Thursday, 29 July 2010

waiting for codo

On the first day of the New Year, Tuesday 1st January, 1963, there was a strong easterly wind blowing … and by the next day it started to snow. This was to herald the beginning of one of the coldest winters that Kent would ever witness. The sea temperature plummeted to a state where alongshore it started to freeze over. When the sea gets to that situation the fish move out into deeper water where the coldness does not penetrate.

Many people attribute cod to the colder climes, however, in the deep water off Norway and the Artic the temperature of the seas, in 1963, were warmer than at Deal. When the sea gets to below freezing, all forms of life either vacate the area or end up hypothermic.

Against a loosing battle some anglers kept trying to catch fish from the beach, pier and boats (when the weather was calm enough). With the bad conditions and total lack of fish, the pier closed every night – and it would not be until the month of March when a starfish was replaced as the ‘fish of the month’ in the pier’s angling competition.

Eventually the fish famine was forgotten, as in the autumn of that year there were vast quantities of cod caught. The results of the Deal Angling Club (1919) boat festival recorded in a total weight of over two tons – which the anglers brought to the scales. Deal, once again, became the Mecca of sea angling.

In those days the record cod stood at 32 lb and one or two fish from Deal started to nudge at that weight. In the years that followed the record was broken … more than once … nevertheless, it was not from Deal. However, in the late 60s and early 70s there were local cod of over 40lb being landed in the winter months. This was topped by a monster fish of 50lb 14oz caught by Brian Maidment, a mere two miles off Walmer.

Although the record at that time was heavier … it was a fish that was caught off a wreck over 30 miles from shore. It was thought that Brian’s fish should have been classed as the British record – as the other fish was caught outside territorial waters.

Brian Maidment, a local boatman, gained fame with his photograph featured on the front page of Deal Councils fishing guide the following year. He had donated the cod to the council, who had a fibreglass cast made of it which was displayed in the bar on the end of the pier. It was a loss to Deal when the replica of the town’s heaviest ever cod was sold in a local antique shop last year.

The next decade saw many cod being caught, although the larger fish seemed to become harder to find by the mid 80s. However, all is not lost, as last year saw a revival of cod caught from Deal … and combined with the very cold winter that we have just witnessed … who knows!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fresh Prawns

First catch your prawns – the earliest you can start depends on the sea temperature. April and May produce some large female prawns full of brood and some people enjoy the orange colour eggs (when cooked) as an added bonus. Again depending on the sea temp around about October sees them start to disappear. To catch them can be attained by using prawn pots, drop nets or a push net. The pots can be bought at some tackle shops with deals being made for the purchase of three or more. These are ready to go and only need a length of cord attaching, along with a couple of small weights fixed to the bottom to keep them on the seabed. There are small pouches in which you can put the bait in. Bait can be anything fishy and smelly, I use kippers.

The traditional prawn drop net can be a very efficient way of catching and can be worked at a quicker pace than the pots. To get proficient with these use as many as you can, and bait them up the same as the pots. When worked in the rock pools you will need a small length of cord on the net with a few corks at the end. With the help of a pole and a bent wire coat hanger fastened on it in the shape of a hook you can put and pull in the nets to your advantage.

For the more energetic then the push net will be the answer. Needless to say when using all these items, low water is going to create the best results. Any sandy patch will produce, and is best viewed at extreme low water for any rocks or gulleys that might be dangerous to the pusher. Neoprene chest waders will keep you warm unless you are the hardy type. Whilst on the subject of caution always know when it is low water and consider when to pack-up and not get caught out by the rising tide. Push nets can be made; however, some tackle shops sell a two size version at not great expense. A small mesh bag or a plastic bucket will keep your catch safe and wet until you take them to cook. Another thing to look out for is by catches that you find that you have trawled up. These will be mainly small flat fish – but be careful of weavers. If you do get pricked by a weaver … don’t panic. The infected area should be cleansed with very hot water and no after effects encountered, however, if there is then go to the nearest A&E. Don’t panic unless you have a weak heart, and consider that there are hardly any fatalities experienced but only discomfort or swelling. Again, if unsure then take medical advice … or make sure you don’t get pricked.

