I’ve been good for over a month, although I’ve been to watch carp and photograph them I’ve not felt too much of an urge to cast for them. Over the past few days that changed when I came face to face with some real gems, carp I photographed and shared with my friends, but deep down I wanted to catch them.
In order to erase the urge I decided to fish this morning for wrasse. A pier at the eastern most tip of Portsmouth has been a good spot for me in the past, I wondered if they might still be there. At the crack of dawn I was out on the mudflats of Hilsea creek wading along the channel to where I used to dig lugworm as a boy. I smiled as I familiarised myself with yet another of my old haunts, I began digging and soon started to find a few worms around a fork’s depth in the sandy mud.
I guess I spent around an hour on the mud, mostly digging for bait but also watching Oystercatchers, Little Egrets and a Curlew. It was a lovely way to spend dawn, watching the sun rise and feeling its warmth gather as it rose higher, it was set to be a beautiful day. With enough worms for a few hours fishing I cleaned myself off in the channel and made my way back to the car.
I arrived at the pier car park at around 9am. The tide had been rising for an hour so it was just about right to get started. I walked out onto the exposed pier and felt a very cold wind blowing out of the harbour and cutting through the channel out to sea, it was quite bitter. I tackled up very simply with a lead at the bottom and a size 1 hook on a flyer just above. Bait was one of the juicy lugworms, not as wriggly as ragworms, but much tastier.
It didn’t take long to get a bite, a tap tap followed by a pull on the rod tip. I struck and played the fish out and away from the pier structure. I looked over the side and saw a lovely little Pollack. I hoisted it over the railing and admired its features; it had been quite some years since I caught a Pollack.
After returning the fish and watching it swim strongly away I lowered another worm down half expecting to catch another Pollack as they usually tend to be a shoal fish. Eventually the lead touched bottom, the depth was quite substantial, around 20 feet, which at low tide was just about perfect. As the tide begins to race here you need too much lead to hold bottom so I generally only fish the first couple of hours.
I missed a bite on that second drop, but the third drop produced a bite that could have ripped the rod from my hands if I’d not been holding on so tightly. The initial run was powerful and I instantly knew it was a wrasse, and a decent one by the feel of it. I managed to steer the fish away from the rocks and pier structure and saw my prize flapping around on the surface, I wound down as low as I could and swung the fish over the railing.
I was dead chuffed, a wonderful wrasse of around half a pound, much bigger than the usual stamp of fish I caught here as a boy. It was a dull looking fish, which I think it a ballan, the cuckoo and corkwing varieties are the more vividly coloured ones. Nevertheless, I was very pleased and released the fish back to its lair.
The next tap was just that, a little tap, and upon striking not very much happened apart from there being slightly more weight than usual. It was the first fish I ever caught, we used to call the Devil Fish, but their correct name is Sea Scorpion. They are very ugly with spines and tonnes of attitude, and they grunt whilst you unhook them.
After missing another bite I wound up to check the bait and felt a bump on the way up. I struck and hooked a fish, which I found out upon reeling in was another small Pollack. It was apparent that they were up in the water, around half way to be precise, and by lowering only part way and jigging up and down I went on to catch three more of similar size.
As the tide started to gather pace I knew I only had a short time left, but in the hour I’d been there I’d caught my share of fish. But before the tide dictated my leaving I caught half a dozen wrasse, and although they were smaller than the first one, they were of the brightly coloured variety, quite possibly the most beautifully coloured fish to be caught from the south coast. I took a close up of the shades and hues, the outcome of which didn’t do the splendid little fish justice, but you get an idea of just how amazing they are.
Tomorrow the plan is to gather some more worms, but to head to a spot I know of that can produce the odd bass. I’ll let you know how I fare.