Andrew Pilgrim

Licenced to Kill?

Predator anglers, do you kill the fish you catch?……. Are you sure? Lets have a chat about fish handling.

Undoubtedly the way we anglers care for our catch has improved tremendously in the last couple of decades. In the last few years the Carp boys have been leading the way with their supersized, fish friendly landing nets, unhooking mats and cradles and the Carp care kits to apply any first aid as required so a big kudos to them. Although the way they pose for photos does make me smile at times.“Why?”….. Well it’s all that ‘arms out hide your fingers and gaze in awe and teary eyed wonderment at your elbows’ stuff trying to make the fish appear larger than it actually is. If you want a picture of a bigger fish go catch a bigger fish! And don’t get me started on the up to the waist in the water with the your trophy fish held aloft, just ridiculous if you ask me. But I digress somewhat, lets get back to Predator fishing. Like most branches of our sport fish handling has improved greatly. When I was a lad the rule of thumb was when you had a Pike take was to wait ages to ensure the fish was ‘Well hooked’ by reciting the lords prayer or the national anthem before striking. This indeed did ensure that the Pike was indeed well hooked, but often right down in its guts. Thankfully this has been replaced with an almost immediate strike which is much more acceptable. The barbaric Gaff has been confined to history and the Pike Gag likewise. Unhooking mats are almost the norm and we are starting to see that treble hooks are being replaced by single hooks. “So all is good then?”…. not quite. We are back to holding the fish for pictures as this aspect of how we treat our catch needs addressing.

Let’s start with Perch.

I like many remember catching these wonderful little fish in abundance, indeed they were the staple fish for kids like me back in the 60s/70s while fishing at the end of our short rods, while our parents targeted the Roach and Bream way, way out in the pond, far beyond our limited casting range. Back then a 4oz fish was a ‘big un’ and anything larger was a fish of dreams. However these days things are somewhat different. The number of ‘big’ Perch being caught recently is truly astounding. with a 1lb fish being unremarkable and a 2lb specimen being just fairly good. Unfortunately an unpleasant trend has made its way across the Atlantic and it’s driving me nuts! Yup you guessed it, THE LIP GRIP !!

In the US the majority of Bass anglers seem to be convinced that the most harmful thing you can do to a fish is hold it like we do and damage the “precious layer of protective slime” so they grip the fish by the lower lip. Now this in itself is not a problem as the jaws on the Bass are fairly robust and holding a fish in this fashion makes for easy unhooking.

Verticle Lip Grip

The problem arises when the lip grip is used in this fashion.

NO, No and thrice NO!

The full weight of the fish is now put on the lower jaw, this will potentialy strain the muscle tissue etc that operates the complex jaw mechanism and may in some instanced dislocate or break the delicate bones. This resulte in a fish that, although you return it looking fit and healthy, is unable to feed. If it fails to recover from whatever injuries you have unwittingly inflicted upon it will die. “What’s this got to do with Perch fishing?”…… Well the rise in popularity of Drop-Shotting over here has lead to some fishermen watching videos of the US bass anglers on you tube and it really has become a case of “Monkey see, Monkey do”

If you must use the “Lip Grip on Perch please suppoet the weight of its body like this.

If You Must, just don’t pull the jaw down.

Or if you want to see a master at work have a look at Ash Costa Angling on Facebook. Not only is he one of the finest Perch anglers in the country but his pictures are top class.

Ash kindly sent me this picture where you can see how the fish is held to make your hand ‘vanish’

So lets now have a look at our top predator, The Pike

I used to lip grip pike, we all did back in the day, but I can count the number of pike anglers that still ‘Lip Grip’ on the fingers on one hand…. Oh hang on!…………………….

On the whole Pike anglers are pretty good at fish handling, we have to be or things can get nasty pretty quickly. Though I do think we could be better. Firstly we have to remember that the shape of a pike, being long and thin makes then somewhat awkward to get and keep a good hold on.

If you are unsure about unhooking Pike this video explains very well the correct way to handle your fish.

However once unhooked you may wish to hold your fish up for a picture. Please be aware that although your fish may be large Pike are quite fragile and are easily damaged. The anatomy of a fish is such that their internal organs are always suported by the water. If they are held roughly the internals can be easily damaged and result in a slow lingering death for the fish despite it swimming away strongly. Tope and Shark anglers realised that once boated and held for pictures these Sharks were less likley to survive once returned so now most are never brought onboard as they are unhooked at the side of the boat. If you hold a Pike in the same way as you might hold a carp, thrusted out infront of you, the hand under the fishes belly will squash and crush the delicate internal organs of the fish.

