Shakespeare Fishing Heroes is a show to celebrate and thank the unsung heroes of the sport that bring so much back into fishing but are also the ones that don’t get the recognition they deserve. When I was asked to be the Presenter of this inspiring show – I couldn’t believe it, to get to meet these Fishing Heroes and tell their powerful stories is an honour I don’t take lightly! We ask all on facebook if they know a Fishing Hero that they want to nominate – to get in touch and share your story! You can contact me via Zenia’s Fishing Adventures Page. We will be airing the next Fishing Heroes video on Matt Hayes Page in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for it! Time to celebrate fishing and the amazing people we have in this great sport.
When I started sea fishing over forty years ago many of fish we caught were killed to be weighed in at competitions, eaten or buried in the garden. Looking back what anglers did was wrong but we knew no different it was different times and there was little perception that fish stocks were dwindling. There was perhaps still a belief that god provides and that there would always be plenty more fish in the sea.
These are fortunately more enlightened times and most sea anglers practice catch and release keeping just the occasional fish for the table. It is vital that those fish we return to the water have a good chance of survival and I see more and more guidance on how to handle fish. The basics are to treat all fish with respect. Handle as little as possible and support the fish when posing for photos. Consider using circle hooks or barbless when appropriate and consider replacing trebles with singles. When weighing fish always use a purpose made weigh sling or carrier bag for smaller species. Do not dangle fish on the scales.
Coarse anglers have been returning fish to the water for the best part of a century and are in many ways ahead of the game. Weigh slings, unhooking matts and antiseptic ointments are now part of carp anglers standard kit. Rigs used are carefully designed to reduce the risk of tethering any fish that are lost.
Salmon anglers who once retained virtually every fish they caught now have to return close to 100% of the fish they catch. Salmon runs are generally on an alarming downward spiral for a multitude of reasons and it is anglers who are at the forefront of campaigns to protect the future of the species.
Please follow the following guide to good practice when releasing fish:
Use barbless hooks.
Use a fine knotless net.
Use strong tackle so fish can be played out and netted as quickly as possible.
Always net the fish: avoid handling fish and certainly do not pick them up by the tail to weigh or photograph.
Keep the fish in the water all the time: If you want to know the weight, measure the fish in the water and calculate accordingly. If you want to take a photo, do it while the fish is in the water.
Whilst there are those who seek to criticise or even ban angling on morale grounds it is frequently the anglers who are desperately trying to protect fish stocks from over fishing and habitat destruction. Perhaps it is because anglers have a direct interaction with nature by participating that they have a deep passion and love for the environment and the creatures that dwell within. I know that I am perhaps skating on thin ice here but many anglers I know have very a deep love of the countryside and the waters edge. There are of course those who leave litter, mistreat fish and show no respect for the countryside. These are unfortunately a significant minority within society as a whole.
As an angler I feel that I have a close connection with the environment both marine and countryside. Sometimes I question my deep passion for angling but it is this quest for fish that has taken me to some beautiful locations and I have seen many wonders of nature that many only see from their arm chairs on HD screens.
I have witnessed an alarming decline in our countryside in the half a century I have fished and I often fear that I am amongst a generation that has seen the tale end of anglings golden age. And perhaps if we are to believe the climate change protestors earths golden age as well?
April has to be one of my favourite months to target reservoir trout with that vibrancy of new life all around. Having enjoyed a good day at Wimbleball a few weeks ago I was keen to return and hopeful that with warm temperatures forecast there would be the chance of catching fish on the floating line.
This was to be a short session during the middle of the day with a catch and release ticket. Pauline would enjoy a well deserved rest with a good book whilst I waded out into the cool water. The drive across Exmoor proved to be an enjoyable experience with a stop off at Wheddon Cross to enjoy a Croissant and a hot coffee.
On arrival at Wimbleball it was clear that the holiday season had kicked off with families enjoying the warn sunshine, picnicking, floating about on the lake and generally having fun.
After checking into the ticket office and gleaning information from the catch returns it was time to head off and find a peaceful area of the lake away from the crowds. There is plenty of space at Wimbleball for everyone to do their thing. The information board in the ticket office indicated that some very good trout had been coming out to a variety of flies but that when the sun was out the fish tended to go down and become difficult to tempt.
We parked up past Bessoms Bridge and headed for the shallows where Jeff Pearce and I had enjoyed good sport a couple of weeks back.
