The good news is that from today, we are allowed to keep one Bass per angler, as long as it is 42cm or larger.
The bad news is that a scientific report released yesterday from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), recommends a complete ban on Bass fishing for the year 2017. This includes commercial fishing and recreational sea angling. Since the fallout of the recent Brexit campaign and subsequent political picture of lies and deceit from all sides has come to light, I have become very sceptical of so called expert reports. Subsequently I spent many hours studying this recent report from ICES, which I have included, should others wish to do the same. If you do this link will take you to the ICES Document
My initial reaction on reading the document for the first time was “oh no, this is really bad news”. Don’t get me wrong, it is bad news, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. The report like many others before it, is so full of assumption and lack of hard facts that it is farcical. After going through this report in detail, many times, I conclude that the bad news is that we now have another report claiming doom and gloom for the Bass stocks and a call for an unnecessary ban.
Looking at some of the more important aspects of this report, such as this paragraph I have lifted from the document show how incomplete the facts are:
The two survey data series for the eastern English Channel, which is only a small part of the total stock area, provide good estimation of recruitment. However, a change in vessel and survey design in the Channel Ground Fish Survey led to the 2015 ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Published 30 June 2016 ICES Advice 2016, Book 5 3 value not being included in this assessment. The very weak recruitment from 2008 to 2012 estimated in the assessment is confirmed by the surveys and by reduced catches of young fish by the UK and French fisheries. All the input data to the assessment and additional information (catch per unit effort in the French fishery) are indicative of a declining trend of biomass. Stock identity remains poorly understood and tagging studies are ongoing. Survival rates of sea bass discarded from commercial vessels or released by anglers are poorly known.
Putting this into simple terms I can make some conclusions from this. Firstly the number of small Bass being caught, would be expected to be reduced. The ban on fishing in nursery areas and an increase in mesh size will result in more undersized fish escaping the net. I for one have seen a large increase in the number of school Bass I have seen captured in nursery areas and areas such as Chesil Beach, a mark not renowned for producing small Bass. Why leave out a large piece of data, such as the 2015 survey? Simply to allow figures to be manipulated.
One of the largest aspects that the report relies on, is the very inaccurate information supplied by a number of angler surveys, in the UK and northern europe. once again I quote from the document in the section regarding landings by recreational sea anglers: Known to be substantial but cannot be fully quantified (surveys indicate total annual removals by France, UK (England), Netherlands, and Belgium to the order of 1500 tonnes in 2012)
That figure is around 40% of the total catch rate for all of northern Europe, including commercial landings. This is a ridiculous figure at best. I know from personal experience, that when asked to complete these surveys, there was pressure exerted in the form of inferring that exaggerating your catch reports and amount spent on angling, would help the greater cause of recreational anglers. I put the blame for these ridiculous claims squarely at the feet of B.A.S.S and the Angling Trust. It is time that those organisations stood up and admitted that they have at best manipulated the figures, in a failed attempt to improve the deal for recreational sea anglers. Failure to do so will result in another Bass ban aimed at the wrong group
In my opinion and I do stress that this is from my own observations, Bass stocks are in a far better condition than is being claimed in this report. The current ban on trawling for bass during their breeding period and maintaining monitored catch quotas on all commercial boats is working. I know this may not be the kind of news you wish to hear, but many of the commercial Bass boats have hit their 1.3 tonne quota within a few days of the start of each month. They have then either been tied up, or have switched to other species, if they have an allowable quota for them. This in itself is proof that the Bass stocks are increasing.
I have had enough of lies and disinformation from politicians and so called experts this week. It is time to start asking serious questions, of those supposed to be looking after our interests in angling, Those same groups that are unelected or appointed by the majority of anglers in this country.
Thankfully my whole week has not been spoiled by football and politics, I did manage to get out a few times this week and I had the good fortune to guide a couple of very experienced fly fishermen, who were in search of Bass, Wrasse and Pollock on fly and lures. The wind made conditions difficult during the afternoon, but it was great to get out around portland and Weymouth and show off some of the great fishing that is possible on fly in this area.
I am sure many of you read the great Wrasse article the Ben Basset wrote. I created a short video for it on how to rig a Texas Rig. For those of you new to lure fishing, or jut have not yet tried fishing with soft plastics, you may find this video useful. The Texas Rig allows you to fish some really rough and weedy marks.
Chesil Beach: Medium swell up to 2m with lightly coloured water
Portland: Swell with lightly coloured water.
Portland harbour: calm and clear water
Weymouth Bay: Calm with clear water
Chesil Beach forecast: It is pretty windy on Chesil today, but the forecast for the weekend, especially Sunday is looking good. We can finally head to the beach with a good chance of catching some Mackerel this weekend. We could also see more Black Bream and Gurnard showing. There is a very good chance of a Bass this afternoon and into early evening. Once darkness falls, the Rays may move in.
Portland: Tides for the weekend look good for Pollock off the Bill, especially towards the end of the weekend, when dawn will coincide with high water. Always one of the best times to fish. Once the wind settles the Wrasse fishing will be good, with a chance of a hard fighting fish on bait and lure.
Portland Harbour: Quite a few Thin Lipped Mullet showing in the shallow water around Castletown and Sandsfoot Castle. There was a few small Bass amongst them, but as the tides build the numbers and size should increase.
Weymouth Bay: plenty of small fish showing from the pier, but the recent rain, has made the harbour murky. The Mullet are still there, they are just difficultt o target.
Preston should produce some Gurnard, Dab and Flounder during the day, with the chance of Rays and Smoothound at night.
Guiding: The new guiding season is underway once again. Although we can’t keep any Bass at the moment, we can certainly catch them. I am hoping that the winter fishing ban and the new commercial quotas, combined with an increase in the minimum landing size, will make for some great Bass fishing. I specialize in lure fishing and I am offering Fly fishing this year as well. I am still more than happy to go after the multitude of species in this area with bait, whether that is big Wrasse, explosive Smoothound fishing or targeting the tastier fish such as Plaice and Bream. If you want to book a session or find out more information drop me an email at [email protected]