Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


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Spawning Fish and Close Seasons

10 June 2009

When I was a lad (a long time ago) I accepted the need for a close season without much thought. It seemed quite reasonable that anglers should 'give the fish a few months to spawn without molesting them'. Also it was common knowledge that yer evil poacher would sneak up on fish preoccupied with sex, stick a trident in them and carry them off for dinner. Of course, in recent years there have been dramatic changes in our attitude to fish in general and to close seasons in particular. Nowadays, lakes are fished more or less round the year with no apparent ill effect. It's likely that there is a bit more disturbance on hard-fished still waters during the traditional springtime break but let's face it bird watchers, dog walkers, photographers and general lovers of the countryside (most of whom are much less aware of the vagaries wildlife than we are as anglers) still tramp the margins of our lakes, canals, rivers and sea shores irrespective of them being open to fishing. The excuses about trampling of plants, disturbance of nesting birds and other 'red herring' reasons for maintaining fishing close seasons just don't exist.

Anyway, this is all by the way, I've more or less given up arguing for doing away with close seasons altogether (heads and brick walls spring to mind). What I am really interested in is whether there might be any benefits to fish of a period of lay off from angling specifically at spawning time. Firstly, we have to bear in mind that fish spawn at different times of the year so, ideally the pike and dace close (=spawning) season might be in March-April, the carp close season might be in May-July, the trout close season might be in October-December, the salmon close season might be in November-February and so on. This is simply to cover the range and variation of spawning times without allowing any major period of recovery for a species after it had spawned. In waters containing lots of species this might only leave August and September free for fishing. Not so good eh!

However, my recent experiences with carp suggest that the fish may impose their own close seasons. Perhaps, at spawning time, many species will not be the slightest bit inclined to take a bait. So, assuming that no one is going to foul-hook spawning fish for sport (which would be illegal anyway) there may be no need to have a close season for such fish. Clearly this doesn't apply to species like salmon or trout which, because they defend territories at and before spawning, are actually easier to catch at these times than at others. I might say that this has not stopped anglers fishing for them and you only have to look in the pages of any game fishing magazine to see that most very large salmon are caught in late Autumn and are males in spawning livery (reddish or brownish coloration, strongly hooked lower jaws, etc.). I wonder how many species fall into the former category (sex but no food) and how many the latter (aggressive sexual behaviour). My guess would be that there is a wide range of behaviours and for certain every species is different. Do species that spawn en masse become totally preoccupied and those that pair up one to one fall easily to baits and lures? - it would be interesting to know.

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 - docladle@hotmail.com

Not interested.

Many members of the carp family may be tricky to tempt at spawning time and thus impose their own 'close season'.

Easy meat.

This very old picture of a big male salmon caught accidentally round about Christmas time is typical of fish species which can be near suicidal as spawning approaches.