Cooking is simple. Boil a saucepan of salted water, and then pop in the prawns. Within a couple of minutes they are cooked. Run under a cold tap to stop any more cooking with the steam and leave to cool.

I’m not going to tell you how to eat them as I feel I have given enough secrets away on one of the finer pleasures of life already.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Does the internet help ... or hinder?

At the moment there are many sea angling websites on the World Wide Web. For most, these sites produce not only information but witty banter between members; and they also create friendships. Unfortunately, for others, an outspoken posting could also cause a major rift. All in all, it may possibly be classed as a vast angling club that covers many counties.

Information on what’s being caught is almost instant – sometimes being reported, by the angler, hours after the event. This has the advantage for those who want to know what’s about, and not having to wait a week or two to read it in the local papers – or a month or two to read it in the fishing magazines. It also fires up enthusiasm for those that have the opinion ‘Why bother going, there’s nothing about’ (although the obvious answer to that would be if you don’t try then you will never know). The websites eliminates this and gets more anglers out on the beach or boat.

An opinion of some of the opponents of angling websites is that this open information is available to commercial fishermen; who will then smother the venue with nets. In my view, static nets that have been set close inshore (at Deal), normally fill up with weed and garbage. For what the commercial gets fish wise it is not worth the hassle of clearing, or time spent cleaning those nets. Normally they will only set nets close inshore for sole in the settled summer months. Other times you may see them drifting close to the beach with nets for bass or herring; these are surface nets and do not have any immediate affect the angler who is bottom fishing.

Last year an angler posted that there were miles of nets strung between Deal Pier and Sandwich Bay. As this was the start of the ray season most of the posters were up in arms about how their sport was being ruined. As I live on the seafront I kept my eyes open for these offending nets. My daily walk took me to Sandown Castle and beyond and there were NO nets visible. I sometimes wonder if the angler who cast these aspersions managed to have the beach to himself on his next fishing trip (and possibly all the fish as well).

So there you have it! Is the angling websites an asset or not. I think the overwhelming benefits outweigh the negative side; it’s up to the individual – if you want to post and boast that’s fine, if not, no problem. Most members are helpful with advice and have parted with knowledge that has taken them many years of experience to acquire – all for free.

That reminds me of an old proverb ‘The wise man points his finger … and the fool looks at the wise man’s finger’ (it took me years to understand the meaning of that) … or there’s another one ‘don’t believe half what you’re told’. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Blame it onto the sprats

It has been reported that this year’s weather has been the coldest for thirty years. The sea temperature certainly has taken a dive and reached its lowest at 3.5c in the middle of February. Compared with this time last year it is at least four degrees colder.This could be the reason why the angling has been a bit slow of late (check out my post COLD FISH).

We as anglers tend to blame the lack of sport on everything apart from the most obvious. The most common excuse for the lack of fish at this time of year is because the sprats are in – or they have followed the sprats out to sea. The sprat season off Deal is normally from late December until the end of February. They shoal inshore, and on the spring tides sometimes get washed up on the beach. When the tide is at its strongest they normally swim close to the seabed and very near to the shoreline where the run of the tide is at its weakest. As the tide eases they start to rise in the water and this is when the sprat netters catch them.

Normally their territory would extend no further than half a mile from the beach.It could be reasonable to assume that, in the murky water off Deal, the fish feed on the sprats when they are close to the seabed. Cod, for instance hunt in ‘dirty’ water by smell, feel (using their barbel under their chin) and possibly at the last moment by sight. When the water is clear (very seldom inshore at Deal) then the cods feeding habits would be reversed. Throughout the season many cod are caught on small live whiting, which were either intentionally presented on the hook or accidentally left due to a missed bite. However, this fish/bait is being presented hard and fast on the seabed and available to the fish when and where it comes across it in its almost blind hunt for food. With plenty of pin whiting about at the moment we cannot blame the lack of cod on them.

