Friday, 25 March 2011

Second time lucky with the Herring!

 A settled spell of high pressure saw herring return to Brighton Marina. I had four days holiday ahead of me and decided to travel to Weymouth via Brighton so that I could fish two or three hours either side of high tide before continuing my journey.

Making my way over to the East Breakwater in glorious sunshine I arrived to find that the sea flat calm and clear. I settled for Peg 20, I had intended to fish a second rod for plaice, however I had neglected to refill my multiplier with fresh line, doh! At least I could concentrate my efforts on the lure fishing.
Herring are usually caught here on small sabikkis known as herring feathers locally or by float fishing a small strip of herring. I set up a carp rod with a string of sabikkis and a two ounce lead.

A chat to the baliff revealed that a few herring had been caught over the previous few days so I was feeling positive that the herring would arrive with the high tide (a big spring tide). Right on high tide I felt a feeble tapping on the rod top and and I assumed I was attached to my first herring. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had caught a sprat, unlike immature herrings sprats have a distinct sharp abdominal keel.

A few minutes later I had an enforced break as a team were surveying the breakwater. The survey boat tied up in front of me whilst the two divers checked out the state of the breakwater wall. Their progress could be tracked by a steady stream of bubbles, a bit like a patrolling crucian carp or tench. Any defects in the breakwater would be repaired later.

Once the survey boat had moved on I resumed my feathering. An hour after high tide I took a break for a late lunch and put out a flapper rig with lugworm for half an hour or so without success.

Throughout the day I had alternated between casting and retrieving the sabikkis and jigging them next to the wall. Eventually my persistance paid off, the carp rod bending over into a healthy curve to mark the arival of a pod of herring. As they came up through the water it was clear that I had four herring on simultaneously, although one fell off.

The window of opportunity was small as the herring disppeared as suddenly as the arrived. I fished on for another half an hour before packing up and continuing my journey. A herring fresh from the sea bears little resemblance to those on the fishmongers slab. The silver sides are tinged with pearlescent blue and purple and the scales are easily dislodged.

The less said about Weymouth the better. The weather was glorious however the fishing was poor despite the best efforts of the skipper. I had one bite in two days boat fishing which was almost certainly from a bait robbing dogfish.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Does this fish belong to her majesty?

The sturgeon like the swan belongs to the monarch and any sturgeon captured in British waters have to be offered to the Queen. Being on the "Red List" and classified as critically endangered the Queen is hardly inundated with offers of sturgeon, hence the fiasco reported by the BBC News in 2004.


 A sturgeon caught in Swansea Bay which disappeared after police intercepted it during an investigation into its alleged illegal sale has been traced.

Police moved in at the fish market in Plymouth, Devon, on Thursday, as the 9ft long, 264lb fish, went to auction. Officers had been alerted because sturgeon, whose eggs are sold as caviar, is a protected species. But after Devon and Cornwall Police scenes of crime officers had taken pictures of the fish, it vanished.

A spokesman for the force said that officers regained possession of the huge fish at an undisclosed location on Friday. He added: "We have had a phone call and as a result we have seen the fish at a location which we are not going to release. The inquiry goes on. The fish is now under police possession and we are seeing if any criminal offences have been committed." It is believed that the fish is due to be transferred to the Natural History Museum on Monday.

The sturgeon was caught accidentally in fisherman Robert Davies' net in Swansea Bay on Wednesday. Mr Davies, 27, of Llanelli, first offered the sturgeon, classed as a royal fish, to the Queen after catching it in Swansea Bay on Wednesday afternoon. After receiving a fax from Buckingham Palace saying he could "dispose of it as he saw fit", he travelled to Plymouth to sell it at auction. It had been bought for £650 by a fish wholesaler before police moved in.

Fisherman Mr Davies said police called him on Thursday to ask if he knew where it was. "They've lost the fish," he said. "They called to ask if I had it but I haven't got it."

It is not illegal to catch or keep a sturgeon, providing it is offered to The Queen first and officers said if it had been given away for free or kept by the fisherman, no offence would have been committed. The sturgeon is rarely seen in UK waters and is classified as a "royal" fish - a status granted by King Edward II.


So what am I doing even contemplating fishing for sturgeon....hey, the death penalty is still in place for treason!

Luckily the sturgeon that have been stocked into a number of stillwaters around the country are not the native species but several species that originate from Russia. The Environment Agency have not sanctioned any stocking of sturgeon, so where have they come from? Some are dumped pets, some deliberate illegal stockings, and in the case of the fishery I visited in Warwickshire the owners bought a farm unaware of what might be in the lakes buried amongst the trees.

After a couple of circuits of the deserted lake I settled on a swim that gave me a view of the whole lake. Any fish cruising the margins would be intercepted as they moved out of the bay to my right. A float fished lift method style was used in the margin and my other rod was fished in the open water on a running leger rig. Bait was a cube of luncheon meat soaked in salmon oil, fished over a couple of handfuls of dead red maggots.  

As the water was still cold, free offerings were kept to a minimum. After an hour my float dipped briefly before sliding away - I struck. I was obviously attached to a  large fish, the clutch ticking as the fish slowly took line. After about five minutes I finally saw that it was a sturgeon and not a big carp.

On the scales it weighed 25lb 7oz. After a couple of photos, I returned this prehistoric looking creature to the murky waters of the small lake.

Then, breaking out in a cold sweat, I remembered that the sturgeon that got Mr Davies in so much trouble wasn't even the native species 'Acipenser Sturio', but an American fish that was ever so slightly lost. 

I began to write:

Dear Queenie................................................

Sunday, 6 March 2011

What ever happened to the Pike-Perch!

The Duke of Bedford (the grey squirrel guy) was also responsible for introducing pike-perch into Britain in the late 19th century into his lakes at Woburn.

In 1963 the (then) Great Ouse River Authority introduced pike-perch into the Relief Channel. By the end of the decade the name pike-perch slipped into oblivion and the continental name "zander" came into use. Personally I prefer the older name pike-perch as it is so descriptive, despite it's appearance this fish is not related to either the perch or pike.

Since then zander have spread throughout Fenland colonising most of the drains and rivers. In some cases they were illegally moved by anglers and can now be found in the Rivers Severn and Trent and throughout the Midlands canal system. Whilst it is true that silver fish populations have been decimated in many waters containing zander, in the long term nature always finds its own balance between the predator and the prey, as has happened in the Fens. If anything, it is the pike that has suffered from the competition, as rarely do waters produce both big pike and zander.

Zander populations have been in decline in recent years. Many waters, including Ferry Meadows in Peterborough, have suffered at the hands of a small minority who have used nets and set lines to catch zander for the pot.

I decided to travel to the Coventry Canal in search of the zander and spent a couple of hours walking the towpath before settling on an area which containing overhanging trees, a bridge and a boatyard. I opted to fish a hair rigged section of roach on a size 6 hook on a running leger. Zander are renowned for dropping baits so I opted to use my old washing liquid bottle top indicators to minimise resistance.

I fished three swims during the course of a chilly afternoon and my only take, after only fifteen minutes, resulted in the smallest zander I have ever caught!