A FEW NOTES ON BIG FISH CATCHING ON ROCKY SHORES

A FEW NOTES ON BIG FISH CATCHING ON ROCKY SHORES

The next couple of months have much to offer the dedicated sea angler in North Devon with the open coast likely to see anglers land a variety of specimen fish. Fishing Open coast rock marks can be a dangerous pastime so always give careful consideration when planning trips. Safety should always be top of the agenda so always study the weather forecast and tide times. Local knowledge is invaluable when choosing where to fish but if this is not available study wind direction and check against a map to see how this will impact on the location. Google Maps can prove very useful for checking out marks giving some idea of topography. Ordinance Survey Maps will show public footpaths that give access to marks.

Joining a local angling club can also be a great benefit but you will need to make the effort to join and get to know the anglers before they give away all their secrets.

Always respect property and never leave litter it loses fishing and scars our marvellous coastline. It also ruins our reputation as environmentally caring.

During the winter months warm waterproof clothing is essential if you are to enjoy your fishing trips. Chillcheaters located in Braunton offer a superb range of quality gear that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Sturdy Footwear with good grip is  vital for scuffling around on treacherous wet rocks. Rock Grip boots with studs are one of the best investments I have made in recent years and I struggle to comprehend how I once coped with standard wellies etc.

Lighting has dramatically improved in recent decades with headlights now light in weight offering  powerful lighting options and long charging life with small batteries. I am currently using a Fenix HM 65 R that purchased from Veals Mail Order.

Big fish on the open coast demand strong tackle to give any chance of landing them so choose rods capable of casting 8oz, reels that can hold plenty of line with a good retrieve capable of pulling terminal tackle clear of snags and bullying big fish from rock and kelp.

Main lines of between 20lb b.s and 30lb b.s.  I use a pulley rig for 90% of my winter fishing.

A leader with at least ten yards of line on the reel( With rig hanging from the rod tip) gives a chance of lifting moderate fish out of the sea. When targeting big fish I have started using Mason 49 Strand wire 175lb b.s. This is kink resistant an advantage with the large numbers of strap eels around the coast each winter.

Sakuma Manta Extra hooks are reliable with 4/0 to 8/0 suitable for big baits. A Pennel set up is probably more reliable for hook ups. There is a trend at present for using single catfish hooks. This can reduce snagging over rough ground and these hooks are without doubt capable of landing any fish hooked in the Bristol Channel.

Many will be reading this thinking that this approach is over the top. But there is no way of knowing what will take your bait. Tope, conger, spurdog, bull huss and big ray are all likely.

Big fish baits are order of the day with Ammo the best quality available in my experience. Mackerel, Squid, Bluey, Launce, herring, fresh pouting, whiting, rockling and flounder all have their day.

Landing fish is often the most risky time so ensure you have the right gear to give yourself a good chance. In calm conditions it might be practicle to grab the trace and fish using heavy duty gloves. Generally a long handled capacious net is the best option for bull huss and spurdog. A long handled gaff is an option if used carefully avoiding the vital organs but is a last resort in my view.

The key to success is of course being in the right place at the right time. Location + Weather + Tide + Experience and a little luck!

IMAGES FROM THE MINDS EYE – LOOKING BACK

The minds eye stores many thousands of images some of which lie dormant whilst others linger on the surface never fading completely. As a teenager I fished from the Banjo Pier at Looe in Cornwall a place I have revisited on numerous occasions since those formative angling days in the early to mid seventies. Strange how certain things stick in the mind, I just checked out the year Carl Douglas released Kung Fu Fighting. For some reason I remember this playing in the amusement arcade in Looe all those years ago in 1974. I was thirteen and by then fishing at Looe with the local lads. ( I never actually liked the song but it stuck in the mind!)

My father had introduced me to sea angling during our annual holiday to Looe which almost always fell during the last week of September and first week of October. Then as now fishing was prohibited from the Banjo until October 1st. prior to 1974 I had fished with my parents and it was garfish, mackerel and Pollock that would drag a brightly coloured sea float beneath the surface. The garfish would toy with the bait causing the float to dither before sliding beneath the surface or lying flat as the garfish swam up with the bait. I probably caught my first fish from Looe when I was seven or eight.

Those childhood and teenage days are long gone, the essence of those days remain etched in that marvelous minds eye. Strange to say that whilst I have revisited the Banjo on many occasions with Pauline watching the ebbing and flowing of the tide, the coming and going of boats and the vast seascape I had not taken a rod in hand at the venue since my last holiday with my parents back in around 1976/7. This was I guess partially due to timing as it was generally out of bounds due to it being summertime.