I put down the tackle and surveyed the scenery. The lake stretched out before us sunlight twinkling on the ripples whilst a few swallows, swooped past and a butterfly fluttered in the light breeze. It was an idyllic spring day and with a warm sun and light breeze I was confident that the trout would be up in the water despite no signs of fish rising.
I waded out in to the crystal clear water and worked out a length of line to place a team of three flies. On the point a Montana, a buzzer and a Zulu on the droppers. I soon settled into that rhythmic routine of casting and retrieving. Birdsong, the call of toads and the sounds of people enjoying the day drifted across the water. My eyes searched the lake for feeding fish, my chilled fingers retrieving the line in slowly with the expectancy of that pleasing tug through the line.
After ten minutes or so the line pulled delightfully tight and a trout cartwheeled on a tight line before shedding the hook. That connection however brief always gives faith that the tactics will work and allows fishing to continue with conviction. It wasn’t too long before another trout was deceived and this time the barbless hook held firm. The trout was not to be easily subdued and threatened to strip line to the backing on several strong runs. After a couple of minutes the fish was ready for the net. A fin perfect rainbow of between four and five pounds.
As the afternoon approached I was pleased to hear the pleasing sound of trout rising. Several fish could be seen breaking the surface just out of casting range. After losing a couple of fish I eventually connected again and another stunning battle a rainbow of over four pounds was admired.
Pauline was called upon to briefly put down her book and capture the moments.
As the afternoon grew late it was unfortunately time to leave with other engagements looming away from the pleasing shores of this splendid lake. As other anglers passed by we chatted and exchanged notes. Several anglers had also enjoyed success and carried nets of weighty looking rainbows. As we walked back towards the car two anglers were fishing in the bay and one of them had hooked into a fine rainbow and was netting it as we approached. Yet another pristine full tailed rainbow of exactly 5lb was held up for the camera by captor Steve Essery who later informed me that he had finished his day with four fine trout scaling 2lb 4oz, 3lb 8oz and 3lb 10oz. His fishing companion had also enjoyed success ending with his five fish limit bag. He commented that it was great to see the fishery turned around under Mark Underhill’s management.
Wimbleball offers a superb trout fishing experience its not always easy but the fish are full tailed and hard fighting with the catch and release option working well. As the summer approaches it may well be worthwhile taking the option of a boat to cover more water. Summer evenings will I am sure provide some exciting sport from both bank and shore with free rising trout.
A fellow Combe Martin Sea Angling Club member contacted me recently asking me to write a few words about grey mullet and why they should be given more respect.
I have put a link below to the National Mullet Clubs page that gives plenty of scientific data explaining why the grey mullet is so vulnerable so I suggest you read through that after reading my personal comment.
I started fishing for grey mullet during the early 1970’s whilst on holiday with my parents in Looe on the South Cornish coast. As a teenager who also coarse fished I found the grey mullet that haunted the harbour a great challenge and relished the hard fight they gave on the light tackle used. When I returned home to Combe Martin I was amongst a small number of anglers who targeted the species from many marks around Combe Martin landing numerous fish to over 4lb. Even back then I only kept the occasional fish for the table as fresh mullet from the sea do make good eating. I am ashamed to admit that I also killed fish to weigh in at competitions something I have not done now for at least ten years.
Whilst I believe anglers should have the right to take the occasional fish for the table I no longer do so. I value the fact that mullet provide exciting sport and whilst they can be very frustrating to catch at times they are also one of the most satisfying fish to catch.
I have seen a dramatic decline in numbers of mullet in some areas and know that the fish are very vulnerable to overfishing. I visited Alderney in the Channel Islands on several occasions when mullet where prolific and grew to a large size. From what I hear there has been a dramatic decline on this Island and on the nearby Island of Sark that we fished over several seasons catching several specimen mullet and glimpsing fish far larger.
In the past grey mullet were often overlooked by commercial fishing but dwindling stocks of other species due to overfishing has increased interest in these fish. Grey mullet are very slow growing fish not maturing to breeding size until close to ten years old. The fish also return to the same haunts year on year making them extremely vulnerable.
If you value the sport that mullet provide then please return them carefully to the water. If you don’t value them don’t fish for them.
I have memory’s of sad days in the past when I witnessed the despicable act of snatching mullet using large treble hooks. To see these fine sporting fish impaled on hooks dripping blood was a sad sight and gave genuine anglers a bad name.
When fishing for mullet handle the fish with care. Unhook carefully use a weigh sling or plastic bag to weigh the fish and don’t let the fish flap about on the rocks where they can dislodge scales increasing the risk of infection.