Squashing and squeezing a fishes belly like thish should be avoided at all costs, as should folding the fish in half like this.

Pike are not designed to bend in this direction and this can’t be doing them any good whatsoever.

“So how should I hold a Pike?”…. Well there are a few ways. By using one hand to ‘Chin’ the fish and support the weight of the fish allong you other forearm, close to your body. But the key thing is keeping the head well above the body. My favorite way hold a big pike for a picture is by far this way.

If you are unsure or dont yet have the confidence to handle a really big specimen do as this young chap has done.

So there you have it, my own personal thoughts on displaying your fish for a picture.

One last thing, there are many ways to hold your fish, some better than others. But my beloved Sheena says if she ever sees anyone using this Eye Grip she will seriously give them a good ‘re-educating’, and I would advise anyone to do the same.

We hold a licence to Fish, not a License to Kill.

Tom Baird

Midweek Blues

Afternoon fellow anglers, I hope you all had a great Christmas and you were happy with the fishy bits you received as presents. So, its that time between Christmas and New Year’s. The Turkey has finally run out and looking forward to a lovely joint of roast beef on New Year’s Day.

I haven’t been fishing since last Wednesday. I know it has only been a week but it seems much longer and I was getting the itch to go. Last night we agreed it would be a family outing. But I found myself going on my own. Even though I love fishing with the kids and family, it was nice to hit the banks on my own and reflect on a busy and unusual year.

I was in two minds whether to hit the river or go to a club lake. I thought I would check the river first to see how it was. To my surprise it was quite calm and a steady flow in a certain section. I spoke to some fellow anglers who were already battling the cold and felt it was going to be a good day.

I went up river to a nice spot and started to fish. I hit a nice pocket of Roach and pulled in 17 fish, not bad I thought. I also had a lovely Perch which was a nice treat on red maggots. What I did notice with the Roach, is that some had Black Spot. I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain what Black Spot is and how it ends up on a fish.

Black Spot is a parasitic flatworm that appear as tiny black spots on the skin, fins and flesh of fish. There is no method of control to eliminate this problem. This organism does little harm to the fish. The main problem related with black-spot is the unsightly appearance it may cause.

What is remarkable is the life cycle of the parasite which is quite complex. It starts when a fish-eating bird (Great Blue Heron, Kingfisher) eats an infected fish. The black spot or worms are released and grow to sexual maturity in the bird’s intestine.

The adult worms pass eggs with the bird’s droppings. When the eggs reach water, they hatch into free-swimming organisms which then penetrate snails for further development. Finally, after leaving the snails they burrow into the skin of fish and form a cyst. The fish scales surround the cyst with black pigment that gives the disease its name. If an infected fish is consumed by a bird, the cycle starts again.

I hope you found that interesting or useful. Obviously if the fish is riddled with Black Spot, take as many pictures as possible and report it to the Environment Agency. They should then look to see how serious it is.

Until Next time, Tight Lines…….. Happy New Year…….

Andrew Pilgrim

New Tricks for the Old Dog

What’s this new-fangled ‘Drop Shotting’ that I keep hearing about? Laughably tiny, whippy little rods and baby reels with a small bit of neon wobbly rubber for bait….. Quite frankly that sounds absolutely ridiculous!…… So, naturally, I thought I’d best give it a try.

Now as I have mentioned before I consider myself an all-round angler rather than specialising in one discipline of our beautiful sport and as I have just had a milestone birthday (don’t ask!) there was some money burning a hole in my pocket, so a trip to my local tackle shop was called for.

Colchester Bait & Tackle is an absolute gem of a place, a wonderfully disorganised Aladdins cave of assorted fishing paraphernalia. All the latest Carp gear and ‘fuss’ baits, a well-stocked sea fishing section, a plethora of match and pole fishing hooks, floats and rigs and a smashing selection of pre used rods, reels etc for those on a budget, and the bait is always top notch. It’s the sort of place where one can spend hours rummaging around and end up spending a vast amount of money on things you never knew you needed…. I love it!

As I walked in Kevan, the owner, gave me a big beaming smile and his face lit up, to be honest I’m not sure if he has a bit of a thing for me or maybe it’s my wallet he is pleased to see, but when he realised that my beloved Sheena was not accompanying me his smile did fade somewhat as he turned and placed the Drennen Acolyte back on the shelf.

“Drop Shotting…. What do you have?” I asked and a selection of rods quickly appeared for my perusal. After much wiggling, shaking, bending and flexing (the rods not Kevan) I settled on a Savage Gear LRF 0.5-7g, quite a light rod but as I intended to target perch I felt it would do just fine. Reel wise I decided to dig out my little old Mitchell 308 which has been kicking about in my collection for decades just waiting for someone to ‘invent’ Drop Shotting.