Sprats are an oily fish and deteriorate quickly after being caught; therefore the ones that we buy from the fishmonger are not very good for bait – unless you use them for tipping with worm. The redder the sprat (also herrings) is around the head and gills, the older it is. Also fresh sprats, straight out of a net, are silver/black around the head and are stiff enough to be snapped in half, as opposed to the floppy ones from the shops.

Hopefully the sea temp will warm up soon, and the cod fishing, or lack of it, becomes a memory until the next season. Mind you, saying that, with last summer’s sea as warm as 18c, the fishing also seemed to take a dive – must have been the sprats.

My views on Global Warming can be summed up by ... Brrrr followed by Grrrr.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A rant

Whilst glancing at my angling club website the other day, a Google ad appeared at the top of the page. These ads are unavoidable and latch onto the theme of the website i.e. fishing. However, it caught my eye and I clicked onto it.

‘Save the Sea Kitten’ (what!), further reading states that ‘Nobody would hurt a Sea Kitten’ (of course not!): ‘Why not create your own Sea Kitten’ (this kept my daughter amused for five minutes, dressing up a computerised Sea Kitten in clothes and hats and lipstick and so on – and she’s 33 years of age). The next click suggests a bedside story to send your child off to a trouble free night’s sleep (at least two bottles of wine seems a better remedy for the aforesaid daughter).

The illustrated story goes something like this:

‘Sally is a Sea Kitten with an attitude (funky teenagers!); while all the other Sea Kittens are washing themselves or chasing balls of yarn, Sally is busy swimming upstream to see where life will take her next (a responsible teenager looking for a job!). Unfortunately, years of watching her friends and family being hooked through the mouth (WHAT!) and dragged into the hard alien world above, have driven her mad with grief (any wine left daughter, I think I’m going to have nightmares?). Bitter and insane (well she is a teenager!), she spends her days plotting revenge against Land Kittens (I think a visit to a psychiatrist might be in order) who live such happy lives in comfortable homes, free from the terror of being eaten.’

I am now thinking I need a drink (any excuse). What the hell is this all about?! Further investigation into what a Sea Kitten is, reveals:
‘People don't seem to like fish (I do!). They're slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least (not to other fish it’s not). Plus, the small ones nibble at your feet when you're swimming, and the big ones—well, the big ones will bite your face off if Jaws is anything to go by (open another bottle of wine so I don’t have nightmares again). Of course, if you look at it another way, what all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy (OK I can live with that: Mr. Yates you are out of a job). Whoever was in charge of creating a positive image for fish needs to go right back to working on the Britney Spears account (not a good idea) and leave our scaly little friends alone. You've done enough damage, buddy. We've got it from here. And we're going to start by retiring the old name for good (I think they are going to tell me what a Sea Kitten is now, and I’m not going to like it). When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head (Sorry?), it's time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?’

Got it … this is an advert put out by PETA, which I believe is an American based organization which wants angling banned. They suggest that: ’Sea kittens are just as intelligent, not to mention adorable, (sounds like past girl friends) and like dogs (defo) and cats, they feel pain as all animals do’ (OK I have had to deal with rejection as well).

As a reasonable adult, I have feelings not to hurt any animals unnecessary, however, it has been proven that if an animal feels pain then they can be governed by that fact; if a bull has a ring fastened to its nose then it can be led, because if it resisted then that would bring pain. A fish, when it is hooked, fights against the resistance of being fettled (a bit like being engaged to be married), not through pain but possibly because of a natural reaction of survival. Another factor in the chain of life is that most fish eat others of their own younger relations, therefore, surely they kill/eat as much as as humans would? Under these circumstances I can live with my sport.
I am a realistic type of person who likes to listen to all sides of the story, and then make my own mind up. What I find slightly uncomfortable with, is that if this website (PETA) was ‘Sea Kittens against…’ religion, for example, it could possibly be classed as an extremist site. In my opinion, it is grooming very young people into an adverse and negative attitude into our sport through deception. A fish is a fish, and not a Sea Kitten. The frightening thought is that if you sign their petition against the sport then something might be done against it. Another frightening fact is that 14190 people already have!