The current need for management measures as the consequence to the gross overfishing for bass can be argued in exactly the same way for grey mullet – the factors which make the bass population
vulnerable are not only applicable to grey mullet but arguably apply in even greater measure to them:
Mullet aggregate to spawn in areas that make them very easy to find and exploit.
Grey mullet have a very slow growth rate and mature at a relatively old age.
A proportion of the mullet population may only spawn every two years.
They are very easy to net in harbours and estuaries especially with monofilament gill nets.
They have high site fidelity resulting in fished-out areas being slow to recover.
Minimum landing sizes are either non-existent or inadequate.
No other management measures exist as they have always been considered to be of limited
Commercial fishing is increasing due to the restrictions on bass fishing and that they are
targeted as a means to justify a high bycatch of bass.
As commercial fishing increases, the stock decreases leading to increased value which further
increases fishing pressure.
The available data on the populations of the three native UK grey mullet species (Chelon labrosus, Liza aurata and L. ramada) is limited compared with that for more southerly populations (which tend to be faster growing and earlier maturation). However, enough is known to conclude that their slow growth and late maturation will not support high levels of commercial activity, as is evident from the large decline in catches, both commercial and recreational, and other evidence. Tulkani (2017) argues that there are no quotas set and there are no management plans currently in force to regulate either fishery. Clearly future research work should focus on providing the biological data required for the development of sustainable exploitation plans. As research takes time, which grey mullet arguably have not got, then the precautionary principle should be that rigorous measures are taken now to severely curtail, if not eliminate, commercial activity.
Statement from the mullet club
We at the NMC believe these are special fish. As a recreational species they are enigmatic, a challenge worthy of any angler’s attention and fully deserving their reputation as the ‘British bonefish’. Mullet take over ten years to mature, live over twenty-five years, and migrate hundreds even thousands of miles returning to their previous haunts year after year. Their lifecycle makes them extremely vulnerable to overfishing; evidence shows this is already happening as commercial and recreational landings shrink as commercial effort increases.
Sadly a year later I still get reports of issues relating to angling litter and whilst anglers are not exclusive in leaving litter they should be appreciative of the environment that is surely an integral part of what angling is about? I recently received this sad image of a popular North Devon Rock Mark the angler who sent this is to be commended for picking up the rubbish and removing it from the venue. We must all make every effort reduce litter and leave nothing at the waters edge accept memories.
Line is one of the major angling related litter issues and a new scheme is being launched to encourage responsible disposal. I will be speaking with local tackle shops and perhaps clubs to see if we can get access to the scheme here in North Devon.
Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme see link below :-
I will publish the occasional old Journal column from ten years or so back as its often interesting to look back and see whats changing.
ANGLING REPORT January 27th 2008
Spring on its way
The recent mild weather is bringing many signs of spring. Frogs have already deposited plenty of spawn in many ponds and bird song is already ringing out. Spring bulbs such as snowdrops and primroses are already out with daffodils well advanced. In lakes and ponds fish will also be stirring and starting to feed more frequently. Whilst many anglers will be targeting carp it could be worth trying a float-fished lobworm in the margins for perch. Attract them with a steady trickle of maggots and chopped worm. The perch is surely our most handsome fish and some huge specimens reside in our local Stillwater’s. Perhaps there lurks a fish to beat the new British record scaling 6lb 2oz that was recently landed from the River Thames.
Bideford Angling Clubs January Coarse match at Riverton saw Nielson Jeffery secure victory with a net of mostly carp totalling 19lb 9oz. Steve Baileys net of 12lb 9oz took the runner spot. John Lisle’s net of silver fish weighing 11lb 2oz taking third.
Stafford Moor continues to provide excellent sport with some impressive weights coming from Tanners and Woodpecker. Nathan Underwood took top spot in a recent Sunday open match with 127lb of carp. The carp took 8mm pellet fished beneath a waggler float. If conditions remain mild then some of the specimen lakes larger residents should be banked. Fishery owner Andy Seary has invited any angler who lands the thirty pound carp stocked recently the opportunity to name the fish. The angler will also receive a weekend’s free fishing.
On the open coast anglers continue to hope for a cod or two. I fished two sessions last week in what I would have termed ideal conditions for cod. A few dogfish and Pollock were all that succumbed to my offerings. Cod are now very scarce in comparison to ten or twenty years ago when devotees landed double figure fish on a regular basis. I have heard of a 16lb fish but have no confirmation. A few anglers have also reported losing fish into double figures. Lets hope I can report on a big cod before the winter is out. Marks within the estuary are giving a few codling to 5lb along with several bass to 6lb. Fresh crab is the most successful bait.