I say ‘invent’ Drop Shotting and I’m sorry to burst any bubbles but back in the day this was a recognised method of fishing for Perch. A light weight with a short paternoster, a foot or so above, baited with a big worm was cast out and gently jigged to ‘entice’ a bite, it just wasn’t called Drop Shotting. The American and European lure anglers have really perfected this method over the last decade or so and it has become a real art form with lure only matches becoming major events with sponsorship and big prize money on offer for the top performers. We, sadly, are playing catch up in this regards. Having said that we do have some exceptional exponents of the art of Drop Shotting and if you fancy giving it a go I highly recommend that you watch some You Tube videos by the twice British Lure Fishing Champion Steve Collett – very entertaining and informative. Watch this video and I guarantee you will want to pop down to see Kevan at Colchester Bait & Tackle to get kitted out (Other tackle shops are available)

One of the joys of this style of fishing is the simplicity of what you need – rod & reel, a landing net and a bag with a box of assorted end tackle.

Armed with my shiny new gear I headed down to my local stretch of the River Colne in Colchester town for a couple of hours.

I am ashamed to say that despite living in Colchester for 10 years I have never fished this mile long bit of waterway, and as I walked along it I realised that neither, apparently, has anyone else. There were very few recognisable swims or evidence of other anglers, perfect!

I began my session at the weir at the bottom of East hill, where the freshwater stretch ends and the tidal begins, and was to walk the mile or so to the bridge at North Station Road. The first thing that struck me was what a very pretty river this is and what potential it has. The first section is wide with little flow despite the recent rains this then narrows to a tree lined section with a nice pace on the water, this section ‘screams’ Chub and I’m sure I shall be revisiting over the winter to try and tempt one or two of my favourite fish.

As we approach Castle Park the river is shallower with depths of only a few feet and on this day, with the water pushing through was not unlike some Barbel rivers I have fished.

In Castle Park is a little weir that I recall many years ago had a few swims and a couple of wooden fishing platforms, This whole pool is now unfishable due to the banks being overgrown and access is impossible.

 There are a couple of signs on the bridges in this area stating that the river is owned by Colchester Oyster Fishery, This lack of maintenance bankside is one of my pet hates and really frustrates me.  More ranting on that to follow in another blog.

So to the fishing, firstly I can say that Drop Shotting is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours walking along the bank, searching out likely fish holding spots and really getting to know the stretch, and to be honest my relaxed appreciation of my surroundings was reaching a high when I was suddenly reminded of the task in hand by a sharp pluck on the rod tip. Far too quick to strike at but never the less it did concentrate my mind somewhat. The next few casts with a small brightly coloured lure produced no further action so I changed to a 3” ‘Shad’ style lure and worked it close in down the margins. I’m not going to turn this blog into an instructional piece on how to fish this method so if you are interested watch the video that I linked above. A short while, and a couple of swims , later I had my first real bite as the rod tip was wrenched round and the drag screamed and after a great fight on such a light rod I netted my first Drop Shot caught Perch of almost 2lb, I was a happy little fisherman.

Despite trying many likely looking spots, and a variety of lures, on the remainder of my walk I only had a couple of rattles on the tip and I concluded that they weren’t really having it or maybe my presentation was not quite right, but I’m sure that this method will produce some good catches once I have perfected the technique.

As its now October we are starting the Pike season, so next week I may be chucking some larger lures for predators, Having said that my beloved Sheena says she quite likes the sound of drop shotting and as we speak she is frantically scanning the Drennen Acolyte range looking for a suitable rod to purchase, I fear she may be disappointed, as will Kevan! .

All the best , and Tight Lines Y’all.

Tom Baird

Fishing the Stour

So, it was an early start today. Was fishing by 05:45 and made the rookie mistake of setting up my rod once I was at my swim. Still a bit dark at that time and took me a bit longer to thread the line through the eyes lol (getting old).

I was in the Colchester area and found a lovely mill pool, it was just the right spot. I used a basic float set up. So, stopper on first followed by my choice of float, a shot either side of the float and then a size 12 hook at the depth I needed and three maggots on the hook and I was out. The mill pool was teaming with life. So much fry around, which was great to see.

The first fish of the day was a tiger (Perch), as I was told it was fin perfect. Such a great fish to start the session off with. Then came some Roach nice sizes too. Then as I was taking a picture of the Roach, out the corner of my eye I felt someone or something watching me. As I turned, I could not believe it. Three otters just staring at me and me at them.

