Monday, 18 November 2013

Cornish Autumn Whiting 16-11-13

I live near the Fal Estuary and in the autumn and winter months, Whiting migrate into the estuary in good numbers.  They stay through to the spring however, November to January produces the better quality fish therefore, this is a good time for me to target them.  Whiting are a member of the Cod family and in the summer months, they tend to populate sandy areas near structure such as wrecks and reefs.  In the autumn when the water temperature starts to drop, they migrate closer to the shore looking for any available food sources such as crabs, prawns, and worms. The Fal Estuary is abundant with small crabs and shellfish and the main channel has the clean muddy bottom, which is a typical habitat to find Whiting.

As Whiting are a shoal fish, the rig I use is an Island Whiting Rig baited with strips of Squid.  This is a multi hook rig fished as a running ledger and will often catch more than one fish at a time.  The hooks are 1/0 Eagle Claw Sproat Worm hooks which have a couple of claws near the eye that help to keep the squid strips on the hook nice and straight.  The teeth of Whiting are sharp, it is important to fish with snoods that will cope with those sharp teeth, and a minimum of 30lb is recommended.  Readymade Island Whiting Rigs or the hooks and components can be purchased from UK Hooks.

I had the whole day to fish and rather than just target Whiting for the whole period, my plan was to try for a mixed bag of fish and spend the first couple of hours drifting for Mackerel or Herring and then drop anchor at low water and fish the flooding tide using bait for Whiting.

After launch, and a paddle out to the area I wanted to drift, the fishing began by jigging the Herring Rig weighted with a 50g metal jig, which is a method I have highlighted in previous posts.

The autumn and winter is also a great time for Herring as is was not long before I started catching them along with a few Mackerel.

One exiting thing about fishing is the unexpected.  You can make plans for what you expect or hope to catch but on occasions, the surprise element happens as it did this day with a John Dory otherwise known as St Peters Fish, tempted by the jig on the end of the Herring Rig.

John Dory are not usually targeted by rod and line anglers however, I have caught them unexpectedly using lures for other species.  They do feed on other fish hence the fact that I have caught some on lures jigged down near the bottom.

Another bonus fish landed and taken on the jig was a Gurnard and I cannot recommend enough replacing lead weights on the end of a string of feathers with a metal jig.  A lead weight will not catch anything but the jig will.

With a few fish packed away on ice inside the kayak, it was time to drop anchor and target the Whiting.  Rather than drop anchor anywhere my chosen mark was close the one of the many pools along the main deep channel of the Estuary.  The recent purchase of a Garmin GPSMap 78 loaded with marine BlueChart g2 has proved to be a great asset when it comes to selecting marks to fish.

With the anchor deployed, two rods were baited up with the strips of squid and lowered to the bottom.

While waiting for a bite on the bait rods, and to maximise my chances of a good mixed bag of fish, I monitored the fish finder for any passing shoals of Herring or Mackerel.  If they show, I can capitalise by lowering the Herring Rig amongst them.

The Whiting were there and it did not take them long to find my strips of squid and some decent sized fish were landed along with the inevitable Dogfish, another Gurnard, and a few more Herring.  Although Whiting can grow to about 7lb, the majority of the inshore fish caught are 1lb or less and a 2lb fish is considered a specimen.

Whiting are a good eating fish and I was getting short of white fish in the freezer therefore, it was pleasing to stock up and even more pleasing to get a good mixed bag of fish.  The John Dory will be a rare treat.

I once heard a commercial day fisherman say "we harvest what passes by our door" and I would certainly agree with that statement.  I hope that the weather will allow me to get out and harvest some more Whiting before they head back to their offshore habitat.

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