Whilst there are no cod there are plenty of other species to fill the void. In Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs roving match last week it was Kevin Legge who continued his recent run of form landing a specimen conger of 26lb 4oz. Paul Widlake took the runner up spot with a bull huss of 9lb 8¼oz and Andy Joslin third with a conger of 15lb 9oz. Members reported taking plenty of dogfish, whiting and pollock from various marks along the coast.
Combe Martin SAC member Guy Sprigg’s landed a fine blonde ray of 15lb 4oz from a local rock mark.
Bideford angling clubs latest mid week rover saw Stuart Bailey take a 1lb 15oz dogfish for top spot. A nice whiting of 14⅞oz for Nick Jobe took second with Jazza John securing third with a doggie of 1lb 13⅝oz.
Tony Gussin secured victory in Rod N Reeler’s monthly Rover landing a specimen small-eyed ray of 11lb 15½oz. In runner up spot Julian Stainer with a dogfish of 2lb 10½oz and in third Tony Werner with a doggie of 2lb 9oz.
The recent conditions are ideal for targeting trout on small Stillwater’s. I seldom find it necessary to use a sinking line relying on a nymph pattern fished on a long leader in combination with a floating line. A slow retrieve generally proves effective with an occasional twitch often triggering a take. Bratton Water is an ideal choice offering clear water and hard fighting rainbows. Owner Mike Williams tells me that visitors to the water have been enjoying some good sport recently with fish taking dry flies on a regular basis. Best fish in recent weeks was a rainbow of 7lb 8oz to the rod of T.Evans. Several five fish bags to 17lb have been taken.
Congratulations to Steve Dawe on an amazing year of fishing and fund raising for the stroke association. I have already ordered my copy of Steves book recording his amazing year of species hunting and will review it within these pages. Many thanks to Steve for writing the below report for North Devon angling News.
The challenge to catch 52 UK species in 52 weeks ended on December the 31stwith a final push to track down a 3 Bearded Rockling from a mark in Ilfracombe. Despite great advice on location and tactics from two very good North Devon anglers the species remained elusive although Pollack, Pouting and Congers provided a distraction. My final total for the year long challenge ended on 77 species when I finally got one of my nemesis species the Spotted Ray while fishing aboard Mike Webbers Teddie Boy out of Minehead. The Spotted Ray alone had taken 9 sessions across the year before I finally got the target, it does sum up the challenge that targeting a certain fish species presents.
Fish just don’t read a script and despite anglers I know catching the Spotted Ray with impunity if you don’t have a slice of luck to add to the time spent on the bank then that magic fish can prove difficult. Over the year the North Devon Coast and Bristol Channel have been good to me on the species front with, Conger, Spurdog, Bullhuss, Dab, Hounds, Cod and Flounder all ticked off the list from the North coast.
This was largely down to great skippers and unconditional advice from several of the North Coast’s best anglers, you guys know who you are, and I and the Stroke Association are extremely grateful. During the challenge I notched up over 7000 miles, 115 sessions, 52 sea species, 25 coarse and game. Out of that total 44, were personal bests, a statistic I am sure I will never match or exceed again.
I must also thank Wayne who does a sterling job of reporting and promoting fishing events and achievements through his pages. Wayne invited me to attend the Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs annual fun day at Ilfracombe this summer, and it was a great few hours spent with future anglers catching mini species. This event alone raised £25 for the charity in coin donations placed in the charity box, typical of the generosity shown by anglers and their families this year. Many people I met this year know someone or have had a family member effected by a Stroke, this life changing condition can affect everyone young and old.
Last Saturday I was joined by my good friend and inspiration for this challenge Andy Adams, Andy was a dedicated angler who was hit out of the blue with a massive stroke. The stroke has left Andy wheel chair bound and in need of a full-time carer, what it didn’t take however was his fighting spirit. Together we presented a cheque for £1340.00 to Hayley Ali of the Stroke Association while at a lunch down in the port of Looe.
I was asked by several of the readers of my blog to consider writing a book of the year long challenge, I have managed to complete this to coincide with the cheque presentation. The book titled Fishty Two Weeks in a Yearis available from Amazon as a Kindle version and Paperback.