I remember clearly how I had fished for grey mullet on the ebbing tide in the eddy formed as the estuary meets the open sea beside the old banjo. When discussing a trip to Looe with the Combe Martin Sea Angling Club where better to fish for mullet than my old haunt? My connection with Looe had resulted in a long-term friendship on Facebook with fellow angler Matt Pengelly.  Matt is a fanatical sea angler who has fished Looe all his life. I have exchanged stories of Looe with Matt on many occasions and over the years he has freely shared a vast amount of information to which I owe him a big thank you.

As regards to the Looe mullet Matt confirmed my thoughts in that several generations of mullet later little has changed. Hence close to fifty years after catching my first sea fish I find myself on the banjo pier rod in hand along with our son James and five other members of the CMSAC mulleteers.

Quiver tips and floats are employed and mullet are caught up to around three pound.

I drop my orange tipped float into the ebbing flow. After drifting a few yards it dips slowly beneath those familiar clear waters. I lift the rod in expectation and feel a familiar gyrating motion transmitted through the line. I swing the garfish up into my hand, “Look a swordfish”, cries out a young child.  I remember such comments being made all those years ago. The green scales stick to my hands and that distinctive small of fresh garfish triggers childhood memories.

I chat with Matt who has joined us on the Banjo for a while and he tells me of plans to redevelop Looe and its Harbour. I am saddened to hear of these plans to bring prosperity to this old Cornish town. The pleasures of Looe are simple and special and locked in my minds eye and I am sure in many others who have trod a similar path.

Looking back, I have a wealth of memories relating to fishing and the places it has taken me to. I also have memories of Ilfracombe when it had a pier and how the removal of that pier has contributed to the loss of a community. I Remember how on cold winter nights we would gather on the pier safe above surging waters; ever hopeful. Sadly I feel the essence of angling holds no tangible value to planners and councilors. The social benefits are overlooked in the search for marinas and visions of splendor.

Where lies the value in a garfish and a disappearing float?

http://www.redgill.co.uk

Tackle Shops Essential for the Angling Community

Many thanks to the Summerlands Team for welcoming me into their treasure trove of fishing tackle to promote my book “I Caught A Glimpse”. It was an enjoyable couple of hours spent chatting with local anglers and reminded me of the importance of tackle shops in maintaining angling rich community.

CHASING RAINBOWS

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club members travelled to Clatworthy Reservoir high on Exmoor and enjoyed some fine autumn sport. All members caught but it was those who were in the right place early in the day who secured the best bags of hard fighting rainbows. On arrival at the lake overnight showers were clearing away and a vivid rainbow stretched across the lake as autumn sunshine beamed down onto the lake.

I started my day at the top end of the lake and used a bead headed Montana on the point with a diawl Bach and black buzzer on the droppers. A floating line and 8lb b.s leader completed the set up. Casting out with a stiff breeze blowing from my left I retrieved the flies slowly delighting as the line drew tight and hard fighting rainbows surged to and fro before being coaxed in the waiting net. Within just over two hours I had completed my five fish bag limit and spent the next three hours taking in the scenery and atmosphere. White clouds drifted quickly across the vivid blue sky, I watched as three buzzards drifted high on the thermals mewing continually as they often do in late summer and early autumn. Brown and bronze hues are starting to appear amongst the green signalling that the seasons change is starting to paint the countryside. Hard to believe that another summer has drifted into the past. The last time we fished here was in the spring with summer to come.

Wessex Water Ranger Danny Ford told me that it had been an excellent season with good fishing and plenty of anglers returning frequently to enjoy the fine sport on offer. We are very fortunate to have Clatworthy and Wimbleball offering the region some of the best trout fishing in the country.

Result :-

1st -David Eldred – Five trout 11lb 3oz

2nd – Colin Combe – Five trout – 10lb 9oz

3rd – Wayne Thomas – Five trout –  10lb

4th- Dave Mock –  Four trout – 9lb 14oz

5th – Andre Muxworthy – Three trout – 7lb 8oz

6th – Paul Grisley – Three trout – 6lb 14oz

7th – Nigel Bird – one trout – 1lb 15oz

End of Season Flourish

Len Francis ended his salmon fishing season in style tempting a brace of 11lb 8oz and 4lb 8oz from the Weir-Marsh and Brightly Beats of the Taw. Ed Ruell caught a fish of 4lb 8oz. Several salmon were also seen in the high water conditions that would have deterred many anglers. A large salmon was also hooked and lost after a battle in the high water. Heavy overnight rain has now almost certainly brought an end to this season. The heavy rain has come too late to save what has been a difficult season hampered by low flows.

