In 2012 over a decade ago Combe Martin Sea Angling Club had an idea to hold a fun fishing event at Ilfracombe Pier in conjunction with a Marine festival entitled Sea Ilfracombe.
The idea was to bring various angling interests together with the aim of promoting angling to young people and providing an opportunity for some social interaction. On this first event I invited Ben Field from the Art of Fishing, Mat Mander and Jeremy Boyd from the newly formed Devon And Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and Nick Payne Devon Development Officer for the Angling Trust.
This event on a murky day blighted by drizzle ran from 1.00pm until 5.00pm. A dozen or so took part in the competitive aspect of the event whilst many more came along to chat and mingle with our guests.
A good number of fish were caught some of which were donated to the Ilfracombe Aquarium who supported the event with prizes and shared knowledge regarding the fish caught.
Over a decade since the first event, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to all who have supported the event since its conception.
This year’s Fun Fish saw us once again welcome Mat Mander from the D & S IFCA, along with Dean Asplin from the Angling Trust and Jo Eames from the RNLI. The format of the competitive aspect has been tweaked slightly over the years but the general concept of a family fun day of interaction remains.
Each year on the run up to the event I have my concerns for there are always things that can go wrong that are too many to mention here and if we undertook an in-depth risk assessment we would undoubtedly have to rule out any fun! That said involving the Coastguard and RNLI over the years has provided a valuable opportunity to share common sense safety advice to all who enjoy being at the water’s edge.
Two of the main factors impacting upon the event are tides that dictate the times and of course the weather that is totally unpredictable. This year’s event was set to run from 2.00pm until 4.00pm a couple of hours shorter than the inaugural event back in 2012. One lesson we have learned is that young angler’s attention will start to wander if sport is slow and its also exhausting running around with a clip board keeping a tally of catches for the species competition.
Luck was certainly with us on Sunday September 3rd 2023 for we were blessed with a light breeze, warm sunshine and a blue sky reflecting upon a calm sea. We met up with our guests in the Aquarium Café an hour before the event to greet and run over the days format.
For Dean Asplin of the Angling Trust and Jo Eames of the RNLI this was their first CMSAC Fun Fish. I explained that the format was rather loose and that whilst there is a competitive element its really just about having a fun day. Rules are minimal and we have no idea how many will turn up on the day.
This year’s event was generously supported by Danny Watson of High Street Tackle who supplied a splendid array of tackle prizes to add to the club’s funded prizes and additional support came from the Angling Trust.
Arriving at the pier we regretted the oversight in not having our club papering table to work from. I had assumed Nick would bring his, Nick had assumed I would bring mine and Dean Asplin from the Angling Trust said he would have brought his if he had known. There is surely a lesson to be learnt there. I vaguely remember something on a training course referring to an Ass of U and Me!
We strolled onto the pier with an array of spare rods leaflets and boxes of prizes. A good number of anglers were already set up some of them fishing and others getting ready for the fun fish to commence. Dean Asplin joined with me in grabbing details of the competitors and I invited those who just happened to be there fishing to join in the fun. After twenty minutes or so we were ready for cast off with over twenty competitors ranging from three years old to a more senior stature.
In truth it was a bit chaotic but it wasn’t long before a variety of fish started to be swung to hand. I dashed around with the clip board keeping a tally and grabbing a few images. Nick Phillips the Clubs long suffering secretary assisted keenly measuring fish when requested and offering advice and tutoring when possible. Jo Eames from the RNLI chatted keenly with anglers and members of the public displaying a vast knowledge of safety at sea and the history of the RNLI. Mat Mander was at hand to assist throughout and take any questions relating the sterling work undertaken by the Devon and Severn IFCA to help manage and police inshore waters for the benefit of stakeholders and the complex marine ecosystem.
There were twelve species of fish registered during the event including, mackerel, pollock, ballan wrasse, corkwing wrasse, smelt, blenny’s, shanny’s, rock gobies, garfish, pouting, whiting and even a small tope.
The results are as follows : –
Junior Winner of top prize – Ben Clark – 17 points
Overall winner – Anna Stavrakopoulos – 27 points
Heaviest Fish – Paul Chamberlain – tope 11oz
Longest Fish – Paul Maxfield – garfish 56cm