All profits from the sale of this book will also go to the Stroke Association, so anyone buying are helping this great cause. Although I may have been the figurehead of this challenge it was only possible due to the copious amounts of goodwill, professionalism and support of my fellow anglers and friends so I salute you all.
Its often good to cast a line from a different shore and this seemed extra relevant as 2019 gets underway bringing a renewed focus on club fishing events. There has been considerable interest among many sea anglers on fishing for squid using jigging tactics and myself and several members of Combe Martin SAC were keen to have a go. After a few discussions over a beer at the end of a 2018 club meeting a plan was put in place.
As is often the case when the day came several club members could not make it but five of us could and so on January 5th we set off on the journey to Torquay and Princess Pier. The location had been chosen after reading reports of squid being caught on a regular basis. The alternative venue was Weymouth which was a bit further but potentially more reliable. On this occasion being a our first squid foray we decided upon this closer to home venue as a training ground to gain experience.
We had also heard reports of a few mackerel being caught and this would be a welcome opportunity to stock up the bait freezer with both squid and mackerel. A visit to Ilfracombe’s High Street Tackle ensured that we had a few lures and Sabika feathers.
The trip down to Torquay proved uneventful and by 1.30pm the intrepid five were lined up on the front of Torquays Princess pier. The seaside town seemed quite vibrant and busy with plenty of tourists strolling along the prom on this cold calm winters day. Behind us in the inner harbour luxury boats rested on their moorings; a testament to the vast sums of money some people acquire. The seascape of the bay was a glassy calm across to Berry Head with the occasional fishing boat, pleasure boat and Jet ski disrupting the mirror like surface.
We had been advised that squid could be caught during daylight hours and as a result had arrived well before dark. This ensured we secured a good spot and gave more time to experiment. A clue to good spots to try for the squid were small stains of black where squid had been pulled ashore. we also chose a spot close to the lights that are known to attract baitfish and squid after darkness descends.
After a few casts with our squid jigs small fish could seen following and this prompted the switch to sets of small Sabika type feathers. Dan Welch was I think first to catch swinging a small mackerel ashore.
This was followed a short time later by a herring to Matt Jeffery a pleasing sight and Matt’s first of the species from the shore.
As the afternoon progressed we all started to enjoy success with herring with these shimmering silver fishes brought twisting and gyrating to hand to be stowed away as bait for predatory fish on the North Devon coast or to sit beneath a crimson topped float at some pike water inland.
(Above) Josh Jeffery enjoyed success with the herring shoals.
As the light fades the herring continue to smash into the strings of feathers and our bait bags are all well stacked with gleaming fishes. Its now time to focus fully on the main agenda squid!
The jigs are flicked and retrieved at various rates and varying between steady pulls and erratic twitches. As none of us have any prior experience we have to learn from scratch and it is this that is part of the fun. There is great excitement when we glimpse a squid chase young Josh’s lure until he runs out of water.
Encouraged we all focus on the squid mission with renewed belief and enthusiasm. It is Dan Welch who eventually brings success for team squid lifting a moderate sized squid to hand with its amazingly vibrant glowing colouration.
With mission squid partly accomplished parking tickets and fast food start to dominate the conversation and we decide to retire to KFC before heading back to North Devon with plenty of bait and some happy memories. An occasional trip to a seaside pier offers refreshingly easy fishing where friendly banter and fun takes priority. Catching mackerel in January seems a little unseasonal as the Christmas lights twinkle into memory. Mission squid was not exactly a great success but we did catch a squid. The pleasing bonus was string upon string of glittering herring.
Kevin Legge as a well earned reputation for catching specimen fish from the North Devon shoreline and having fished with Kev for close to forty years I know he is meticulous in his preparation and leaves nothing to chance. Kevin has been testing the latest terminal tackle from Veals Mail Order and sent me this short article.
I have been asked recently about wire traces for toothy critters. I have been using the Mason Wire for a few years now in 175lb b.s this wire is both strong and extremely kink resistant a plus when the straps and dogfish are about in plague proportions.For hooks I use good old Varivas extras or the recent catfish hook. I have always been a fan of stainless steel swivels and the latest from Seadra are exceptionally robust with the 1/0 crane swivel rated at 525lb! To connect the trace to hook and swivel I have been using Seadra double barrel crimps 1.2mm. The crimped joints are protected using Mustard shrink tube (3mm) this creates a neat finish and protects the fingers from shards of wire that can give a nasty cut.
At snaggy marks Kevin often uses a single hook instead of the more commonly used Pennel rig.