A Watched Pot Never Boils – Boat Fishing For Pollack Bass And Thornback Rays By Rupert Drury
And a watched fishing float never goes under either but turn your back for a second and if its going to go, you can bet your bottom dollar it will vanish the one moment your concentration wanders. Thats certainly how it felt for me last Saturday, when we were out float fishing launce for the pollock and bass!
The plan for the day had been a two pronged approach. We (John Hudson and I) were to target tope for part of the day providing we could locate and source a few fresh mackerel. Id brought along half a dozen supermarket mackerel purchased at the end of the previous day, so we could get a start, but we would need to bolster these with fresh baits, to tope fish for any length of time. As we feathered for launce, we saw a number of gannets dive-bombing only a few hundred metres away, so we wound in and sped towards the wheeling terns and gannets. Six metres beneath the boat we encountered mackerel, but these where no longer or thicker than our thumbs absolutely miniscule joeys and far too small for bait.
Interestingly, the launce had risen right up the water column and although the boat was in 18 to 20 metres of water, the launce and mackerel were all within the top quarter of the sea. The wooden courge was relatively easy to fill and sufficient launce were soon held captive.
These varied in size from pencil size to what a few of what John and I call €˜snake launce, similar in dimension to a stick of rock. There was also one solitary decent mackerel. These things have just been so unpredictable this year Ive never known a year for mackerel, or lack of them, like 2009! :suspious: Once we got float fishing, the gin clear clarity of the sea reminded me of the West coast of Scotland.
This was the first time this year, when the dappled surface calmed, that I could peer over the side of the boat in 12 feet of water and still see the seabed. These conditions would up the anti in favour of our quarry. Our baits would be clearly visible to the predatory fish waiting to ambush from below, but they would be unforgiving to crude presentation. Longer traces, giving the bait more free movement would be the order for the day. My first bite came in under ten minutes of starting. One of those unmissable looking bites where the float steams away into the depths. The wind down met with no resistance, but the float resurfaced briefly, before stabbing down again, as the fish came back to take the launce once more. Right. This time then! Wind down nothing. This happened three times in quick succession before the fish finally moved on. :angry: I cursed out loud asking how many chances did I need?
The boat was repositioned, so we could cover the same underwater ledge again, but the drift seemed to be taking us in a slightly different direction to the last. I glanced down at the fish finder to check the depth and on looking back up couldnt see my float! The yellow top was no more than 10 metres from the boat last time I looked, but was now no-where to be seen. This time, the wind down connected and I immediately knew that Id hooked a decent pollock. The crash dives feel like something else on a spinning rod and at times, some of the dives hooped the rod right over and pulled the rod tip completely underwater. Pollock really are at their best on a spinning rod and a true sporting fish. Provided you dont let your float go too far from the boat and you keep your rod high, you can maintain a fairly vertical fight and keep them away from the troublesome kelp. After a spirited tussle, the bronze flanks showed and John netted this fish for me, a beauty of 9¼ lbs.
Another smaller 4lb pollock fell to me, and then John had a small bass. By midday wed had a few pollock and bass aboard, but between us, missed loads more bites. The fish were certainly there, but they were being cute (or were we just being incompetent??). Meanwhile we listened to reports over the VHF of how some of the other private boats were fairing; plenty of ling, a good deal of lost tackle and one or two nice cod were reported from the wrecks. As wed had our strings pulled nicely in the morning, a quick move was in order to see if we could bag a Bridlington tope on one of the banks near the Smithwick sands in the afternoon. Three uptide rods were set up for tope and the fourth rod set up with a smaller hook and mackerel strip for a thornback. John had managed this beauty from the same mark when we fished with €˜Browny a couple of years ago so this 14lb thornback from 2006 was the target to beat!
The supermarket mackerel, despite being bought from the €˜fresh fish counter the previous afternoon and being refrigerated until the morning looked dire. The colour had washed out the flanks and the bellies had a jaundiced yellow hue. :vomit: Yuck. Is there any wonder mackerel has such a poor culinary reputation??.
The tope must have shared these same views and despite trying a tail section of the one fresh mackerel and even trying some of the giant snake launce as live baits, the uptiders remained undisturbed. By mid afternoon, I was having second thoughts about our chances with such low grade mackerel, so it was agreed that we up anchor and make the best of the last hour we had available, whilst we had some good launce left.
Soon we were back float fishing in the same area, but the fish were not having it. We had only 50 minutes fishing time left before we needed to start heading back in and as ever, I wanted just one more fish! At the end of the “trot”, winding the bait in quickly for a few turns of the handle to lift the launce towards the surface can sometimes trigger a reaction, but even this tactic failed to help. On one of the drifts the boat came into some shallow water and I suggested to John that we fish this shallow drift as long as we safely could.
The water was around 6 feet deep, but shallowing, so the stop knot was re-adjusted and I cast parallel to the shore. We needed to keep our wits about us in the shallow water and I glanced back to check the depth over the side. Hang on, wheres my float gone? The wind down connected and the solid resistance and run immediately spelt bass and quite a nice one too. (I find the fight is just the opposite of pollocks vertical crash dives, a basss run is a much horizontal experience). Meanwhile, the boat was getting nearer the rocks and John had the dilemma of what to man first – the landing net or the outboard! The bass was scooped up in the nick of time enabling John to take the boat back into deeper water again. This one weighed 5¼ lbs, a really handsome looking fish and the best bass of the day and looking back, I now regret not getting a picture of it, as it would only have taken a moment.
In the last few minutes I managed two more small schoolies, before we had to wrap up and call an end to what had been a cracking day. Lessons learnt for me dont watch your float youll get far more bites! Dont be in a rush to get back fishing, sacrifice a moment and take the photo opportunities when they present themselves.