Sunday, 22 February 2009

Local Urban Myths

How many times do anglers blame the lack of fish on other reasons? These whinges become quasi facts and are passed on for ever. In this post I hope to address some of these urban myths – and yet again the CELOCANT will put his head above the parapet, so feel free to shoot at it.

Myth: Angling used to be better before the war.
Fact: Looking back at the club competition results there is no proof that the catches were better then, than they are now. Catches have improved with added species such as thornback ray and bass caught in vast amounts.

Myth: We used to catch bigger fish in the old days.
Fact: In the past, the record cod was a mere 32lb and this weight was only bettered in the late 60s and early 70s. The British Record Fish list has been improved on since the ‘good old days’ owing to modern technology and better angling skills and equipment.

Myth: We used to catch plenty of plaice before the beam trawlers destroyed the mussel beds.
Fact: The mussel beds that plaice feed upon are small seed mussels. These mussels are migratory. Therefore, they will not be in the same place year in year out. As for beam trawlers – they have to keep to limits of at least 6 miles from shore. Plaice have been a targeted fish for many years – especially by the Dutch – and they are on strict quotas. The reason why we don’t catch many is simply because most of them have been already caught.

Myth: Beam trawlers work close in shore, because I’ve seen them.
Fact: Beamers have to work from a 6 mile limit and when caught just inside this limit they are heavily fined. The vessels most anglers see are the ones on passage to and from their fishing grounds. Occasionally one will come close inshore and can be seen with their outriggers outstretched – the reason is to shelter from bad weather and with the outriggers in this position it stabilises the boat, and brings the masts centre of gravity lower.

Myth: Trawlers with no lights come close in and trawl along the shore line because I’ve heard them.
Facts: When has shore fishing been better than going out in a boat? Trawlermen would not waste their time or diesel trying to catch what we do – there’s much more fish offshore. Also along this coast, being so near to the continent, HM customs would investigate any such goings on. The possible sighting of commercials would more than likely be gill netters – and if they are that close in then they would be liable for chunks of 6oz lead being propelled at them with force. Sound travels for miles over water and boat engine noises, which could be 2 miles out to sea, sound as if they are on shore.

Myth: The French and Spanish trawlers have caught all the fish.
Facts: Again the foreign vessels have to stick to their own territorial waters and would be stupid to risk a heavy fine for the meagre catches off Deal. I have never seen a French boat working inside the limits in my forty plus years of being afloat, and I have never seen a Spanish trawler, apart from in Spain. It is a myth that the French have no fish in their own waters. A few years back I was invited on a French gill netter from Calais and they hauled in two ton of prime cod and the occasional bass up to 10lb. At the time, I was concerned that the boat would become unstable and capsize – and this was only about a mile off Calais beach. Later the French fisherman told me of his fears that the English boats would plunder their stocks. French cuisine demands some very small fish to make bouillabaisse, however, the rest of the French fish market displays better size and quality than England. The only Spanish boats that fish around our coast are the ones that have bought the licences from the British fishermen. Isn’t it strange that the foreigners never sell their licences to the British fishermen!

Myth: The sea is not cold enough for the cod.
Fact: When cold snaps affect sudden drops in sea temperatures not only the cod but most other forms of sea life vacate that area, and go to deeper water where there is less of a fluctuation of sea temperature. There are more cod caught in the summer off the wrecks – in clear water – than there are in winter. The reason the cod come inshore is because the winter gales stir up the bottom and feed becomes more available.

Myth: I cannot catch any cod because the sprats are in.
Fact: Cod can become glutted with sprats, however, for them to see and catch sprats they need clear water – not the best time for anglers. Also remember it is January and February that the sprats come inshore – which are the times of sudden temperature drops which also causes the lack of fish (see my post ‘Cold Fish’.)

Myth: I can not catch any fish because the trawlers have already caught them.
Fact: Around the 1980s the government introduced a scheme for the trawlers to decommission for large amounts of money. This incentive was to conserve fish stocks. Many of the trawler owners took up the governments offer and converted the cash into a new smaller but more efficient gill netting boat. Therefore, there is only one trawler to every twenty gill netters in this area. Now you know who to blame.

Myth: There are a load of nets a couple of hundred yards off the beach.
Fact: Don’t panic! Most times on the end of those marker buoys are, whelk and lobster pots.

Personally, I will continue to blame the French, Spanish and sprats when I have a blank days sport.

1 comment:

Jack of Kent said...

Admirable display of skepticism, debunking conventional wisdom!

But, surely, maritime myths, not urban myths ;-)