Now I know there are lots of mixed feelings about this creature and don’t get me wrong I agree with some, but it was amazing to see the two cubs and the mother together. They went in the water and swam to the other side of the pool.

Now obviously it was nice to see, but it had now messed up my fishing. I was in two minds whether to pack up or hang it out. So, I hung it out and I was glad I did. Whilst waiting for the fish to return, I watched a Kingfisher in the tree next to me and sorted out my tackle box.

After about an hour they returned, had some more Roach, Perch and a lovely Gudgeon which is my first in Essex. Very happy with that. It was only a short day today and was back home by 11:30. Unpacked my gear and cleaned my net etc. Until next time fellow anglers. Tight Lines.

Tom Baird

The Perch

Hi I’m back, with another fishing experience and as you probably guessed it’s about the Perch. I love watching these guys in the water, seeing the amazing tiger stripes and the way they swim on the outskirts of any shoal. This time of year, all you need to do is watch the fry in the water and there it will be, the stealthy Perch.

Sometimes on their own, but I usually see them in pairs swimming around. Does this mean they work together, like a pack of wolves or a pride of lions? Anyway, I just love watching this top predator of the water.

So again, I was fishing with my son Harry, on the River Chelmer and again he just wanted to use his pole. I did take a spinning rod with some small lures and dropshots. But as you know kids will only fish when they’re happy. So, pole it was, again a little ground bait and a few maggots out to attracted them over. We weren’t out far, as I knew all the fry was just by our feet all in the margins and that’s where the predator waits.

Harry caught a few roach, which were some lovely sizes. Beautiful silver with the red/orange fins. Then that boy only went and done it again, an amazing 2 ½ lb Perch. His little face was alive with excitement. He’s only ever caught one before, so he was ecstatic with what he had just caught.

Now handling an amazing fish like this is important and I might upset a few fellow anglers out there, but this is how I teach my son how to handle a Perch. So obviously net, unhooking mat, forceps/disgorger and everything is done low to the ground . Now I have taught him to mind the spikes on the top, but the mouth is a big concern for me. Unfortulantly I see it time and time again, anglers holding Perch by the mouth and extending out the whole jaw. Now this isn’t an American Bass which the jaw is designed a bit more flexible than our Perch. You can actually dislocate the jaw from a Perch and then this effects its feeding. We all know a predator that can’t hunt will soon die. Again, sorry if you disagree, but I got it off my chest.

So, now we have removed the hook safely, time for a few pictures and the tiger goes back. It swims back of into the fresh water cabbage and disappears.

I hope you enjoyed my blog and hope to see you again. You can send me messages and I will try and answer them as quickly as possible. Also check out my fellow bloggers on here with some great knowledge and experiences.

Bailey Payne

Growing up Fishing

I started fishing when I was young, probably around 5, from what I can remember anyway. My Dad is who introduced me to the world of Fishing. When I look back on my view of Fishing as a kid, it’s so niave, I thought there was only one way to fish, just the way my Dad done it. I owe him a lot for showing me how to fish, it was such a nice way to pass the time and truly just think. I first started Fishing the Pole, which in Essex is a bit of a dying art. Just catching whatever species came my way, my early memories are Fishing Gloucester Park in Basildon, and arguing with my dad about unhooking an eel, why would I want to unhook a water snake?! And then as I got into Fishing more, we joined the Billericay Club, 4am mornings to get to the Southminster pits I loved, catching bags of small Perch and Roach, such an innocent start to the sport. The joy of catching a Tench on part of my peanut butter sandwich is one which sticks in my mind. I think those days as a kid, enjoying catching anything, shaped me as an Angler, in those early days, I learnt a lot of love and respect for the fish, and it made me enjoy catching anything, and to this day, I still don’t care what I catch, whether it be the smallest fish in the lake, or a new personal best, as long as it bites, it would put a smile on my face.

I guess the whole point here is to set the tone of what I am about when it comes to Fishing, and what you guys should expect moving forward with my blogs. And the truth is anything really, I love catching anything, on any day. Admitingly, at the moment I am loving my River Fishing, but, I have done so much more, I Pole Fish, Fish on the Tip with a Feeder or on the Bomb, I have a Fly Rod (Won’t say I can Fly Fish, yet!), Will be Lure Fishing too and will have trips Sea Fishing. I will talk about the gear I use, which is best descriped by Budget gear! The hope is to continue to grow as an Angler, and share my growth with you guys, and hopefully I can teach someone else something, or just spark a bit of passion to go and pick up a Rod, or to try something new.

I will leave you all with a few pics from the last year or so of some different catches, which is a bit of a mixed bag really! A few of the trips are recent and may get their own blog so if you see them again just go with it!