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.