Otters – A Wider Perspective

The otter below can be seen by appointment at Blakewell Fishery where they are working with the UK Wild Otter Trust.

I visited Blakewell Fishery recently where I met Dave Webb a founder of the UK Wild Otter Trust. It is fair to say that in recent years the otter situation has been contentious in some areas with anglers and otters with their natural predatory instincts causing concern. As an angler I always take delight in catching that rare glimpse of an otter and have some good memories of encounters beside the Rivers Taw and Torridge. The otter population in the South West is I believe far healthier than it was a few years ago but this cannot be said of fish populations in some of our rivers. The European eel population has plummeted in recent years and the eel was one of the otters prime sources of food.

The increase in otter populations has coincided with a decline in some natural habitats whilst at the same time there has been a growth in commercial fisheries providing recreational fishing for anglers. When an otter stumbles upon a well stocked pond it feasts on the expensive fish that are precious commodities for the owner and anglers that fish there. The sensible solution to this is to erect otter proof fences around the lakes. Costly but necessary to protect valuable stocks of prime fish. The more contentious area is on rivers where barbel and other coarse fish are present and otters are blamed for decimating stocks.

I do not have in depth knowledge of the issues or of the nature of otters and can see both the view points of conservationists and anglers and fishery owners who seek to control the otter population.

In my view otters and anglers require healthy rivers and habitats and every effort should be made to address the environmental issues that decimate our rivers. The rivers should maintain a healthy  enough stock of fish for both otter and angler.

I asked Dave if he could share information about wild otters to improve understanding of the issues. He kindly agreed and sent me the following informative and balanced article.

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August 2019

CAPTIVE BREEDING PROGRAM OF THE EURASIAN OTTER (Lutra lutra) & ITS EFFECTS

We have been engaging recently, sometimes quite fiercely but always emotively with the Barbel anglers. Agree or not, the rivers that hold Barbel amongst other fish species have been subject to many factors thus causing a decline in Barbel stocks primarily but also other fish & wildlife. The captive breeding program started by Phillip Wayre of the original Otter Trust in Norfolk did not exacerbate this issue as some believe

The original otter Trust was established in 1971 and during the 1950’s otters were presentthroughout Britain. Despite the banning of chemicals, by the late 70’s the only healthypopulations were to be found in Wales, Northern & South West England. Organochlorines were the main cause for decline as it affected the reproduction systems within the otters. A survey of almost 3,000 one time positive sites for otter presence was re-surveyed and only 170 positive sites were found. Whilst the spraint surveying method is only a geographical indication, it did indicate that otters could be dropping in numbers geographically, so whilst the project had some consultation missing, it did play an important part and helped to shape otter conservation for the future

Whilst there were relatively few actual releases made in the grander scale of things (thought to be 130 from the Otter Trust and a further 49 from the Vincent Wildlife Trust)

The first 3 captive bred otters were released in 1983 to the River Blackwater in Suffolk and by 1996 there had been captive bred releases to Suffolk, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, and Cambridgeshire and to the Upper Thames area. The Otter Trust closed in 2006 as it was then proven to be a successful program in terms of otter conservation. One of the issues surrounding the captive releases is that as far as can be seen, there was no thought given to the sustainability of the rivers that they were being released into but this would have proved difficult to assess correctly. Unfortunately, where such rivers are NOT sustainable (and that is approximately 76% of the rivers in the UK at present) and then an apex predator like the otter is returned there, then that can have a devastating impact on the existing fish stocks. The problem, in particularwith Barbel stocks is that there are indeed plenty of large fish that have grown on … butthere is not the smaller fish coming in behind them and this is due to poor water quality, habitat, otters, cormorants and uncontrolled invasive species particularly mink and signal crayfish. Coupled with this, the eel population is known to have diminished by some 90% so UKWOT would most certainly support the banning of commercial eel harvesting as more

eels in rivers can only be good for otters as we are all aware that the Eurasian otter prefers the eel in preference to any other fish species due to its high protein content.

