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).
Are things looking up?
On the 7th of August I posted a web page bemoaning the lack of fish at a particular rock mark which, over the years, consistently produces large bags of pollack, mackerel, school bass, garfish and other small predatory fish. Essentially I said that in previous weeks I'd been down there three or four times and caught virtually nothing. Now we all have thin spells and I’m used to them but this was exceptional – believe me. My pal Dave Baker who has fished the same place a fair amount confirmed my thoughts saying that in August it should be alive with schoolies, mackerel and pollack. After several more blanks at the spot I went again yesterday morning (21st August – I’m a glutton for punishment). I spent twenty minutes fishing with a single hooked wedge at this place and had eleven mackerel in eleven casts. I also had one on the fly. These are my bass baits for the rest of the season. Of course one swallow doesn’t make a summer so this doesn’t mean that the fish will now return (although they might) and certainly doesn’t mean that the lack of fish this year was normal – it wasn’t.
Anyway, in the blog I asked “WHY AREN'T THE FISH THERE THIS SUMMER?” I suggested that it might be related to the prolonged, mild, stormy winter? My pals tell me that other similar marks in Purbeck were also more or less devoid of fish. My question was “Are the fish elsewhere or are they just absent?” I had lots of responses and I think they were interesting so here’s a summary edited by me to give an overall picture. I’ve left out a number of reports that simply confirmed a general lack of fish and others which speculate on reasons such as climate change and overfishing but almost all of them confirmed the strange lack of fish despite (or possibly because of) the fine weather we’ve had - On the 7th of August Glyn Britton, who fishes the Gower in Wales, said that where they fish they had been experiencing the same lack of fish for the previous month. He said that they’d started off well till about 4 weeks back (June/July) and then it went down to one bass per session from having decent catches each time they went. Weather or tide or lure type made no difference - the fish just weren't taking and few showed on the surface (they usually do). At this point they were catching nothing.’
Glyn said ‘One odd thing did occur around the time they started to "go off" a shoal of mackerel came into area earlier than normal for about 4/5 days and just about the same time as they left the area so the bass catches diminished even the live sandeel boys couldn't touch fish. We are of the mind now that the bass have either moved off around the coast following the food or gone offshore for the same reason.’
Again on the 7th of August my pal Eoghan Lynch over in Ireland said ‘I just read the blog. I will say there are numerous threads on this subject at the moment with a hell of a lot of worried people and a lot of debate on an Irish fishing forum. People like yourself shocked at the lack of fish around various parts of the country with mackerel being noticeable absentees. They just aren’t there. Even offshore..! It’s very worrying.’‘He said that a lot of people blaming commercial overfishing and that a very accomplished angler friend of his who lives in Brandon had only two bass all July..!!! The chap in question puts in many hours a month and said that the lack of sprats and gannets, terns etc is very noticeable.’
Michael Morgan, also in Southern Ireland, said he had also noticed the complete lack of mackerel and wondered if it might be due to climate change affecting the sea. Chris Davies commented that the absence of fish tied in nicely with his recent (late July) experience, also in Kerry, and commented that a local expert said that the bass numbers are well down compared to only a few years ago.
Peter Trainor said that every year for the past 21 years him and three pals have travelled to N.W. Scotland for a week of bass and pollack fishing. Over the last 10 years their catch had increased to a maximum of over 130 Bass in a week (All returned) until 2013 when they had 9 between them and 2014 when eight of them only managed to get 3 bass. According to Peter not only have the bass and pollack disappeared, so have the mackerel, dogfish, conger and all baitfish such as sprats and sandeels. In addition he had reports from friends, who fish from Kayaks, that they have not had fish this year from either coast SW or NE.
Jonny Haughton who fishes with lures from a kayak in my neck of the woods (South Dorset) made a comment that went slightly against the trend saying that two weeks ago (third week in July), there were no bass but loads of the fattest mackerel he had seen a week or two later he had no mackerel but plenty of small bass. Adrian Hodgson on the west Cumbrian coast said that their fishing had also been pathetic - no bass, mackerel or pollack.
On the 12th of August Julian Mahoney who fishes the Solent area said that the last 2 years have been very poor and this year hopeless so far - 6 outings and not even a pull. On nearly all of those outings he'd been accompanied by a pal who fished feathers or spinners and had the same result. There had been no sign of garfish or baitfish or terns or mackerel and he'd have only heard an occasional report of a large bass being caught by bait fishers. Only once this year had they seen a mackerel being caught by another angler.
Julian suggests that the most likely reason is there are no bait fish for them to feed on, that mackerel might be overfished commercially or that climate change and the increase in sea temperature of our coastal waters (especially notable this year) may have caused prey and fish to relocate.
Dean Gifford says that the lack of fish appears to be a re-occurring theme around the country and that a number of species; most noticeably mackerel are in short supply. He appended a detailed picture of the recent poor fishing in south Wales.
As Dean says - All the information is anecdotal, and it seems that there may be a gap (possibly sandeels) somewhere in the food chain. Early in the season fish numbers seemed promising but it would appear the fish have moved off for some reason but the reason isn’t clear. He also comments that water temperatures have been very high but dropped recently which might result in a change for the better.
Of course despite all these reports we can’t leap to any firm conclusions and I didn’t expect to. No doubt I could find other anglers who would tell me that they’ve had excellent fishing. Although some emails have commented on the general decline in fishing of all kinds over recent years (I don’t doubt it) that’s not really what I had in mind. I just wondered whether anyone had noticed a several week (or several month) long blip in the presence of fish such as mackerel, pollack and bass. It would seem that quite a few did. It seems that it may have been general extending from the coasts of Scotland, the north of England, Wales, Ireland and the south and west coasts of England.
Perhaps I can end on a brighter note? On the eighth of August I had reports from two pals, Nigel and Richard, that there was a big shoal of mackerel on the Chesil and Nigel just back from Cornwall had seen a huge shoal of these fish feeding close inshore while he was away. Together with my recent catch from the mark that started me thinking in the first place it seems that things may be looking up. As a matter of interest the mackerel which I caught had all been feeding on tiny 5-7cm sprats so perhaps it won’t be long until other predatory fish follow and give us a good autumn.
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org