Many anglers are content to settle for a blank, happy enough to chalk the victory up to the fish when things are not quite going the angler’s way. In a lot of cases, a small rig refinement or tackle adjustment may have been exactly what was needed but unwilling to question things and to go that step further by investigating potential reasons as to why the fish are not playing ball. Minor adjustments in their setup may be the key to connecting with a few fish or better fish but an unwillingness to experiment results in missed opportunities.
I have been having immense fun fishing for pollock recently and I think it is definitely to do with a small tweak I have made to my lure fishing. I have recently been thinking a lot about how lures move through the water and how naturally (or unnaturally) they may behave while doing so. Some may accuse me of having too much time on my hands but I can confirm that this is most definitely not the case. These and many other thoughts like them are just some of the random issues that plague an angler that has a serious case of the incurable affliction known as ‘fishing on the brain’. But I digress!
I have often pondered things like lure retrieval speeds, depths to fish and, most importantly, lure action in the water. When browsing through a box of goodies my eyes fell onto a packet of ‘Rig Clips’. These small steel clips are very handy for the angler and have a myriad of uses to make fishing easier and more manageable. Their most common use would be to clip leads onto the end of the terminal tackle for both beach and boat anglers. Looking at these items and thinking about lure action sent my thoughts into overdrive.
The conceptual idea behind using clips in front of lures is not a new one. I cannot take credit for devising it. It seems so simple but yet very few anglers seem to use them for this purpose. If you use a small lure and tie your line directly to it then the lure will move in a straight line towards the angler as they retrieve it. If you use the rig clips and tie your line to this, using the clip to hold the lure then you will find that the lure is a lot more ‘free’ to move about on the retrieve. Instead of moving in a line straight towards the angler the lure can now swing from side to side on the retrieve. It can sway and wobble, wiggle that little bit more enticingly than it normally would. Sounds impressive but would it really make a difference? Only a field test would find out!
Before heading out to sea on survey work, a few sessions in Galway and Clare had seen me out fishing lures with increasing success. The first of my Connemara sessions saw me land a succession of small pollock with the second day being fairly similar with a couple of decent fish towards the end. The last couple of trips have seen an increase in fish size. The first trip saw me using lures in the conventional manner; I tied them directly to my fluorocarbon leader. Small fish and good fun was my reward for such tactics. The second day saw a similar pattern for the first half of it. Then I made the switch. I attached ‘Rig Clips’ to the lures I was using and the returns started to grow. The next few sessions saw pollock getting bigger and bigger.
I am firmly of the belief that the ‘Rig Clips’ made a difference. I am not going to say that they are a magic fish catching device because on their own they are not. What caught those pollock in increasing size was a combination of watercraft, using the available technology in an echo sounder to find bottom contours to fish along, finesse presentations in terms of line and leader and lure choice. I think the inclusion of the rig clips was just the icing on the cake, that little refinement that helped to make the difference. Buying and using ‘ Rig Clips’ will not magically bring fish to the kayak on their own but incorporating them into part of the arsenal of a ‘thinking’ angler may certainly give that angler an edge over a wary adversary. I feel that their inclusion has certainly made a difference to my lure fishing already this summer.
Aside from the extra freedom of movement that they provide for a lure, there are other advantages to using the ‘Rig Clips’ when lure fishing. The clips allow the quick and efficient changing of lures to suit conditions. If you need to size up or size down you can do it in seconds without reducing your leader length or having to tie on a new lure every time. Jig heads, soft plastics, hard plastics and many other types of lures can suit this method. While many who read this blog are marine anglers, I like freshwater fishing too. Using lures can be a very effective way to catch pike and perch. The clips save you tying knots in the middle of winter when you can barely feel your fingers. For me this is a huge advantage to using them.
As I mentioned previously, this method of using Rig Clips is not new but I think it is thoroughly under used by anglers at the moment. Give it a try and with a bit of watercraft, a bit of patience and a well-placed lure that is fished correctly, I think it is something that the lure aficionados will find both incredibly useful and effective and their use can be employed by the boat, bank or kayak angler.
