Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A fine bass - 26th June 2011

I have been very busy over the last couple of weeks so have not had the opportunity to do much fishing. I did have a couple of evening lure sessions last week but was beaten by the weed and murky water. So last Sunday evening I decided to have a beach session. I dug some lug over the last hour of the ebb and headed to a beach mark.

There was a nice surf, not big, just moderate rollers, which is what I prefer for this particular beach. It was a nice warm evening, very little wind, it finally felt like summer! I got set up at my favourite spot. But I was not alone there were five anglers a hundred meters or so down from me and at least two at the far end of the beach.

I set up two rods, one with a 5/0 pennel pulley, the other with a 3/0 pennel pulley. I cast the larger hook rig out as far as I could and the other to moderate distance. It was quite for the first hour but as soon as the sun had set and the light began to go I had a strong tug on the distance rod. I grabbed it and stuck, hooking into a decent fighting fish. I few minutes later I hauled a gleaming silver bass out of the surf. It was 53 cm and a little over 3.5 lbs. A good start!!

A few minutes later as I was returning from the bait bucket with a couple of fresh worms I spotted a sharp pull on the other rod, dropped the worms and ran to the rod. I picked it up, struck, but it felt like I was stuck into something solid. For a moment I thought I was snagged, but then it began to give a little, I hauled on the rod, but there was only a little movement. I  thought I must have snagged a huge clump of kelp, but then felt a kick, suddenly I realized there was a very good fish on the end. A fierce struggle then ensued, after about 10 minutes I had it in close, then a clump of kelp appeared out of the water. At first I thought it was on my shock leader knot but afterwards discovered that I had snagged somebodies lost line which was tangled up in the kelp. That caused a bit of a panic as I tried to clear my line, got it clear and fortunately the fish was still on the end. As I eased it into the shallows it thrashed about ferociously and eventually I had it on the sand. It was a fine bass, in great conditions, stocky and powerful. It was not the longest bass I have caught this year at 71 cm but it was the heaviest. It weighed 8 lb 10 oz, so was a new personal best. It had been feeding well since spawning and was above average weight for its length.

The fight must have exhausted the fish as it was very slow to recover when I tried to release it. For a while I thought it wasn't going to make it, a wave knocked the fish out of my hand and it floated on its side but when I reached to grab it again it gave a powerful sweep of the tail and surged off. Maybe I will meet it again next year when it may weigh over 10 lbs.

About 30 minutes later as I was moving the rods and rod stand back I had the drag loosened so I could move the rods, but after I repositioned the stand the line was still spooling off one of the reels. Was there a fishing running with the bait? I tightened the drag, reeled in some slack and struck. I could feel a good fish on the end. It took a while to reel it in as a lot of line had spooled off the reel and the fish was fighting strongly. It was another good bass, 60 cm and weighing 5 lbs.

It was quite for a while after that, then I spotted some twitches on one of rods. I held the rod and waited, I thought it was probably small flounder pulling on the bait but then felt a stronger pull. I struck and hooked a fish. This was not putting up such a strong fight and turned out to be the smallest bass of the night at 47 cm.

I stayed on for about another hour, but then the weed became very bad. It had been fine most of the night, just a few strands now and then, but suddenly it appeared, dragging up the line and bending the rods over. In amongst it all I did manage to get a 35 cm flounder but it got too difficult to fish so I packed up. However, I went home very happy, 4 bass including a new PB!!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Off to a good start - 16th June 2011

At long last the bass ban has finished!!
I reckoned that the strong steady southwesterly wind during the day would have blow up a good surf on south facing beaches. I arrived at the beach at about 11.20 pm, made my way down to my favourite mark and proceeded to get set up. It was a lovely night to be out, mild, very light breeze and the beach was illuminated by a bright full moon on a clear night.

I decided to use three rods in order to fish a range of distances. I used 4/0 and 5/0 pennel pulleys on the two rods cast to long and intermediate distances and a 4/0 running ledger on the rod cast in close. I had a good stock of freshly dug lug plus some razor. There was a moderate to weak surf, I had expected it to be bigger, although it did increase as the tide pushed in. As the surf was not too strong I reckoned that lug would be the best bait.

I had all three rods set up and baited with lug just before 12 am, and on the stroke of midnight began to cast them out. Initially I snagged a few clumps of kelp on the rod at distance, so began to cast that to intermediate distance also. Low tide was at 12.30 am and it was quite until the tide started its initial push in, then there was a sudden sharp tug on one of the intermediate distance rods. I struck and began to retrieve. From the fight I was sure it was a bass, but not a big one. A few minutes later I hauled a 43 cm bass out of the surf - a good start!!!

