Article - Sea

Fishing in a light sea - Part 2

By John, added on 07/08/2009

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Considering all the press and attention the bass often gets, you’d be forgiven in thinking there wasn’t much else that offers such sport around our shores. This simply isn’t true. The humble mackerel, when not confined to a pokey beachcaster, feather stringer and a sodding great lead, offer superb sport on light gear. Pollack, scad, wrasse, garfish, black bream, the same. Again location is the harder part, then all sorts of relatively simple methods will catch these feisty little fighters. Often the beauty is simple, light gear methods will take them all, and on some marks it can be pot luck what comes up next.

These species aside I’d like to finish this piece with what is perhaps the most fitting species when talking about freshwater to simple saltwater angling cross overs…the mullet.

-------------- Mullet --------------

There’s been plenty of bull written about the ‘impossible’ mullet. If you believe most of it you’d think they never even open their mouths to eat. Angling idiots that resort to trying to foul hook them are just that.

Thankfully I think most anglers have now got over the common myth that mullet have soft lips, they don’t. Yet it still surprises me to find it written so. The Thin lipped species of mullet have smaller lips certainly than thick lip mullet, who of course have lips any collagen queen would envy, but both are quite catchable. You only have to see the thin lip success experienced  anglers such as Mike Ladle and Steve Pitts have enjoyed with the baited spoon approach to see it’s not just the thick lips that can be hooked and landed. Thinking rationally about it, with both species of mullet often feed by scouring the bottom of boats, searching through weed racks and sifting their mouths along mudflats, how long would soft lips last in such environments?

Perhaps it’s because mullet can be one of the most visible of saltwater fishes, as they go about there business swimming lazily around estuaries, marinas, harbours, piers and jetties that when they won’t take a bait thrown at them instantly, we label them as ‘impossible to catch’.

The simple truth is, regardless of what anyone tells you, with a bit of effort, mullet can be quite catchable by design. That’s not saying that they can’t also be highly frustrating and seemingly impossible at times, but so for that matter can carp in their proper, natural environment. Many anglers have known this for years of course and become highly skilled and successful mullet fishers. I would in no way put myself in this group, or call myself a mullet fisher as such, but I’ve had a few spells of going after them intentionally, with reasonable success to conclude they can be caught.

The key I’ve found, if there is one, is finding places where mullet feed rather than finding where mullet are present. Sounds so simple but one is much easier than the other. For example estuary/saltmarsh mullet can be very visible but yet very finicky, and often seemingly fail to feed in many areas at all. On the flip side if you can get friendly with someone with a mooring and get access to marinas…success can be fairly straightforward….

No doubt if your typical sea angler went to half the lengths that coarse specimen or carp anglers go to to catch their quarry, in terms of venue finding, all round presentation and preparation, mullet might be regarded as no harder to catch than barbel or carp (when they aren’t highly stocked into commercials I mean). There is certainly plenty of common ground here, for example freshwater specimen hunters will often prebait an area for days to get results, the same is often needed for success with mullet.

It’s no coincidence that amongst the easiest mullet to catch are those that are already used to finding and feeding on an existing food source. This might be where seaweed maggots are washed in by the tide, around sewage outlets, or even houseboat or yachtsmen’s cast offs! Subsequently any sustainable success I’ve found with mullet, where they don’t already find these food sources, has followed some sort of pre-baiting exercise. There is nothing complicated or rocket science about it, you just simply try and get some regular feed going into an suitable area for a few tides. Mashed bread in a net mesh bag on it’s own will work, but you can also add bran, mashed mackerel chunks, tuna and so on.

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I won’t go into too much detail on ‘how to catch’ mullet as to be honest I’m far from being an expert on the matter. But I normally just use an 11ft Avon rod, with either a centrepin or fixed spool with a good drag, loaded with 6lb line straight through (I like Shakespheare Targa Specimen in 6lb at the moment as it’s very thin, subtle/dull in colour and seems pretty good in terms of resistance to abrasion), a clear, smallish float and a size 8 hook. Having the extra strength of 6lb over say 4lb line is sometimes very useful when fishing in close to moorings etc, as mullet fight and dive hard. Often they are hooked at extremely short range too and have to be kept so too. As Doug has already written in his great article on mullet fishing, because they fight so hard and can exhaust themselves, they should always be held in the water to recover and get their breath.

Bait for me is usually plain old bread, but maggots (where seaweed maggots are present), small harbour ragworm or small slivers of mackerel are also worth trying. Thin lips, as mentioned, like to chase and nip at worm baited spinners and it can be a deadly method where they are present. Even small trout nymphs supposedly work too but I’ve not tried this yet. Another technique you don’t often see being practiced, is using a swimfeeder/quiver rod combination. I’ve also seen the modern ‘method feeder’ encased in crumb and mash, catch mullet, and why not it’s only another presentation technique.

That said I think the float takes some beating for enjoyment and subtlety. It also gives you better depth options, allowing you to try fishing at different heights in the water column. Mullet will often like the bait fairly near the bottom, however in many cases a piece of flake fished with no shot, and allowed to drift naturally down and around in the current is the favoured method. This is always how I start fishing for mullet, if they only look like being interested once the bait has sunk to maximum depth, and there is sufficient current running that will take the bait away to quickly from the area I want to fish, then I’ll add a little shot in the normal way to get the bait down more quickly.

That’s about it for me and mullet fishing, the only other thing I’ve learnt is don’t forget the landing or drop net to land a fish once you’ve actually hooked one. I learnt this the hard way, as did my friend who was with me at this time, landing a mullet to hand isn’t impossible but it is a hard and somewhat soaking process.

So if you fancy a change and want to try a bit of ‘sporting’ light saltwater fishing why not give it a proper go. I bet you have some gear already suitable in the shed…


Fishing in a light sea - Part 1

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