Less applicable to the bank angler and more appropriately directed towards the boat and in particular the kayak anglers; one of the most useful and worthwhile bits of kit that you can use when kayak fishing is an echo sounder. As mentioned above, the rig refinement played some part in fooling the catch but in order to catch specific fish we first need to know where to fish for them. Sounds straightforward but you would be surprised by the amount of people that miss this point. Different fish species prefer different habitats. If you want to target a specific species, it would be a good idea to know where to find them. Some like flat sandy bottoms, some like rough ground and some like to use the cover of shelves and other features as ambush points for hunting their prey.
A good echo sounder will allow you to identify what sort of features are laying beneath your kayak. It will allow you to recognise shelves, structure, weedbeds, rough ground and reefs and should be able to allow you to theorise where should be worth fishing and where is not. Wrongly referred to as ‘fish finders’, these devices will not fill the boat up with fish. They will not magically hook fish for you where you previously couldn’t hook them before. What they will do, with practice coupled with a knowledge of your quarry, is to cut down on the time spent drifting in an attempt to locate fish. Identify where the fish could be, find similar structure on your echo sounder and you should be a lot closer to making a few captures. All the fancy gear in the world is useless without the brain and practice needed to utilise it properly. Select your gear correctly, use it efficiently and you should be well on the way towards better fishing experiences.
The Future of our Bait?
Last week I took some time out to travel home to the east coast. As has become somewhat of a pilgrimage over the last few years, the Wicklow coastline has been decent enough to throw up some very large tope indeed. I have been fortunate enough to tangle with some of them from the kayak. Not to everybody’s taste but something that I enjoy immensely. Work has been busy through the summer (good complaint) so time and, as a consequence, fishing has been sporadic. I dashed to the east with the excitement the thoughts of catching big fish from the kayak again spurring me on. Imagine my surprise/disgust/horror/shock/all of the above when I learned that some of my favoured fishing grounds were off limits due to a water quality issue. ‘Microbiological issues’ were blamed for the warnings. This generally means that water is unsafe for bathing due to concentrations of E coli in the water being beyond acceptable levels.
Heavy rain had caused a strain on water treatment facilities and untreated matter, presumably faecal, had made its way into the water along the coastline. How our tiny population can end up with microbiological warnings after a drop of rain is beyond me. Mediterranean beaches with their accompanying levels of much higher pressures on water systems are able to keep on top of things over there. With a fraction of the pressure loading our system, how can we have lower quality bathing water on our beaches than the south of Spain? We really need to get our act together when it comes to looking after and managing our water.
I could not get out onto the water so what else was I to do? I was running low on tope traces so I decided to make a few up with Cox & Rawle Meat Hooks and Mitsu Circle Hooks, to keep the tackle box well stocked. As I worked I reflected on another issue, far more serious than the contaminated beach water that was keeping me on the land. Sure, microbiological contaminants are an awful thing to have in your water but the incubation period for such pathogens is relatively short. One more worrying thought struck me as I was preparing my tope traces. What was I going to put on them?
The universal bait for tope is a fresh mackerel. Not so long ago it was common to do two or three drops with a feathered rig and that was more than enough to provide bait for tope fishing for the day. Collecting fresh bait never took more than a few minutes and the rest of the day was then left free to search for bigger fish. For the past while, the last three years in particular, there has been a trend that has seen an increase in the time needed to find bait and a reduction in the time left available to fish for tope. What used to take ten minutes can now take hours, the abundances of mackerel having been reduced significantly. It used to be commonplace that we could see mackerel and rely on catching them from early June in a good year. You are now lucky to see them much at all before August. And when they do turn up they are not in great numbers at all and appear to be small joey mackerel or huge mackerel. Nothing in between.
Mackerel are a huge food source for both people and the other ocean inhabitants. The rapid removal of huge amounts of their biomass has the potential to be catastrophic for the aquatic environment. There is the potential for the food web to collapse completely. Almost every predatory fish in our waters would be touched by this collapse. Many people never think twice about the humble mackerel. They are the first fish that a lot of anglers catch in their angling careers. They are an important building block for marine ecosystems. They are a valuable commodity for Europe. Their mismanagement could mean the absolute destruction of Irish fisheries. I hope they, along with other fish species that make up an intrinsic part of the food web, soon get offered more protection that they should already be afforded……..