Maybe 20 minutes later I had a second, much the same size at 44 cm.

This was followed by another three bass over the next hour or so. They were all of a similar size range, 43 cm, 41 cm and 47 cm and all hooked on lug at intermediate distance. The rod in close was quite, so for a lot of the time it was out of the water, but I was intending to use it again closer to high tide when the water depth in close increases as the beach steepens up.

It was quite for about 30 minutes after that apart from a small 21 cm flounder. Then as I was returning from casting out one of the rods I spotted the line on the other had gone slack. I grabbed it and rapidly reeled in the slack. There was a lot of slack line but eventually I caught up with the fish. This was putting up a better fight compared to the previous bass and was pulling strongly as I got it into the shallows. I could see it splashing about in the moonlight. It was a 51 cm bass, the best of the session.

I had been thinking of having a lure session at dawn but as the sky lightened I could see large waves crashing on to the rocks to the east. It looked too rough for that and the water in the mark that I wanted to fish would very likely have been highly coloured and weedy. So I perservered with bait fishing. 

I had one more bass after that at dawn, a 45 cm fish.

The fishing then died down and all I had was one more tiny flounder of about 18 cm.

I packed up at high tide at 6.30 am after using all the lug. So not a bad start to the reopening of the bass season, 7 bass ranging from 41-51 cm and a couple of small flounder.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

2.00 pm 15th June - 10 hours to go !!!!!!

The end of the bass ban is finally in sight - it seems to have been a long month!!

I am just back from digging lug over low tide. The worms have been fattening up over the last month, I dug for about an hour and probably got close to 150, most of them big and fat, plenty in the 6-9 inch range and a few up to 12 inches.

I will be heading out at about 11 pm tonight, get to the beach, set up and make the first cast on the stroke of midnight. Conditions should be good for bait fishing, while I was digging the lug there was a strong steady southwesterly wind which should blow up a nice surf. I will probably fish all the way up to high tide at 6.20 am. I was intending to spend about 4 hours bait fishing and then move to a rock mark for a dawn lure session but I think the strong winds will probably have resulted in highly coloured water. But if the wind dies down during the night I might still do that. I would prefer to lure fish in the morning but I will use which ever method, bait or lure, that is likely to produce the best result.

Monday, 6 June 2011

A load of Pollocks - 3rd & 4th June 2011

3rd June:  I hadn't been fishing since the bass ban came into force so with warm calm weather forecast for the weekend it was time to get out and wet a line. I planned to mostly lure fish but I took along some rag too. I headed to a deepish water mark that I reckoned should throw up some pollock and maybe wrasse too.

I arrived at the mark at about 7.00 pm (high tide at 7.30 pm).  It was a warm sunny evening and the sea was dead calm, like a lake. I put on an Xlayer and lobbed it out a short distance. On about the third cast I had a pollock of approximately 2 lb. I had a few more casts without a bite so decided to try some rag. I freelined a large king ragworm, letting it drift down over a ledge. I was hoping some wrasse would be lurking under there. Almost immediately I was getting tugs on the bait, and then hooked a pollock, again about 2 lb. This was followed by another three pollock in the 1-2 lb range. But no wrasse.

I was fishing an area of deep water just to the east of a shallow bay. The bay is a good mark for bass but once the water depth increases they dont seem to move any further east. However, I could see an angler fishing close to the western end of the bay. In that area he could only be targeting bass - despite the ban!!!

I switched back to an Xlayer and after a few casts landed another pollock. I had another three pollock on the Xlayer, all in close but small, nothing above 1.5 lbs. I found a stop/start method of retrieve worked best, reel in at a slow pace for a few seconds, stop and let the lure drop, most of the fish then struck. I switched to a small metal spinner so that I could cast out further. I did pick up a few pollock 30-40 m or so out. As the sun began to set the pollock began to feed more ferociously. I could feel them hitting the lure on every cast, hooked some and lost some. Most of the fish were small but a few were about 2 lbs.

I packed up at 10 pm so that I could make my way a back up the cliff while there was still some light. It was a good session with a total of 14 pollock.

