Monday, 30 July 2012

A plague of mackerel!

Now don't get me wrong, I like mackerel.  It's a much under-rated fish to eat, and if it grew to 10lb in weight, no one would ever bother fishing for bass in UK waters because even a 2lb mackerel fights like a tiger until you get it in the boat.  If the same fish could grow to 10lb, they would take some stopping on normal bass gear!

Atlantic mackerel come to our shores in vast numbers in the summer months.  The size of the fish seems to vary with location, even within Yorkshire.  For example there are many tiny "joey" mackerel close to Flamborough Head, while further north the average stamp of fish is a good bit bigger.  I regularly get fish up to 2lb at Runswick Bay, but whether this is down to the deeper water or difference in local food stocks is hard to say.

What I can say is that when they are there, they can be there is such numbers that they out compete every other fish for food, making it impossible sometimes to find cod or pollack on the same grounds where they were plentiful a few months earlier.

I always take a few mackerel if I get them.  They freeze well, even though like most oily fish the freezing process doesn't keep the flavour of the fish at its best for long.  A maximum of 3 months is generally considered the limit for mackerel, while white fish such as cod can be kept over 6 months with very little deterioration in the quality of the flesh.
Good catch of mackerel - though this number can be caught in an hour or so when conditions are right.
So, first trip of the summer.  And I started getting mackerel almost immediately, within just a hundred metres of the shore.  Mmmm, this might spell trouble I thought.  And sure enough, it did....  I was fishing with a big weighted shad below a string of hokkais.  Every drop I hit mackerel.   If not on the way down, then within two jigs of the rod tip and bang!  3 more mackerel!  The cod, if they were there, weren't getting a look in as the mackerel were on to the hokkais like lightning.

Last year, I tried to prepare for this by tying an anti-mackerel rig consisting of a big Storm Giant Jigging Shad with a sandeel imitation tied just above it.  Mackerel tend to prefer a bit of flash and tinsel, so I was hoping they would ignore the sandeel, but species like pollack and cod would go for it.

No such luck, the mackerel were on that sandeel in a flash.  It reduced the numbers, and interestingly seemed to increase the size of mackerel I was getting, but there was no escape from them and of course, I was not getting the cod I really wanted.

The only option left to me was to fish a big shad on its own.  But as it seemed that every square metre of sea bed was metres thick in mackerel shoals, I wasn't convinced I would catch anything.  So after a few hours, I gave up and conceded victory to the mackerel.

This year has been my worst ever for cod, with the poor spring weather mostly to blame.  Luckily, we're entering the bass season, and that's where I'm heading next - for some proper fish!

Tight lines to all.

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