my half a dozen or so trips and what I have learnt. As normal, it is proving to be a very steep learning curve.

1. You can catch catfish in the day (I haven't done any night fishing yet), but you have to find where the water is stirred up. I drifted over a patch of brown water at about 2pm and was immediately into catfish of between 1-2lb using prawn for bait on a smallish circle hook. Great fun on light tackle although you have to be really careful unhooking them. I need to get myself a longer pair of pliers!

2. There are snappers (picture attached) and grunts in the clearer water and different grunt species in the stirred up water with the catfish. These aren't much fun but at least it provides a little diversion when there isn't much doing.

3. I went out a few days ago at about 3pm as the tide was dropping and there were lots of dace-sized silver fish by the reef... and something clearly feeding on them (jacks, I think). In typical fashion I only had prawn with me and when I went out the following day with an assortment of lures there was no sign of them. Clearly the time/tide is going to be a challenge. I suspect that livebait is the real way to go but I will need a few weeks to really 'sus' out what is happening.

4. The day I noticed the feeding fish I also saw a group of mullet on the other side of the reef - spraying out as something huge chased them! This was only about 200m away but there is a little swell once you get past the reef and I have made a non-flexible decision to stick on the beach side of the reef come what may! (I'm being ultra-ultra cautious given my proneness for pratfalls!). I suspect that the odd big fish will come round my side of the reef, but I will need to be lucky.

So there you have it... potentially interesting, but will require quite a bit more research. I've fashioned an anchor out of a detergent bottle filled with wet sand and I will probably have a go night fishing soon - though I suspect that fishing from the beach is more successful in this context as the cats seem to like the stirred up water near the waves.



I congratulated him on his success with the plug (the first fish is always the hardest) and said there were almost certainly other ‘plug taking’ predators out there. I was keen to hear about his next exploits: -

Hi Dad,

There are definitely other predators out there - I've seen jacks (and caught a small one on a prawn) and my pal Oliver saw some locals catch a type of barracuda near one of the big wooden fish traps. ...and, of course, there is the giant snook I saw them pull in on a beach seine the first time I visited (although that was 2km from my house and I don't feel up to that sort of trip in the kayak, yet!).

I think I will start to pick up other species if I keep plugging around the reef. I suspect the state of the tide is important for the more transitory species such as jacks, whereas the groupers will just sit in a hole if the tide's too low. In fact I once managed to catch a few by dangling a prawn into holes in the reef during a low spring tide. There is also quite a bit of habitat variability - the gap in the reef has a water depth of at least 2-3m and there are a couple of little reef islands in this gap. Last week I anchored up to one and tried a live bait (unfortunately it was a medium-sized grouper as that's all I could catch). I've seen big swirls just off the edge of the islands that look like big fish attacking something - but, to be fair, it's hard to interpret what's really happening. Perhaps I should put a chunk of fish on and just wait for an hour or two? Unfortunately it's not that easy to drift down the edge as the wind tends to push you across rather than along.

I'm attaching a photo of the part of the reef I fish on. I've labelled the gap and the arrow points to one of the reef islands. The photo was taken at a spring low tide when you can walk out onto the reef. Yesterday I was trolling/spinning over where I'm standing in the photo.

As always thoughts and suggestions are very welcome. I finally feel like I am beginning to get somewhere and I can't tell you how happy I am to be finally catching something on lures, even if they are small! The lead-head plus bait also seems full of potential... I think that next I'll experiment with some squid.



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 -


One of Richard's first ventures in the kayak. I think I could handle fishing in a place like that.


These small groupers vary enormously in colour. Not massive but a breakthrough with the lures.

My favourites.

Richard knows how much I like lizardfish.  They seem to be able to take lures no matter how hard you try to avoid them.

Have a sip!

I can see why the dog didn't want to drink.

Mutton snapper.

Not great sport at this size but still a welcome catch.

Better view.

I have to say that these snappers are beautiful fish.

Rock hind.

Another small species of grouper.

The gap.

With all these little reefs and slightly more depth the potential for big fish is certainly there.