4th June:  After the success of the previous session I headed to the same mark on Saturday but got there earlier at about 5.30 pm. I had a few casts with an Xlayer but nothing was biting. I then tried some float fishing with rag. However, unlike the previous day there was no interest. Then I spotted a disturbance in the bay to my right - a basking shark was crusing around very close to the shore. I stopped fishing and watched it for a while. It then swam out of the bay, at first it was moving westwards, but then turned and swam towards me, passing only 10 from the rock where I was fishing, before turning again and swiming diagonally away from the shore out to sea.

After that interruption it was back to fishing. I put an Xlayer back on and after a few casts had the first pollock, it was about 2 lbs. This was followed a little later by a second of approximately the same size.

It was then quite for a while so I switched to the metal spinner that had been successful the previous day and picked up another 2lb pollock.

I alternated between this lure, an Xlayer and various jelly worms for a while after that, but the bites were slow. At one stage when my lure hit the surface a fish lept out of the water close by. It looked long and slender, like a garfish but I wasn't sure as I only had a momentary glance at it. I had a few more pollock after that mostly on the spinner. Then suddenly I hooked something that was putting up a strong fight and not diving to the depths like the pollock tend to do. As I got it in close I could see it was a silvery fish but long and eel-like. I hauled it onto the rocks - it was a garfish!!!!

I foul hooked a baby garfish last year but this was the first time I have caught an adult garfish.

As the sun began to set the pollock came on the feed. They were hitting the lure on almost every cast and in amongst them all I caught a small coalfish.

However, the pollock were generally small, mostly in the 1 lb range. I was intending to pack up at 10 pm so at about 9.50 pm I put on a wave worm hoping that it might produce a bigger fish. Second cast I had a pollock of just over 2 lb, shortly followed by a second of about the same size.

I packed up just after 10 pm. So another successful session with a total of 17 pollock, 1 garfish and 1 coalfish.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A letter to the Minister

Minister Simon Coveney TD.
Dail Eireann,
Leinster House,
Dublin 2.
Dear Minister,
First of all I wish to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine.
In recent years the Irish Federation of Fishermen (FIF) have been lobbying the Government to allow the retention and landing of Sea Bass caught in Irish offshore waters. This would be disastrous to the bass population. After twenty years of protection Irish bass are gradually making a recovery. To permit commercial fishing for bass again would undo all the benefits of the last twenty years of protection in a very short space of time.
Sea bass are essentially an inshore species but in the winter they commonly move offshore. There is no evidence to support the presence of large shoals of offshore bass. The following is a quote taken from the Marine Institutes advice to Dail Eireann in 2008:
“The institute advises that the total size of the sea bass stock frequenting waters around Ireland is unknown, but is likely to be quite small, with a maximum estimate of 100 tonnes. It advises that, despite warming seas around our coasts, the species remains at the northern limit of its range. The institute advises that "there is currently no prospect of a sustainable commercial fishery for sea bass”.
Commercial netting of sea bass would without question decimate the population in a very short period of time for very limited short term gain.
Irish bass provide a very valuable recreational resource. Our inshore bass fisheries are the envy of European anglers. The economic benefits of angling tourism, not to mention the spending by Irish anglers, would far out strip the short term limited benefit to the national economy of opening up our waters to commercial bass fishing.
As sea bass stocks throughout Europe become severely depleted due to commercial over-fishing increasing numbers of foreign anglers are visiting our shores for bass fishing. The potential of bass as a tourism resource is far from been fully realized and has the potential to generate revenues for the State far in excess of the limited short term gain for a few commercial fishermen. The vast majority of visiting foreign bass anglers also practice catch and release so they are not harming the bass stocks.
The expenditure by overseas anglers visiting our shores is substantial. They are making a significant contribution to the local economy, staying in local guesthouses or hotels, eating in local restaurants and bars. They will also purchase bait locally and are likely to purchase tackle in local angling shops. They may utilize the services of local bass guides or take charter boat trips.
If more resources are devoted to the prevention of illegal netting and the promotion of bass angling tourism, bass as a sports fish can make a very valuable contribution to our economy as more overseas anglers visit our shores. I urge you to do your utmost to maintain the present ban on commercial bass fishing.

Yours sincerely,
Francis X. Murphy, B.Sc., Ph.D.

I have also sent a copy of this letter to his constituency office:
Main Street,
Co. Cork.

Since an important aspect of the argument for maintaining the ban on commercial bass fishing is the benefits of angling tourism to the economy the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar) should also be contacted. I have sent similar letters to him at Leinster House and to his constituency office:
37A Main Street,
Dublin 15.

I would urge every angler to do the same. In particular, overseas anglers who have visited Ireland for bass fishing should write to the relevant ministers and outline their expenditure during their stay.