First and foremost, we are an Otter Trust ourselves and are not associated in any way to the original otter trust, but we recognise & acknowledge that there were some important and much needed input & thoughts not put into this program. We cannot say that the captive bred few that were released did not have any impact on fish stocks in rivers orStillwater’s because there was an impact albeit in our view a smaller impact than could have been. During the captive program, otters were still breeding and without doubt the captive program helped to secure that progress in areas that may otherwise have struggled. Was the captive program necessary? Hindsight is a wonderful thing but in our opinion andknowing what we know now I don’t think it would have been needed and that it would havebeen better to let the population regenerate naturally. Of course, they could have held some in captivity ready for a breeding program if at any time the wild population was categorically & scientifically proven to be at an all-time low and by monitoring the actual issue as opposed to the knee jerk reaction that was taken. One thing that irritates me personally, is the lack of importance shown by people in not worrying about how many we do have – how can we actively promote the protection of a species if we don’t know how many exist? Population estimates are done via spraint counting and recording but this tells us nothing apart from the geographical range of the otter, which in itself is important but it does not give us any idea as to numbers

How can we say that the captive breeding program was needed at that time because wedidn’t know numbers then and we don’t know now? Equally, how can we say that it was notneeded then? … it is without doubt that the Eurasian otter population have recolonised naturally, but even given the fact that the population did recover naturally after the banning of organochlorines, it may also have struggled so the captive program did have a place. We still rely on old data and number estimates of 12 – 15,000 …. That was then, and we know that they are now in every county so how can we still rely on that figure which personally I think is very inaccurate. It seems to me that some 40 years later, we are still in denial – that must stop. We are still making mistakes – that must stop. Otter groups AND angling groups need to present to the public as professional organisations to gain support to safeguard angling and otter conservation. Perhaps during the captive breeding program, the technology was not around but what I do firmly believe is that there was without any doubt a serious lack of consultation and impact studies carried out. There should have been full media coverage of the plans, there should have been full consultations with river keepers, beat keepers, and lake owners as their input would have been invaluable.

There should have been ongoing impact studies and pre-release monitoring of the proposed release sites. There should also have been post release monitoring to establish that the welfare of the released otters and the existing populations would not be affected in any detrimental way. Its now easy to sit back and criticise how or what was or should have been done then but we are talking now – otters can, and do cause huge financial and emotional issues for many. We must now learn from the mistakes of the past and work together to improve that. If we are unable to work together, both anglers, fishery owners, Barbel

anglers and otter organisations then we should consider hanging up our otter boots and fishing rods for good because the sport of angling will be lost as would one of the most important species of the UK.

The EA often get blamed for this and as far as I am aware, they were not in favour of a captive program originally. The other thing that is very clear and rightly so, is that the Eurasian otter is here to stay – being one of our native species it rightfully, has a place amongst our wildlife and therefore it is important that anglers understand that a cull will never work and that energy should be channelled into riparian habitat restoration to give the UK back healthy, sustainable rivers that will happily hold plentiful fish stocks, predators and the facility for sport fishing.

REHABILITATIONS OF INJURED/ORPHANED OTTERS

Whilst we know that many would like to see the banning of otter rehabilitation centres, a cull or farmers right to shoot for angling we know realistically that those suggestions are absurd and will never happen and nor should they.

Rather than call for banning the actual rehabs we need to concentrate on regulating the ones that are released after rehabilitation periods. It would be impossible to ask the Government to ban the caring of one species and not the other.

  • Rehabilitations should be logged at point of collection and ongoing care should be recorded to include behavioural traits in that particular animal
  • Proposed release sites during rehab should be monitored and assessed for any potential issues that may impact or prevent the final release
  • There should be a second release site agreed in case the original one gets filled by a transient otter
  • Releases should be recorded and only done providing the area is vacant or to the best of the monitoring process will allow
  • All records and data should be made available to anyone with a vested interest in those releases
  • Any otters taken in for rehab that display any humanised traits, (and some do naturally) should be held in captivity to ensure their welfare (this does already happen but it needs to be regulated)
  • All aspects of collecting, caring and the eventual release program should only be carried out under licence
  • Importantly, any subsequent releases should involve full consultation with any fisheries or river keepers for that specific area. This need not be grid referencespecific but at the very least information given such as “a Female otter is being released on the River Otter within 5 miles of your fishery” This would enable thefishery to prepare should they not have suitable protection in place. This would be more difficult for the Rivers but it is as equally important that they also know of releasesSUMMARY INFORMATION

Some avenues believe that the otters are churning out many cubs …. In reality, otters arenot sexually mature until approximately 2 years of age. The average lifespan of a wild otter is 5 – 6 years old which has been discovered via post mortems carried out at Cardiff University by teeth analysis. As the cubs stay with the Female for approximately 12 to 18 months, it is likely that they only have one litter in their lifetime. Furthermore, they are capable of having 1 – 5 cubs, 3 being the norm of which it is probable that only 1 or 2 will survive.

