Tackle and Tactics
Why, when and where?.
In my younger days an “All Night” fishing trip meant just that. We (and most of my mates were just as daft as I was) would be setting our gear up on the beach well before dusk.Two rods apiece, every bait imaginable and enough provisions, enthusiasm and energy to last us till the following dawn. Our return home frequently coincided with the first stirrings of our neighbours.
On one memorable morning my pal Harry was so touched by his wife’s surprise at him “being out of bed already” that he did not have the heart to tell her that he was, in fact, just about to retire for a kip. He simply went in to the kitchen and made breakfast for the family!
I suppose that the object of these prolonged fishing trips was to make certain, that whenever the fish decided to feed, we would be ready for them! Despite our marathon stints on the beach it was rare that the fish fed furiously (if they fed at all) for more than an hour or so at a time. These bouts of frenzied activity were often punctuated by long spells of waiting for anything resembling a bite.
During these intermissions the mind would begin to play tricks so that the rock steady rod tip would appear to twitch and bend seductively, rousing us in to a few minutes of animated anticipation. This was the usual pattern of events and, of course, much of the waiting time we spent in discussing why we were not “getting any bites”, a favourite topic for all anglers.
The usual outcome of our periods of deep thought regarding the absence of bites/fish was that we hadn’t a clue what was going on beneath the waves but it was generally agreed that either; (1) The fish were not there, or (2) The fish were there but they were not hungry.Generally, there is no way of deciding which of these possibilities is true but Dr Hall and his scientific colleagues in Aberdeen have recently (not quite so recently – I wrote this in 1991) added to our store of knowledge on the feeding activity of some popular angling species.
The work was carried out in ten to fifteen metres of water over a stretch of sandy seabed off the west coast of Scotland. The commonest animals in the sand were sand hoppers of various kinds but razorfish, worms, swimming crabs and many other forms of life were abundant on and beneath the sediment.
Every couple of months nets were set for a twenty four hour period to catch fish near the sea bed. The nets were lifted at three-hour intervals to see what was about at each time of night and day.
During the same twenty-four hour spell three anglers fished from a dinghy anchored at the same spot 200 meters from the netting position. The anglers fished for one hour in every three using tackle baited with mussels. During the year 19 different sorts of fish were caught but by far the most numerous were cod, whiting, coalfish and dabs and in fact these provided enough information for scientific analysis.
Of course, the idea of fishing with set nets and rods “side by side” was that nets should catch “what was present” while the rods caught “what was feeding”. In fact, the outcome was a bit surprising because there seemed to be no difference in the pattern of catches over the year between the two methods. A proportion of the fish were catchable at any season quite an encouraging thought for us rod and liners. As there were no apparent differences all the catches could be lumped together.
When this was done, the different species fell clearly in to several groups. The WHITING WERE, not surprisingly, CAUGHT ONLY IN THE WINTER, although trawlers working in deeper water, further from the shore, took plenty of these fish even in the warmer months of the year. DABS AND COALFISH, in contrast, WERE ESSENTIALLY SUMMER SPECIES with catches falling off in the colder months. The many other species caught cod, bullheads (sea scorpions) and poor cod (rather like tiny pouting but much more often found in sandy areas) were present in numbers, more or less, through out the year.
The research also showed the time of day when the fish were more active. If the day was divided in to three sections, daytime, nighttime and dawn/dusk, once again the fish each had their own distinct preferences.
No species were caught most in the dawn/dusk sessions but DABS AND especially WHITING WERE CLEARLY NOCTURNAL and were captured almost entirely at night. COD DID NOT SEEM TO MIND WHAT TIME OF DAY IT WAS while COALFISH, although some were landed at night, WERE MOST ACTIVE IN THE DAYLIGHT HOURS. Amazingly the tidal rhythm did not make much difference to any of the fish except that the COD WERE CAUGHT MOST OFTEN TOWARDS SLACK WATER, either high or low.
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Why, when and where?.
Daily pattern of fish inshore.