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Angling in Northern Portugal.
We are just back from a visit to our third son, Richard, and his family who are currently living near Porto, Portugal. While we were there Richard and I did a fair amount of fishing, mainly for bass, from the local beaches. Richard's work commitments and his children's school regime, limited our fishing to short early morning or evening sessions. The fishing was a bit disappointing, but we had a few fish and my son (as he usually does these days) outfished me almost two to one. Despite the general lack of fish and the small size of the bass, we had an enjoyable time and even managed to catch one or two spotted bass (Dicentrarchus punctatus), a new species for me.
Richard displays the first, slightly gritty, bass of our trip (caught by me on a 19cm, weighted Redgill).
Richard's first bass caught, on his favourite plug, just after first light, from quite rough sea, over the rocks.
Calm seas are unusual on the northern coast of Portugal so the first week of my stay was surprising in that there was rarely more than a metre or so of surf and quite often less. After our first, blank, session we had nixed fortunes but never landed more than three or four fish in one of our hour-long trips. My third fish was a spotted bass and over all our catches these fish represented about a fifth of the bass we landed. As far as I could tell the two species were behaving in exactly the same manner and seemed equally keen (or reluctant) to take our lures. Overall we had about sixteen or seventeen bass between us, with nothing much bigger than a kilo in weight. By far the biggest fish was a thick lipped mullet of about 2kg which was accidentally foul hooked on Richard's Crystal Minnow and for a while it did an excellent impression of a decent bass. The only other species of fish we had was a small garfish - again on my son's lure. I think that about two thirds of the fish took Richard's plugs, although we both used softbaits (both weighted and unweighted) for well over half the fishing time.
In the second week the surf was more typical and the waves were a good deal bigger. Things also blew up a bit and there was often more weed on the beaches and in the water. However, the quality of the fishing didn't really change. We still found it difficult to predict when and where we would get bites and were often surprised to find beaches which, for days, had been piled high with loose kelp suddenly buried under clean, deep sand. We pressed on and caught bass in a random fashion. Whatever the conditions the bites and fish often came in only a few centimetres of water as the waves finally swept up over the sand and around our booted feet.
There were a few entertaining events - sadly, none of them were caught on camera. The first one was when Rich, concentrating on his spinning, put his foot on a rock covered in black slimy, algae and as I looked round I saw him ungracefully fall onto his back, with arms, legs and rod in the air like a distressed tortoise, as a wave swept over him. His other acrobatics involved, firstly, stepping, in the dark, over a steep, metre-deep 'step' in the sloping beach and falling to his knees as he saved the rod and reel from being buried in the sand. The third event was another ducking, much the wettest, when, as he tried to dodge a big wave, it whipped his feet from under him and dumped him on all fours in the heavy undertow. Of course I couldn't do anything but laugh. Rich had the last laugh of course, when he caught another couple of bass as I blanked again.
The sun is up and all's right with the world as Richard fetches another small bass to have its picture taken.
Richard with another early morning bass. Note the kelp buried in the sand.
My first ever
The fish has a small head, larger eye, deeper body and rows of black spots.
I'm pleased with my spotted bass again caught on the weighted Redgill..
Richard with another spotted bass. The fish typically took in the flat 'table' of water close to where he stands.
An evening and a morning session when the water was a bit rougher. The fish were still present at times.
My son with yet another plugged schoolie.
Just to finish off I should say that a LOT of people fish in North Portugal. However, while we were there the number of people spinning was quite small compared to what I've seen on previous visits. The vast majority of shore and pier anglers fish with long (5m+) rods with fine tips. From the beaches and rocks they either float fish or leger/paternoster using small hooks baited with worm or bits of sardine or squid. We have rarely seen anyone catch anything and up to now nothing at all of any great size. Richard's few bass of 5 to 8lb, which he has caught by spinning, are by far the largest fish that we have seen. I found all of this difficult to understand in view of the past reputation of this coastline for large bass.
We now have a better understanding of what is going on. On the recent visit we had two walks along the long river-mouth jetty of "The Foz". On our evening, last light, walk we did a bit of spinning and I actually hooked and dropped a mackerel on my wedge (species 1). The vast majority of the (?100+) anglers who were in action were float fishing with the very long, fine-tipped rods. They used extremely large floats (duck-egg sized), mostly containing bright green lights and beneath them were suspended a variety of small, baited hooks. The fish that we saw caught were a scad (2), a couple of small grey mullet (3) and a small school bass(4). One angler spinning with a small, metal lure had a mackerel and a scad. A couple of days later, on a sunny morning walk in the same area the anglers were doing more or less the same thing, using large orange coloured floats and catching similar fish, mostly less than 0.5kg (1lb) in weight, plus a few sardines, and netting them using small (30cm) diameter nets on long poles so that they could reach the water. large fish did not seem to be on the agenda, although it is possible that they are at other times of the year.
Anglers fishing The Foz with long rods and float gear..
Another shot with a better view of the rods and the jetty. A float (unusually, smaller and white-painted in this case) is arrowed.
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