There were once self-sustaining fish stocks in many of the rivers and it should be noted that it is recognised that this is no longer the case for many of our rivers. Combined with a 76% fiqure of rivers being environmentally unsustainable for fish stocks, other wildlife will suffer if we do not work on improvements. With the contact that UKWOT have with many angling groups and fishermen, it is clear that the success of the otter has not played a hand in this decline but we need to accept that fisheries and rivers will continue to suffer with or without them as an apex predator. We all know and understand that scientific data to support this is important however, it is real and it is happening and being reported by those on the banks. Otter groups need to be supporting this initiative as the otter, relies on fish stocks being sustainable and rivers being healthy – without that, the otter faces a very bleak future as the otter relies on fish stocks being good as part of its dietary requirements

It is further important for all otter groups and supporters to acknowledge that the otter does cause financial and emotional impacts and as such can provide social media sites with a contentious difference of opinions. We should not under any circumstances hide behind old data or denial as this will prove counterproductive for the species in the long run and we try to be transparent and open and supportive of those that suffer predation. Only then will we gain trust to progress and only then will we be able to work together for the future of otter conservation and angling

The UK Wild Otter Trust would not support any action towards a cull, farmers rights, reduction in numbers because the dynamics of otter control is not easy, nor would it be effective. This is why we need to concentrate on the river sustainability to ensure that they will hold all species and predators and then, otters will indeed find that natural balance that is very much required. This will ensure that we have healthy, sustainable rivers full of prime fish and apex predators such as the otter along with a varied list of other wildlife. It is clear to me that this is not just about otters or angling alone, but a bigger picture is paramount to success in the way in which we move forward and the way in which we change peoples perceptions of angling and anglers perception of otters by working together

UKWOT have invested huge amounts of time and effort to work with anglers and fishery owners to reduce predation at their waters. Fencing for stillwaters is still perceived to be an expensive option but it should be seen as part of the business plans. It can be very costly to have fencing installed to protect against otters in particular, but here at UKWOT, we can offer advice on installing fences, the costs, the labour, the best ways to protect and itneedn’t be as expensive as some think. We are happy and committed to visiting as many lakes as we can to provide support and advice and even labour to help where we can. We

make no charge for this as its important to us that both sides work together to make effective change

Dave Webb

UK Wild Otter Trust – Founder
IUCN Otter Specialist Group Member
Otter Predation & Fishery Advisory Group – Senior Board Member
Otter Welfare Advisory Group – Citizen Science/Board Member
IFAW International Fund for Animal Welfare – Conservation in Action Award Winner 2017 Otter Advisor to the Ornamental Aquatics Trade Association

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The views expressed within are solely that of the Author and do not represent the views of

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other organisations

Angling News from Anglers Paradise

Famous Actor, who has starred in Two Pints of Lager and a packet of crisps, No Offence, Line of Duty and Hollyoaks to name just a few joined us at Anglers Paradise with his beautiful wife Michelle and their son and daughter to enjoy a few days Fishing and relaxing in the beautiful Devon Countryside.

They caught lots of Fish, and simply enjoyed quality time as a Family of 4 and in the evenings enjoyed the delights of our famous African Safari Bar along with our residents of the week.

Will is a regular to Anglers Paradise, he has a pretty hectic schedule being an actor so this was a well needed break for him and his family.

Anglers Paradise isn’t just about fishing, they also enjoyed our indoor heated swimming pool and visiting the local delights of Cornwall & Devon and the beautiful beaches we have to offer nearby.

Nick Dudaniec here with his partner Sarah from Manchester. Nick has been visiting Anglers Paradise for many years, even before Kracking Carp was built. He fished our Kracking Carp lake and managed to catch a stunning 52lb Mirror Carp. Here is Nick’s story:-

“We chose to spend our week at Anglers Paradise fishing the Kracking Karp lake, where the largest carp on the complex are resident. I setup in swim 2, and on Tuesday morning had a screaming take from the right hand rod. After a long fight (and some luck) the large mirror known as ‘Silverback’ slid into the landing  net. The fish weighed in at 52lbs exactly – a new PB and my first ever UK 50. I managed to land two other fish during the week: a 26,8 common and a 30,0 leather carp. Needless to say I am delighted with this result! Essential Baits Shellfish B5 boilies fished over hemp and sweet corn produced the runs”.

Anglers Paradise